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Big Bass Keep Anglers Guessing
ATHENS, Texas — Should you find yourself with the biggest bass you’ve ever seen on the end of your line, do you know who to call?
David Campbell, manager of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Budweiser ShareLunker program, hopes you will call him and not a friend with a fillet knife.
Each year from Oct. 1 until April 30, TPWD accepts largemouth bass weighing 13 pounds or more into the ShareLunker program to be used in a selective breeding program aimed at producing bigger bass in Texas.
And almost every year someone catches a huge bass and has no idea how to tell how big it is. Some of the fish go back into the water, but some go under the knife.
Recently that’s what happened to a fish from a private lake in Fannin County, which died despite the angler’s efforts to keep it alive. The angler guesstimated the fish’s weight at 21 pounds—which would have been a new state record—before filleting it.
Campbell looked at the remains and estimated it probably weighed 15 pounds.
“The most important thing to remember is that you can catch a ShareLunker almost any time, anywhere,” Campbell says. “Be prepared. Have your livewell ready before you start fishing. The less you handle the fish, and the quicker you get it into a properly aerated livewell at the same temperature as the lake, the less stress you place on the fish.”
A live cage approximately 3 feet by 3 feet by 3 feet can be used to hold fish if no livewell is available. Most bait shops will also hold fish for anglers in their minnow tank.
Campbell offer three other tips for making sure big fish survive. “One, visit the ShareLunker pages on the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center web site and familiarize yourself with the procedures for handling and caring for a big fish until it can be picked up.”
“Secondly, carry the ShareLunker hotline numbers with your fishing license, so you will have it when that big fish bites,” Campbell adds. To have a ShareLunker picked up, call Campbell at (903) 681-0550 or page him at (888) 784-0600 and leave a message, including area code. Calls are taken 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Every year a number of anglers call Campbell because they’ve caught the biggest bass they’ve ever seen, and, like the Fannin County angler, they’re sure it weighs more than 13 pounds. Without certified scales to weigh the fish, most anglers guess the fish to be much bigger than it is.
That sometimes results in Campbell driving for hours to pick up a fish only to find out it isn’t heavy enough. While handheld scales that can be certified are available, most anglers rely on a public scale to weigh big bass. That leads to Campbell’s third tip for preparing for ShareLunker season.
“Go to our Web site and print out the list of certified scale locations and put it in your tackle box,” Campbell advises. “If there is not a certified scale listed in your area, you may be able to get your fish weighed at a sporting goods store, marina, grocery store, United Parcel Service shipping point or feed store—any place that must have scales legal for trade.”
The Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens has certified scales and is open to the public from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. on Sunday.
Most TPWD Inland Fisheries district offices also have a certified scale; you can find the one nearest you at the TPWD Web site.
Campbell points out there is no need to kill a big fish in order to have a trophy to hang on your wall. “In addition to Budweiser ShareLunker clothing, every angler who enters a fish into the program receives a fiberglass replica of their fish made by Lake Fork Taxidermy,” Campbell says. “We want you to have your fish and not eat it, too.”
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