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ShareLunker Program Wraps Up for the Season
ATHENS, Texas — When it comes to bass fishing, some people want quantity, and others want quality.
This year’s Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) ShareLunker program entries showed that in Texas, you can have both.
While the total number of entries into the program topped out at 17, slightly below the long-term average of 20, the quality of the fish was high:
- Entries from Lakes Conroe, Somerville and Choke Canyon were new lake records;
- Average weight of the entries-14.05 pounds — was the highest it’s been in nearly two decades;
- Weight of the biggest fish-15.93 pounds-was the greatest in seven years;
- Number of fish weighing 15 pounds or more-five-was the highest since 1992;
- Lake Somerville produced its first ShareLunker ever;
- Choke Canyon produced six ShareLunkers weighing an average of 14.21 pounds each.
The explosion of big fish from Choke Canyon can be partly explained by sustained high water levels in the lake for the last several years, but stocking of the lake with Florida largemouth bass and a huge natural spawn in 1998 combined with good habitat to produce the perfect storm of big bass. With ample forage in the lake and lots of bass to feed and fatten on it, Choke Canyon began to realize its trophy bass potential. Fisheries biologists are confident the big bass boom on Choke is not over.
The care of big bass after being caught took center stage following the tragic deaths of two other Choke Canyon fish, a 14- and a 15-pounder that expired after being kept in livewells all day. The event underscored the importance of a new program initiated this year by ShareLunker program officials, the establishment of ShareLunker holding and weigh stations at lakes likely to produce big fish. Anglers catching bass weighing 13 pounds or more can now take them to specially equipped facilities on Lakes Amistad, Falcon, Choke Canyon, Fork, Sam Rayburn and Raven.
While you may never have heard of Lake Raven, a small impoundment in Huntsville State Park, it’s a safe bet you will know the name before long. ShareLunker offspring are being stocked into the lake (along with five others) as part of Operation World Record (OWR). Growth of the fish is being monitored, and this spring a 23-inch-long, four-year-old bass weighing 7.23 pounds was recovered from Lake Raven by biologists using electrofishing. This is well above the expected weight for that age fish.
Lake Conroe surged to the forefront of big bass lakes in Texas this past season, producing four ShareLunkers, the same number as Lake Fork. One of those fish, a 15.93-pounder, earned Ricky Bearden of Conroe Angler of the Year honors for catching the largest entry. Bearden’s fish is also the new water body record for Lake Conroe.
Two other lakes produced record fish. Brad Bookmyer of Leander set the new mark for Choke Canyon with a 15.45-pound fish. Steven Vela of Lyons raised the bar on Lake Somerville to 13.6 pounds.
One of the most extraordinary events in the history of the ShareLunker program took place on Lake Fork on March 7. Guide James Caldemeyer was fishing with clients Brian Ketterer and Shannon Spear of Conroe when he spotted a big bass struggling on the surface. Realizing the fish had probably been caught and needed to have air released from its swim bladder (a procedure commonly called fizzing), Caldemeyer netted the fish and took it to the ShareLunker holding station at Lake Fork Marina, where owner Cameron Barnett fizzed it. TPWD law enforcement okayed the entry of the fish into the ShareLunker program, which requires that fish be legally caught.
The ShareLunker program has now produced 471 entries from 57 public and 15 private lakes. Lakes contributing lunkers this season include Choke Canyon (6 entries), Conroe (4), Fork (4), Somerville (1), Caddo (1) and one private lake.
Last fall the Operation World Record program produced 59,546 six-inch ShareLunker offspring and stocked them into the six OWR research lakes. In addition, more than 78,000 1.5-inch ShareLunker offspring were stocked into lakes producing lunkers. These numbers were in addition to the millions of largemouth bass fingerlings stocked that were not ShareLunker descendants.
It’s clear that the influence of Florida largemouth bass genes drives the ShareLunker program. "The number of pure Florida largemouths entered into the ShareLunker program has been increasing through the years," said Dave Terre, TPWD’s chief of management and research for inland fisheries. "Our long-standing stocking, research and management programs, along with Florida largemouth bass, have been a huge success and have totally changed the landscape of bass fishing in Texas. At one time a 13-pound bass was a rare occurrence. To get in the Texas top 50 now takes better than a 15-pounder. That’s simply amazing."
Terre continued, "I look at Texas as a crossroads where the science of fisheries management intersects with the needs and desires of anglers-and the ShareLunker program is a great example of that."
Below in chronological order are the details on this season’s entries into the ShareLunker program.
October 3, 2008, ShareLunker 455. John True of Dallas kicked off the 2008-2009 ShareLunker season October 3 with a 13.38-pound largemouth bass from a private lake in Rusk County.
True was fishing with his three-year-old son, Jack, when the fish took a Senko in 10 feet of water. The fish was 26.75 inches long and 20 inches in girth.
December 13, 2008, ShareLunker 456. Teenager Kyle Nitschke of Willis caught the new junior angler state record largemouth bass from Lake Conroe. The 13.07-pound fish was 21.5 inches in girth and 25 inches in length. Ironically, Nitschke was fishing with his friend Tyler Goetzman, who caught the former junior angler record from Lake Conroe on January 13, 2008.
