‘Ding’ tarpon tournament tops $1 million in 10th year

Birgie Miller, executive director of the DDWS, and Marty Harrity, co-owner of Doc Ford, after fishing May 13. COURTESY PHOTO

The 10th Annual Darling & Doc Ford “Ding” Tarpon Tournament pushed the decade’s historic winnings to over $1 million. The tournament brought in $260,000 in sponsorships and donations to support conservation at JN “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge.

The Darling Wildlife Society Friends of the Refuge organizes the annual tournament with Doc Ford’s Rum Bar & Grille of Sanibel Island, Fort Myers Beach, Captiva Island and St. Petersburg as the main sponsor.

The tournament paid out a total of $60,000 in prize money to five winning teams out of 58 entered teams. The angler photo recorded 54 catches of tarpon, the second highest number of catches since the tournament’s inception in 2012. The top prize of $27,000 went to the Blackwater team, including captain Henry Frazer and members of the team Matt Hereld and Scott Hughes. The team caught and released a total of six fish.

“Congratulations to Henry! He’s now wearing the coveted pink tarpon jacket,” said Marty Harrity, co-owner of Doc Ford’s, who introduced the jacket in 2017 as added incentive to take first place in the tournament. “It’s a bit like the green jacket of the masters tournament in golf. The winning captain has the honor of wearing the pink tarpon jacket each year.

The second-placed Spartan Stix team led by captain Cory McGuire caught five fish and won $15,000. In third place, captain Cliff Utt’s Sun Country team caught four and took home $9,000. Fourth-place winners, Team Two Lane Lager, with skip Patrick McCafferty, took home $6,000 with three fish (first caught at 7:47); Fifth-place winners, the Fischer Kings team, with captain Ozzie Fischer, also took home $3,000 for three fish (the first caught a little later at 7:52 a.m.).

The tournament also presented prizes for angler to Stephanie Miller with Team Tarpon Time, senior angler to Mary Laser with Team Chasin’ Poon and amateur team to Team Kollman, with captain Will Kollman, Kevin Kollman, Tim Byal and Patrick RicVert.

“Because all boat entry fees go into the rewards purse, sponsorship partners are extremely important to this tournament,” said Birgie Miller, Executive Director of DDWS. “They raise vital financial support for the conservation mission of DDWS and the refuge.” ¦

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