Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s ShareLunker program received a below-average number of entries during the season just ended, but the number of lakes producing 13-pound or bigger largemouth bass continued to increase, and investments in DNA testing showed promising results.
One season highlight was the catch of a 12.54-pound ShareLunker offspring from Lake Naconiche near Nacogdoches and the subsequent identification of the parentage of the fish using archived DNA samples. (See the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OaOQw7Zx-vs.)
Nine fish were intergrades and two were pure Florida largemouth bass. The two pure Florida entries spawned, producing a total of 58,550 eggs. In addition, a ShareLunker offspring from a research lake produced 36, 957 eggs. Each lake producing an entry this past season will receive a share of the fingerlings resulting from those spawns.
Twelve entries were received from eight lakes. Two of those lakes, Dunlap and Palestine, produced their first ShareLunkers ever. The Lake Palestine fish, a 13.13-pounder caught by Lindell Booth, Jr., of Chandler, is a new lake record.
Two program entries were caught by out-of-state anglers, both from Louisiana.
Eleven of the 12 fish were returned alive to the lakes from which they were caught. One, number 545, the new Lake Palestine record, was donated to the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center for display.
Lake Fork rebounded from low production the past few seasons to produce four entries, the most of any lake. Lake Austin produced two entries, and Lakes Dunlap, Falcon, Toledo Bend, Palestine, Amon G. Carter and Lake O’ the Pines produced one each.
One fish, number 538, caught by Gary Sims of Gunter on December 12, 2012, was a recapture. The fish weighed 15.02 pounds when caught by Sims; it weighed 14.25 pounds when caught by Ed Carter in March 2011.
Lake Fork also produced the big bass of the season, a 16.04-pounder caught by Richard Scibek of Granbury on February 2, 2013. Scibek’s catch earn him Angler of the Year honors. In addition to a lifetime fishing license, he will receive a prize package from G. Loomis consisting of a G. Loomis GLX854C jig and worm rod, a Shimano Chronarch 200E7 casting reel and a spool of Power Pro super-braid fishing line.
New ShareLunker Weigh and Holding Stations were established at Lake Casa Blanca International State Park, Falcon State park, Oak Ridge Marina on Lake Fork and Johnson Creek Marina on Lake O’ the Pines.
An analysis of the program’s entries since the inception of the program in 1986 shows there has been a slight decline in the number of entries per season, from an average of 19.6 the first five seasons to 18.8 the past five. There has also been a slight decline in average weight from 14.1 pounds the first five seasons to 13.8 pounds the last five.
Driving these declines were the fish from Lake Fork. It has contributed 253 of the 548 ShareLunker entries, and its decline from extraordinary to merely great has obscured the patterns observed among other reservoirs.
“There’s nothing wrong with Lake Fork, it’s just getting older, and largemouth bass productivity typically declines as reservoirs age,” said Texas Parks and Wildlife Department geneticist Dijar Lutz-Carrillo. “All reservoirs go through this process. What is amazing about Lake Fork is that is has continued to produce big fish for such a long time.”
Lake Fork’s four entries during the season just past weighed 14.06, 13.11, 16.04 and 15.02 pounds for an average weight of 14.55 pounds, well above the program historical average of 13.8 pounds.
“If we take Lake Fork out of the analysis, a different picture of trophy largemouth bass in Texas emerges,” Lutz-Carrillo said. “The average number of entries has actually increased from 6.2 the first five seasons to 16 over the last five seasons, and the average weight of these fish has been remarkably consistent, 13.9 pounds over the first five seasons and 13.8 over the last five. And if we look at the largest three fish caught each season, it’s actually increased from an average of 14.4 pounds the first five seasons to 14.9 pounds during the last five. And all along these fish have been getting longer, whether we include Lake Fork entries in the analysis or not, from 25.2 inches the first five seasons to 26 inches over the last five.”
“Those figures illustrate the success of the ShareLunker program,” said TFFC director Allen Forshage. “By loaning their fish to the ShareLunker program for use in the selective breeding program, which uses only pure Florida largemouth bass, anglers are helping to produce trophy fish for other anglers to catch.”
Following is a chronological synopsis of ShareLunker catches during the 2012—2013 season.
Bennett Cowan of San Marcos caught ShareLunker 537 about 2:00 a.m. October 16 from Lake Austin.
The 14.28-pound fish was 20.5 inches in girth and 27.25 inches long. Lake Austin has now produced 19 entries into the ShareLunker program, five of which weighed 14 pounds or more.
Lake Austin continues its rise to prominence as one of the top largemouth bass lakes in the state. Only Lakes Fork, Alan Henry, O.H. Ivie, Sam Rayburn and Falcon have produced more 13-pound or bigger bass.
Gary Sims of Gunter, Texas, caught ShareLunker 538 from Lake Fork December 12. The fish weighed 15.02 pounds and was held for pickup at Oak Ridge Marina, an official ShareLunker weigh and holding station.
