ATHENS, Texas — Another West Texas reservoir rebounding from the drought of the late 1990s is starting to pump out monster largemouth bass.
On January 19 Falcon International Reservoir produced a 14.4-pound Toyota ShareLunker for Bryan Aubin of Zapata.
Aubin was fishing in six feet of water with a watermelon red lizard. Water temperature was 60 degrees at the time of the catch, 9:00 a.m.
The fish was cared for until pickup at Robert’s Fish n’ Tackle, an official ShareLunker weigh and holding station. Proper handling and care are important factors in survival of big fish, as shown by Toyota ShareLunker 474, caught from Falcon on December 20 by Debbie Baker.
“That fish came in very stressed and in poor overall condition,” said Jim Matthews, hatchery manager at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens, where ShareLunkers are kept. “The intensive crew has been treating her continuously for stress-related infections, and she has made a very good recovery. She has eaten several rainbow trout, which is a big step to recovery. DNA testing shows she is a pure Florida bass, so if things continue to improve, we hope to spawn her this season.”
Official Toyota ShareLunker weigh and holding stations are certified by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) inland fisheries biologists to have the proper facilities and equipment for keeping big bass alive. Station personnel receive training in how to care for the fish and are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week to receive fish.
A list of the official holding stations is at http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/spdest/visitorcenters/tffc/sharelunker/holding/.
According to TPWD biologist Randy Myers, who is in charge of the Falcon fishery, Robert’s Fish n’ Tackle should receive more ShareLunkers for several years to come.
“Falcon is starting to reap the big fish benefit of water level increases in 2004 and 2008,” he said. “The lake is 12 feet low now, but it completely filled in 2008. There was tremendous bass production in 2004 and 2005, and those fish are growing really fast. In most lakes it takes 10 to 12 years for a bass to grow to 13 pounds. Two years ago Falcon produced a ShareLunker that was only seven years old.”
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.
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 on June 5, 2010. 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.
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.