AUSTIN – For over 30 years, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s (TPWD) Toyota ShareLunker Program has created awareness of the value of catch-and-release fishing, provided 13 pounds or heavier largemouth bass to support Texas’s selective breeding program and generated nationwide interest in Texas bass fishing. This year, TPWD is implementing changes to fully incorporate ShareLunker offspring into hatchery brood stock.
While the ShareLunker season will continue to run each year from Oct.1 through April 30, only those entries collected between Jan. 1 – March 31 will be accepted as brood stock for spawning.
“Our analysis of spawning results has determined that January-March provides the greatest opportunity to obtain good candidates for spawning,” stated Todd Engeling, TPWD’s Chief of Inland Hatcheries. “For all ShareLunkers caught outside of that timeframe, TPWD staff will weigh and measure each fish and obtain a fin clip for genetic analysis. The fish will then be returned to the angler.”
During January through March, every ShareLunker that TPWD staff determines to be capable of spawning will be transported to the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens. In recent years, pure Florida largemouth bass have been primarily used for spawning due to limited hatchery space. Starting this season, TPWD staff will attempt to spawn all ShareLunker bass regardless of genetics. However, only pure Florida ShareLunker offspring will be incorporated into the hatchery brood stock program.
“Pure Florida largemouth bass make up nearly half of all ShareLunkers entered while they typically make up less than 10 percent of bass in the wild. That means they likely provide the best chance to reach trophy size,” said Engeling. “TPWD will begin converting hatchery largemouth bass brood stock so that eventually all will be descendants of pure-Florida ShareLunkers.”
In addition, although ShareLunker entries will still be accepted from private waters, ShareLunker offspring will not be stocked back into private water bodies even when the ShareLunker is donated from private waters.
The changes announced for 2016-17 season are part of a long-term strategy being developed for the Toyota ShareLunker program, according to Kyle Brookshear, Toyota ShareLunker Program Coordinator. A team of hatchery scientists, fisheries managers and education and outreach experts is evaluating the program’s long-term goals and strategies. Additional improvements will be incorporated into future seasons with the goal of increasing angler participation.
“As a competitive angler and fishing advocate, I am thrilled to be part of the ShareLunker program and to contribute to its new direction,” said Brookshear. “We want to continue to reward our anglers for not only catching a trophy largemouth bass but also for helping us manage our fisheries to enhance trophy bass fishing in Texas.”
ShareLunker catches can be reported 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by calling (903) 681-0550. 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.texas.gov/sharelunker/. The site also includes a searchable database of all fish entered into the program.
The Toyota ShareLunker Program is made possible by a grant to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation from Gulf States Toyota. Toyota is a long-time supporter of the Foundation and TPWD, providing major funding for a wide variety of education, fish, parks and wildlife projects.
For more information on the Toyota ShareLunker program, contact Kyle Brookshear, ShareLunker Program Coordinator, 5550 FM 2495 Athens, TX 75752, (903) 670-2285 or by e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.