ATHENS, TX (STL.News) – The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Toyota ShareLunker Program is having a banner year in its efforts to create bigger, better bass in Texas. After successfully spawning three of the five 13 pound or larger Legacy Class largemouth bass loaned to the selective-breeding program in 2019, the department’s hatchery staff produced more than 92,000 offspring to stock in Texas public lakes.
“We are extremely pleased with the number of ShareLunker offspring produced this year, and we couldn’t have done it without the anglers who generously loaned us their 13 pound and larger bass for our selective-breeding program,” said Kyle Brookshear, Toyota ShareLunker Program Coordinator. “This generosity doesn’t just increase the lunker potential of the lakes where those fish were caught, it also helps us in our effort to convert our entire hatchery broodstock to ShareLunker offspring, which will benefit every lake in Texas.”
In total, more than 55,000 fingerlings were stocked in the 2019 Legacy Class donation lakes – including Lake Conroe, Lake Fork, Marine Creek Lake, and Lake Leon. Additionally, more than 30,000 pure Florida largemouth bass offspring from ShareLunker 577 and ShareLunker 581 are being retained as hatchery broodstock so that TPWD can stock these big bass by the millions statewide in coming years. Thousands of fingerlings produced from ShareLunker 581 are being retained to stock as six-inch fish into the new Bois d’Arc Lake in Fannin County.
Three of the five Legacy Class fish loaned to TPWD in 2019 were released back into their home lakes after spawning, which includes Lake Conroe, Marine Creek Lake and Lake Fork. The other two fish caught from Lake Leon and a private research lake were donated to the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens, where ShareLunker 578 can be seen on display and hand-fed by scuba divers during the daily dive show.
Although the donation season for 13 pound or larger Legacy Class fish has ended, anglers can still enter all largemouth bass 8 pounds or larger through the end of the year to help expand catch data for fisheries biologists and interested anglers in exchange for great prizes. As of June 1, 214 of these fish have been entered from 75 lakes across the state, including 153 qualified as Lunkers (8 pounds or larger), 56 qualified as Elite Class (10 pounds or larger), and five qualified as Legacy Class (those over 13 pounds loaned to TPWD for the selective breeding and stocking program).
With less than 6 months left in the 2019 year-long season, the current top 10 lunker producing lakes in the state include Lake Fork with 23 entries, Lake Conroe with 22 entries, Lake Athens with 15 entries, Lake Pflugerville with nine entries, Sam Rayburn Reservoir with eight entries, Lake Falcon with six entries, Possum Kingdom Reservoir with five entries, Lake Ray Hubbard with five entries, and Lake Austin and Gilmer Reservoir with four entries.
Anglers receive a prize package for every approved bass they enter throughout the year in all categories. This package includes a Toyota ShareLunker Catch Kit containing branded merchandise, an achievement decal, merchandise and other giveaways; as well as an entry into the year-end ShareLunker Prize Drawing for an annual fishing license and $5,000 Bass Pro Shops shopping spree.
The eligible anglers who loaned TPWD a Legacy Class fish through the entry cutoff date March 31 received an even bigger prize package that included a replica of their fish presented on stage at Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest in May. These anglers were also entered into a separate $5,000 Bass Pro Shops shopping spree drawing, won by ShareLunker 579 angler Barry Prince of Lindale.
Anglers can enter bass in the program using the Toyota ShareLunker app – available for free download from the Apple App Store and Google Play – or by using a form online at https://texassharelunker.com/. The digital entry forms on both platforms allow anglers to quickly and easily submit photos of the fish being properly measured, weighed and held. These forms also include simple instructions for anglers who would like to provide a sample of fish scales from their lunker bass to TPWD researchers for genetic analysis.
“Anglers who enter catch data about their 8 pound and larger bass are giving our fisheries management biologists important information about which lakes are producing big bass in Texas,” Brookshear said. “Sending a scale sample with your entry gives TPWD even more information to use in the management of our world-class bass fisheries because it provides us with valuable genetic data and helps us monitor the impact of ShareLunker stockings.”
The Toyota ShareLunker Program is made possible in part by the generous sponsorship of Toyota. Toyota is a longtime supporter of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, providing major funding for a wide variety of education, fish, parks and wildlife projects.