The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s ShareLunker Program has come to an end for the 2013 season. The nearest lake to the Golden Triangle to give up a 13-pound-plus bass during this season’s program is Toledo Bend. Feb. 15, Toledo Bend Reservoir gave up a 13.06-pound bass to Louisiana angler Casey Martin, who was fishing a tournament. Martin’s fish, now Toyota ShareLunker 543, was 26 inches long and 21 inches in girth. Toledo Bend has now produced six ShareLunkers.
“The Toyota 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,” said Larry Hodge with TPWD.
He says that 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.
“Ten fish were intergrades and two were pure Florida largemouth bass,” says Hodge. “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.
During this season’s ShareLunker Program, 12 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.
Eleven of the 12 fish were returned alive to the lakes from which they were caught. One, Toyota ShareLunker 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,” said Hodge. “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, Toyota ShareLunker 538, caught by Gary Sims of Gunter on Dec. 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 Feb. 2, 2013. Scibek’s catch earned him Angler of the Year honors.
“An analysis of ShareLunker 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,” says Hodge. “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.”
Hodge says 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 TPWD 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 ShareLunker 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 ShareLunker 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.”
Robert Sloan can be reached by e-mail at sloan288 [at] aol [dot] com.