ATHENS—Texas Parks and Wildlife Department will begin accepting entries into the Toyota ShareLunker program October 1, 2010.
Anyone legally catching a 13-pound or bigger largemouth bass from Texas waters, public or private, between October 1 and April 30 may submit the fish to the Toyota ShareLunker program by calling program manager David Campbell at (903) 681-0550 or paging him at (888) 784-0600 and leaving a phone number including area code. Fish will be picked up by TPWD personnel within 12 hours.
Proper care and handling of big bass is perhaps the single most important factor in their survival. Last season produced 33 entries, and all but four survived. “I urge anglers to go to the ShareLunker web site and review the information on how to take care of big bass,” said Campbell. “It’s also important to be prepared to catch a big fish when you go fishing. Take the ShareLunker phone number and your cell phone with you. Have your livewell filled. Put your net where you can reach it while fighting a big fish. And get the fish to a minnow tank at a marina or bait shop or to an official ShareLunker holding station as soon as possible after you catch it.”
Some tournament organizers now recognize the importance of immediately weighing possible ShareLunkers and transferring them to a holding tank before official weigh-ins, a trend Campbell would like to see spread. “Holding a big fish in a livewell for hours decreases their chances for survival,” he said. “In addition to the stress of being held in a small space, temperature and oxygen levels may not be optimal, and ammonia levels may rise. Commercially available livewell additives can help, but it’s always best for the fish to be in a tank big enough for them to swim around in.”
The current season marks the 25th year of the program. To date 504 fish have been entered into the program. Those fish have come from 61 different public reservoirs and nearly two dozen private lakes.
ShareLunker entries are used in a selective breeding program at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center (TFFC) in Athens. Some of the offspring from these fish are stocked back into the water body from which they were caught. Other ShareLunker offspring are stocked in public waters around the state in an attempt to increase the overall size and growth rate of largemouth bass in Texas.
Anglers entering fish into the Toyota ShareLunker program will receive a free replica of their fish, a certificate and ShareLunker clothing and be recognized at a banquet at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens. In addition, if a Texas angler catches the largest entry of the year, that person will receive a lifetime fishing license.
For complete information and rules of the ShareLunker program, tips on caring for big bass and a recap of last year’s season, see www.tpwd.state.tx.us/sharelunker. The site also includes a searchable database of all fish entered into the program along with pictures where available.
Information on current catches and other topics, along with brief videos of angler interviews, will be posted as available on the program’s Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/sharelunkerprogram.
The Toyota ShareLunker Program is made possible by a grant to the Texas Parks & Wildlife Foundation from Gulf States Toyota. Toyota is a long-time supporter of the Foundation and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, providing major funding for a wide variety of education, fish, parks and wildlife projects.
ShareLunker Program Accomplishments
- improved knowledge of proper handling and care of big fish;
- developed and communicated to anglers recommendations for handling fish in ways that improve survival;
- established weigh and holding stations at major reservoirs around the state to improve the survival of big fish by providing the proper environment for them until pickup by trained TPWD personnel;
- generated nationwide interest in Texas bass fishing and increased tourism, as evidenced by 74 ShareLunkers having been caught by residents of 20 states other than Texas;
- documented the number of lakes producing 13-pound or larger bass from one in 1980 to 61 by 2010;
- created awareness of the value of catch-and-release fishing;
- developed a selective breeding program that produces broodfish used throughout the TPWD hatchery system, helping spread ShareLunker-derived genetics to all public waters stocked with Florida largemouth bass by TPWD;
- generated free publicity for bass fishing in Texas worth millions of dollars by providing the basis for thousands of newspaper, magazine, television, radio and electronic media stories;
- provided funding to develop cutting-edge genetic fingerprinting techniques that makes it possible for TPWD to identify ShareLunkers and their offspring stocked into public waters. These techniques also make possible:
- genetic identification using a minimally invasive fin clip;
- positive identification of ShareLunker offspring and confirmation of previously caught ShareLunkers should implanted tags be unreadable;
- more accurate identification of intergrades (crosses between Florida and northern largemouths) and easier determination of parentage and relatedness among ShareLunkers, including identification of sisters submitted to the ShareLunker program;
- genetic analysis of scale samples archived from ShareLunkers submitted to the program before the DNA fingerprinting techniques were available;
- the search for genetic markers associated with ShareLunkers and for gender determination. Samples are being analyzed in an attempt to determine if there is a specific gene that influences growth differences.
- Using genetic fingerprinting techniques developed in the last five years, TPWD has begun studies in selected public reservoirs using tagged ShareLunker offspring (referred to as Operation World Record or OWR fish) to determine the growth rate of OWR fish compared to other largemouth bass in those reservoirs. Results so far show OWR fish grow bigger faster
These accomplishments have all been made using program sponsor dollars and without additional staff over and above those required for normal operation.