News Releases

Spirit of Tarpon Challenge announces 2013 winners, shifts focus to northern waters in 2014

News Release

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Media contact: Brandon Basino, 727-896-8626

The Florida Guides Association and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) have once again joined efforts to promote this year’s Spirit of Tarpon DNA Sampling Challenge by recognizing Challenge winners June 18 at the FWC’s meeting in Fort Myers.

The Challenge helps promote an FWC study that uses DNA data to track the movements, habits and recapture rates of tarpon in coastal and inshore waters. This study, ongoing since 2005, relies on data collected by anglers who submit samples and information about their catches using a free, easy-to-use tarpon DNA sampling kit. Volunteer anglers have submitted more than 19,600 samples to date.

The 2013 Spirit of Tarpon Challenge winners were in four categories:

  • Collier County resident John Manuel won the Grand Prize, with 125 tarpon caught and sampled.
  • Ed Walker of Holiday claimed the West Coast title with 93 tarpon caught and sampled.
  • Russell Kleppinger from North Miami won the East Coast category with 54.
  • John Jackson of Key West took the Florida Keys prize with 74 tarpon samples.

These dedicated anglers contributed to the 3,386 total number of tarpon sampled last year.

“While we have a significant amount of information about tarpon in the southern portion of the state, we need more information about this fish in the north,” said FWC researcher Kathy Guindon. “As a result, we are shifting the emphasis of the challenge in 2014 to waters from Brevard County and Pasco County north.”

Participants have until mid-January 2015 to submit their samples. Winners will be announced later that month.

“We owe the success of this project to the volunteer anglers who have contributed samples and to those who have supported us in their businesses and through outreach efforts. We look forward to receiving northern samples, as data from those areas will be critical in evaluating the full range of statewide movement patterns,” said Guindon.

Anglers who would like to assist the study can obtain a free, easy-to-use tarpon DNA sampling kit by emailing  or by calling 800-367-4461. For information about the Tarpon Genetics Recapture Study, go to and select “Saltwater” then “Tarpon Genetics.”

FWC Facts:
The Florida scrub-jay is a 12-inch-long, blue-and-gray, crestless jay. It lacks the white wing spots and tail feather tips of the more common and widespread blue jay.

Learn More at AskFWC