January 21, 2009, ShareLunker 457. After hooking two Choke Canyon fish so big he could not turn them and keep them from getting off the hook, Brad Bookmyer of Leander landed a 15.45-pound largemouth bass that was 22 inches in girth and 26.25 inches long.
The fish is the new lake record for Choke Canyon by nearly a pound more than the previous record.
January 30, 2009, ShareLunker 458. Ricky Bearden of Conroe set a new water body record for largemouth bass when he pulled a 15.93-pound fish from two feet of water in Lake Conroe.
The big bass now holds the number 24 spot on the list of the top 50 largemouth bass ever caught in Texas. The fish was 27 inches long and 22 inches in girth.
As the Texas resident catching the largest fish of the season, Bearden will receive a lifetime fishing license. All anglers entering fish into the program receive ShareLunker clothing, certificate and fiberglass replica of their catch.
February 12, 2009, ShareLunker 459. Bruce Peel of Granbury landed the fifth ShareLunker of the season, a 13.13-pounder from Lake Fork.
Peel almost released it immediately. "Then I thought, maybe I ought to have this fish weighed," he said.
February 15, 2009, ShareLunker 460. ShareLunker No. 460 took Mark Goetzman’s Brush Hog about 10 a.m. on Lake Conroe. The fish weighed 13.13 pounds and was 25 inches long and 20 inches in girth. Goetzman is the father of Tyler Goetzman, who caught a ShareLunker last season.
February 15, 2009, ShareLunker 461. That afternoon Troy Brauchle of Helotes pulled a 15-pounder from Choke Canyon Reservoir, the second time in less than a month the lake south of San Antonio produced a fish weighing 15 pounds or better.
February 26, 2009, ShareLunker 462. Lake Conroe churned out its fourth ShareLunker of the current season, a 13.8-pound largemouth bass caught by Renee Linderoth of Conroe.
Linderoth was fishing in two feet of water south of the F.M. 1097 bridge when the fish took a Hula Grub.
March 2, 2009, ShareLunker 463. Ronnie Arnold of Karnack was fishing Caddo Lake in the same area where he’d hooked a big fish a month earlier when a 15.1-pound bass took his crankbait.
Arnold’s catch becomes the sixth ShareLunker entry from the deep East Texas lake. The last ShareLunker to come from the lake was caught in 1998.
March 4, 2009, ShareLunker 464. Fishing right at the Lake Somerville Marina, Steven Vela of Lyons landed a 13.6-pound largemouth that is the new lake record and the first ShareLunker to come from the lake.
March 7, 2009, ShareLunker 465. Lake Fork guide James Caldemeyer was fishing with clients Brian Ketterer and Shannon Spear of Conroe when he spotted a huge fish struggling near the surface. Caldemeyer netted the fish, and the trio stopped fishing to take her to Lake Fork Marina, where owner Cameron Barnett punctured the air bladder, saving the fish. The big bass weighed 14.68 pounds and was the biggest entry from Lake Fork this season.
Asking paying clients to give up hours of fishing time on Lake Fork during the peak lunker season in March might seem like a risky thing to do, but Ketterer and Spear shared Caldemeyer’s concern for the fish. "They couldn’t have been happier if they had caught her," Caldemeyer said. "They were just thrilled to be part of the experience of helping this big fish."
March 14, 2009, ShareLunker 466. Kenneth Shane of Burleson caught a 13.28-pounder from Lake Fork. Shane was fishing in 2.5 to 3 feet of water in the back of a creek when the fish took a white Senko. The fish was 26 inches long and 20.75 inches in girth.
March 14, 2009, ShareLunker 467. For only the second time, a lake produced three 15-pound ShareLunkers in a row.
Carl Ames of Helotes caught the third 15-pounder of the year from Choke Canyon Reservoir, a fish that tipped the scale at the Calliham Store at 15.27 pounds.
In 1991 Lake Fork anglers caught fish weighing 17.08, 15.41 and 16.54 pounds over the span of just four days.
March 16, 2009, ShareLunker 468. Bill Sweeten of Yantis was fishing in five to eight feet of water on Lake Fork when a 14.43-pound bass took a red Rat-L-Trap. The fish was 26.75 inches long and 21.5 inches in girth.
March 20, 2009, ShareLunker 469. Choke Canyon Reservoir continued its big bass bonanza with another ShareLunker, a 13.12-pounder caught by Joseph B. Thoman, Jr., of Farmersville, Louisiana.
Thoman was fishing in the Texas Bass Club for the Deaf tournament when he caught the fish, which was 25.25 inches long and 21.25 inches in girth.
April 9, 2009, ShareLunker 470. Three weeks passed during the height of the big bass season without a single entry into the ShareLunker program, but that ended when Dennis Segner of Fredericksburg caught a 13.17-pound largemouth from Choke Canyon Reservoir.
April 26, 2009, ShareLunker 471. With less than a week to go until the official close of the ShareLunker season, Sam Koebcke of Austin added another ShareLunker to Choke Canyon Reservoir’s tally for the year, a 13.30-pound bass that stretched 26.75 inches long and 20.75 inches in girth.
The 2008-2009 ShareLunker season ended April 30 with a total of 17 entries.
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