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Toyota ShareLunker 500 Will Be Catch of a Lifetime for One Lucky Angler
Texas Parks and Wildlife Offering $500 per Pound Prize for 500th Fish
ATHENS — Most ShareLunkers — 13-pound-plus bass caught between October 1 and April 30 — are caught by ordinary anglers who enjoy a brief flurry of fame and get a fiberglass replica of their catch and some ShareLunker clothing.
The angler who catches the 500th entry into the Toyota ShareLunker program will get all that and a little something extra: $500 a pound for every pound the fish weighs. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is offering the prize to mark the 500th lunker milestone and celebrate the success of the Toyota ShareLunker Program, which began in 1986. The Texas Parks & Wildlife Foundation is providing the prize money.
A fish that meets the minimum 13-pound weight for entry into the program will be worth $6,500. A 14-pounder would garner the angler $7,000. And should someone catch a new state record weighing, say, 18.2 pounds, they would take home a cool $9,100.
Not bad for someone who just went out to do a little bass fishin’ on a day off from work, which is exactly how most ShareLunkers are caught.
ShareLunkers have now been caught from 58 public reservoirs and more than a dozen private lakes, and all of them are capable of producing ShareLunker 500. Part of the reason for that is the reward a lake gets for producing a ShareLunker: a portion of the fingerlings produced by ShareLunkers that season. ShareLunkers — which are all females — are paired with males that are ShareLunker descendants, and the resulting spawns are stocked into the lakes.
"Everything we know about genetics leads us to believe that fish that are produced by parents that grew big are more likely to grow big themselves," said Allen Forshage, director of the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens, where the ShareLunker program is headquartered.
Many anglers choose to have their fish returned to the lake where it was caught following the spawning season. ShareLunkers are typically eight to 10 years old, but bass may live as long as 20 years, so they may produce more offspring after they go back home. Survival rate of the big fish during the process is slightly better than 70 percent and has improved dramatically in recent years as biologists have learned more about caring for big bass and as anglers have become more educated about how to take care of fish until they are picked up by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department biologists.
The last thing any angler wants to happen is have a big bass die after being caught. "Two things will do more than anything else to help these fish survive," said David Campbell, ShareLunker program manager. "First, handle the fish correctly. Wet your hands before touching the fish, and hold it by the lower lip with one hand with your other hand under the rear of the fish supporting its weight. Holding it just by the jaw can injure the jaw, and if the fish cannot feed, it will die. Second, don’t leave a big bass in the livewell all day. Get it to a marina with a minnow tank, or an official ShareLunker weigh and holding station, as quickly as you can. The less the fish is stressed, the better chance it has to survive."
And of course, as soon as you have the fish weighed on a certified scale and know it qualifies for the program, call Campbell at (903) 681-0550 or page him at (888) 784-0600. He or another TPWD staffer will pick the fish up within 12 hours seven days a week, 24 hours a day.
Remember that an entry is not official until it is accepted by a Texas Parks and Wildlife Department employee authorized to do so. In the case of multiple fish caught on the same day, the times the calls from the anglers are received by David Campbell will determine the order.
For information on the Toyota ShareLunker program, tips for caring for big bass, and a list of official ShareLunker weigh and holding stations, visit www.tpwd.state.tx.us/sharelunker.
And one more thing. Good luck. We’d love to present you with that check for $500 a pound-and the bigger the fish, the better we’ll like it.
The Toyota ShareLunker Program is made possible by a grant to the Texas Parks & Wildlife Foundation from Gulf States Toyota. Toyota is a long-time supporter of the Foundation and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, providing major funding for a wide variety of education, fish, parks and wildlife projects.
Keep track of the race to catch 500 on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/sharelunkerprogram. Become a fan and you will receive updates on Facebook.
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