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Sizzling Lake Austin Turns in Third Toyota ShareLunker of the Season
Latest catch is a recapture of a fish caught in 2010 and returned to the lake
ATHENS—So far five fish have been entered into the Toyota ShareLunker program for the 2011-2012 season, and Lake Austin has produced three of them.
Wesley Hayden of Round Rock caught Toyota ShareLunker 527 from Lake Austin February 11. Landon Glass of Jarrell caught No. 528 from the lake February 14.
Brett Ketchum caught No. 526 from Lake Austin January 29, starting the three-fish streak.
Hayden was fishing in four feet of 57-degree water about 2 p.m. using a jig when he hooked the 13.22-pound fish. It was 26 inches long and 21.25 inches in girth.
Glass caught his 13.03-pound Toyota ShareLunker while fishing in 10 feet of 58-degree water with a Sixth Sense football jig. A scan of the fish revealed it is the same fish caught February 27, 2010, by Carl Adkins of Austin, at which time it became Toyota ShareLunker 481. At that time the fish weighed 13.1 pounds. DNA testing at the time revealed the fish to be pure Florida largemouth.
The explosion of big fish from Lake Austin has its roots in years past. “I believe a combination of our Florida bass stocking program and good habitat have led to great production over the years,” said Marcos DeJesus, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s fisheries biologist in charge of managing the lake’s fishery. “There were probably a couple of good year classes several years ago, and some of those individuals are now breaking that ShareLunker barrier.”
Every fish entered into the Toyota ShareLunker program has a passive integrated transponder (PIT) tag injected into its body cavity for tracking and can be identified if recaught. One fish from Lake Alan Henry was caught and entered into the program three years in a row.
Both Lake Austin fish were picked up by a Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Inland Fisheries staff member from the A.E. Wood Fish Hatchery in San Marcos. Since the Glass fish is pure Florida largemouth, it will be taken to the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center (TFFC) in Athens for the duration of the spawning period. DNA testing showed ShareLunker 527 to be an intergrade. Intergrades, mixtures of Florida and northern largemouth, are returned to the lake where caught as soon as possible.
Lake Austin will receive a portion of any Toyota ShareLunker fingerlings produced during the current season. Any lake that produces a ShareLunker receives a share of the season’s fingerlings, whether any of the fish from that lake are spawned or not. These fingerlings will be the offspring of pure Florida females paired with pure Florida males that are themselves the offspring of ShareLunkers.
“We feel that this selective breeding process results in the best possible genetics being returned to the lakes, increasing the chance of more trophy bass being produced in the future,” explained Allen Forshage, director of TFFC. “Although these big females have no doubt spawned in years before they were caught, they did not necessarily mate with a pure Florida male. Everything we know about genetics tells us that the parents with the best genes produce the highest quality offspring. This is the scientific basis of our selective breeding program.”
Forshage also noted that the main purpose of stocking ShareLunker fingerlings is not to produce trophy fish for anglers to catch. “The reason we stock these fish, and the reason we want to use only pure Florida bass in the selective breeding program, is that we know Florida bass grow bigger and faster than native northern largemouths, and by stocking pure Florida fingerlings from trophy fish, we will have a greater impact on the genetics of the overall largemouth population in the lake,” he said. “In addition, since fingerlings from different parents are mixed before being stocked, these stockings help to promote genetic diversity.”
TFFC also uses some of the ShareLunker offspring to produce broodfish for TPWD’s regular largemouth bass stocking program, which annually stocks millions of fish into Texas public waters. “In this way we are introducing ShareLunker genetics into the general largemouth bass population,” Forshage said.
Recent advances in DNA technology now allow TPWD to determine if a fish entered into the Toyota ShareLunker program is an offspring of a previous ShareLunker. This technology has been available only since 2005, and it takes seven to 10 years for a bass to reach 13 pounds and be eligible for the program. “We are looking forward to the day when we get the DNA test results from a ShareLunker and can say, ‘That is one of our fish,’” Forshage said.
Anyone legally catching a 13-pound or bigger largemouth bass from Texas waters, public or private, between October 1 and April 30 may submit the fish to the Toyota ShareLunker program by calling program manager David Campbell at (903) 681-0550 or paging him at (888) 784-0600 and leaving a phone number including area code. Fish will be picked up by TPWD personnel within 12 hours.
Anglers entering fish into the Toyota ShareLunker program receive a free replica of their fish, a certificate and ShareLunker clothing and are recognized at a banquet at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens.
The person who catches the season’s largest entry will be named Angler of the Year and will receive a prize package from G. Loomis valued at $818. If a Texas angler catches the largest entry of the season, that person also receives a lifetime fishing license valued at $1,000.
For complete information and rules of the ShareLunker program, tips on caring for big bass, a list of official Toyota ShareLunker weigh and holding stations and a recap of last year’s season, see http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/sharelunker. The site also includes a searchable database of all fish entered into the program along with pictures where available.
Information on current catches, including short videos of interviews with anglers when available, is posted on www.facebook.com/sharelunkerprogram.
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.
EDITORS NOTE: No picture of Sharelunker 527 is available at this time.
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