Examination revealed the fish was caught previously on March 13, 2011, by Ed Carter of Broken Bow, Oklahoma. At that time the fish weighed 14.25 pounds and was 22.25 inches in girth and 25 inches long and was ShareLunker 518. The fish is now 22 inches in girth and 25.25 inches long.
Lake Dunlap, a small reservoir on the Guadalupe River near New Braunfels, became the sixty-third Texas reservoir to produce a largemouth bass weighing 13 or more pounds when Matthew Moccia of Manchaca caught a 13.34-pounder from the lake December 30.
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department stocked Florida largemouth bass into Lake Dunlap in 1978 and 1988.
Using a black salty (a type of goldfish), Richard Scibek of Granbury caught a 16.04-pound largemouth bass that ties with another Lake Fork fish as the twenty-second largest bass ever caught in Texas. The fish was 25.75 inches long and 23 inches in girth.
Scibek’s fish is the largest to come from Lake Fork since 2002. On March 22, 2002, the lake produced bass weighing 16.12 and 15.65 pounds.
Lake Fork has now produced 16 bass weighing 16 pounds or more and holds 32 spots on the list of the 50 biggest bass ever caught in Texas.
Falcon International Reservoir joined the ShareLunker action on Thursday, February 7, with a 13.4-pound entry into the program.
Isaac Denson of Monahans was fishing in two to three feet of water when the big bass hit about 11:30 a.m. The fish was 26.5 inches long and 20 inches in girth.
The fish was weighed and held for pickup at the official ShareLunker Weigh and Holding Station at Falcon State Park.
On February 14 Thomas McCraven of Gladewater caught Toyota ShareLunker 542, a 13.23-pounder from Lake O’ the Pines. McCraven caught the fish in six feet of water in Allen Creek using a Baby Brush Hog. The fish was 24.75 inches long and 21 inches in girth. It was held for pickup at Johnson Creek Marina, an official Weigh and Holding Station.
McCraven’s fish is the third to come from Lake O’ the Pines. The lake produced two ShareLunkers in 2010.
Florida largemouth bass fingerlings were stocked into Lake O’ the Pines by TPWD periodically from 1982 through 2000 and more recently in 2009, 2010 and 2011.
The next day, February 15, Toledo Bend Reservoir gave up a 13.06-pound bass to Casey Martin of Anacoco, Louisiana, who was fishing the FLW Everstart tournament. Martin’s fish, now ShareLunker 543, was 26 inches long and 21 inches in girth.
Toledo Bend has now produced six ShareLunkers, the last having come from the lake in 2012.
On February 19 Mark Hall of Winnsboro pulled a 13.11-pounder, ShareLunker 544, from Lake Fork. Hall was fishing for crappie when they stopped biting. “I know from experience that when the crappie stop biting, it’s because bass have moved in and starting feeding on them,” he said. Hall quickly switched to a swim-bait, and the big bass smashed it right at the surface on the retrieve.
Lake Palestine produced its first ShareLunker March 2, becoming the sixty-fourth public reservoir in Texas to allow an angler to land a 13-pound or larger largemouth bass.
Lindell Booth, Jr., of Chandler was fishing Kickapoo Creek on the upper end of the East Texas reservoir when the 13.14-pound bass took his green pumpkin Brush Hog in eight feet of water. The fish was 26.25 inches long and 21.25 inches in girth.
The fish is entry number 545 into the ShareLunker program. It was caught during a Media Bass tournament and is the new lake record largemouth bass.
Once again an angler proved it’s not the size of the lake that counts, it’s the size of the fish in the lake—at least when it comes to catching big bass.
On the morning of March 19 Johnny Spruiell of Iowa Park was fishing in three feet of water in Lake Amon G. Carter when a 13.75-pound bass took his 7-inch Power Worm. The fish was 26.5 inches long and 21 inches in girth and is now ShareLunker 546.
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department stocked Lake Amon G. Carter with both northern largemouth bass and Florida largemouth bass beginning in 1971. Since 1985 all stockings have been Florida largemouth bass, most recently in 2000 and 2001.
Donald Deville of Ville Platte, Louisiana, makes regular visits to Lake Fork with friends and family to fish for big bass, but he had never landed a double-digit fish—until March 20. The 14.06-pound largemouth bass he caught mid-morning of the group’s first day on the lake is now Toyota ShareLunker 547. The fish was 25.75 inches long and 22 inches in girth. It was held for pickup at Lake Fork Marina.
Lake Austin kicked off the 2012—2013 ShareLunker season with ShareLunker 537 and wrapped it up with ShareLunker 548, caught March 27 by Round Rock angler Colin Pack while fishing in a Texas Tournament Zone tournament.
Pack caught the fish in 10 feet of water using a Carolina rig while fishing in hydrilla. The bass weighed 13.29 pounds and was 26.75 inches long and 20 inches in girth.
Lake Austin has now produced19 largemouth bass that have been entered into the ShareLunker program. It trails Lake Fork, with 253 entries; Lakes Alan Henry and O. H. Ivie, with 25 each; Sam Rayburn, with 23; and Falcon, with 20.