ATHENS, Texas — O.H. Ivie Reservoir and other West Texas lakes suffered from drought from the late 1990s until 2004, when rains came again.
The drought took two forms: low water and few big bass caught.
The fish drought ended January 16, when Ben Blaine of Merkel landed a 14.02-pound largemouth bass from O.H. Ivie. It became Toyota ShareLunker No. 475.
“We’ve been expecting it,” said Bobby Farquhar, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) inland fisheries regional director from San Angelo. “About six to seven years after the end of a drought you usually see the big fish start to come out.”
Blaine caught his fish at 5:00 p.m. in 12 to 15 feet of 48-degree water on a DD-22. The fish was 25.5 inches long and 21.25 inches in girth.
Five ShareLunkers have come from the lake previously: three in 2000 and two in 2002. “All those fish were from the original stockings in 1990 and 1991,” Farquhar said. “When the lake went down, we had too many bass, and they didn’t grow. We changed the regulation to let anglers keep two fish under 18 inches, and that plus the rise provided better conditions. There were lots of adult fish in the lake, and they produced strong year classes in 2004 and 2005. I would not be surprised to see more ShareLunkers. We’ve had several reports of 12-pounders being caught in the last year.”
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.