The second annual “Ding” Darling & Doc Ford’s Tarpon Tournament on May 4, 2013, netted $40,000 from tournament sponsorships to benefit the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge.

“One hundred percent of the anglers’ registration fees goes to the awards purse,” said tournament organizer, Birgie Vertesch, executive director of “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society-Friends of the Refuge (DDWS). “That’s why our sponsorship partners are so dear to us. They pay the costs for putting on the tourney and the charity proceeds.”

DDWS hosted the tournament along with Doc Ford’s Rum Bar & Grille of Sanibel Island, Fort Myers Beach, and soon-to-be Captiva Island. Tournament social events took place at the Fort Myers Beach location.

DDWS has also announced the dates for next year’s tournament, which will start on Friday, May 2, 2014, with the captain’s pre-party and continue on Saturday, May 3, with the “catch, release, and care” tournament and Silver King for “Ding” After-Party.

The public will again be invited to purchase advance tickets to the After-Party, which includes an awards ceremony, dinner, drinks, and a silent auction. Nearly 160 guests attended this year’s after-party.

“We call it a ‘catch, release, and care’ tournament because education and research are at the forefront of the event’s mission,” said John McCabe, DDWS president and tourney participant the last two years.

“The Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission needs help from citizen scientists, and that is the primary purpose for this tournament,” said Vertesch. “The anglers get extra points for doing DNA scrubs, which give the FWC important information to track tarpon and learn more about helping them survive as a species.”

For more information on the tournament and to view this year’s winners, visit

Image courtesy Ding Darling Society

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