Toyota ShareLunker Program
Frequently Asked Questions
- What is the mission of the ShareLunker Program?
- To involve the public in the conservation and enhancement of trophy bass fishing in Texas.
- Why does TPWD want anglers to donate fish?
- Donating your fish helps TPWD:
- Promote catch and release to conserve Texas’s bass populations;
- Increase public awareness of trophy bass angling opportunities to grow the sport of angling;
- Obtain catch and genetics information to better understand and manage Texas’s trophy bass; and
- Perform selective breeding of trophy bass to improve growth and maximum size potential.
- What is happening with selective breeding?
- A research project is underway to evaluate the selective breeding portion of the ShareLunker Program. In the first segment of this project ShareLunker offspring were raised to 6 inches, tagged and stocked into six public reservoirs and a few small private water bodies to compare growth at age 4 to resident bass in each lake. Private lakes were used to control fishing pressure and protect the fish until they reach trophy size. Currently, another study is underway to compare growth of ShareLunker offspring to that of our traditional Florida bass fingerlings.
- Where are ShareLunkers taken?
- Most donated fish go to the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center (TFFC) in Athens. This state-of-the-art fish-care facility opened in 1996 and contains special tanks and fish care facilities known as the “Lunker Bunker” as well as experienced personnel to care for large bass. Some lunkers from the southern parts of Texas go to the A.E. Wood Hatchery in San Marcos, where they are held until completion of a DNA test. If they are not 100 percent Florida largemouth bass, they go back to the angler and are restocked into the capture lake. If they are 100 percent Florida, they go to TFFC for spawning.
- How many ShareLunkers have died while in the care of TPWD?
- Overall since the start of the program through the end of 2015, 151 of the 563 donated fish have died after being transferred to TPWD (73% survival rate). There has been a gradual improvement over time as we have learned more about care of these fish. In the last four years the survival rate of donated fish has averaged 82 percent.
- Why do some ShareLunkers die?
- Unfortunately, many ShareLunkers are in poor condition when TPWD arrives at the lake. These fish have sometimes been held in a livewell for several hours and have been handled multiple times in addition to the stress of being caught. ShareLunker program survival rates could be increased by: 1) refusing to accept stressed fish, or 2) minimizing handling and livewell exposure time before we can arrive. All accepted ShareLunkers get the best possible care at TFFC, which greatly improves their chance of survival.
- What is being done to improve survival of ShareLunkers?
- Through lessons learned in handling donated ShareLunkers, TPWD has been able to educate both anglers and TPWD staff on the proper care of trophy bass. Anglers today are much more aware of the value of these large bass and how to care for them. Several tournament organizations have changed their rules allowing the early weigh-in of 13-pound fish and are encouraging anglers to bring them to the weigh-in facilities immediately after catch. Additionally, TPWD has certified several lake-based ShareLunker Weigh and Holding Stations.
- What is a ShareLunker Weigh and Holding station?
- These are typically tackle shops or stores in close proximity to reservoirs where anglers can bring potential ShareLunkers for weighing on a certified scale. Holding stations have tanks suitable for temporarily holding ShareLunkers and staff that are experienced in caring for ShareLunkers until pick-up. A list of ShareLunker Weigh and Holding Stations can be found on this website.
- Why are some ShareLunkers returned to their reservoir of origin and not spawned?
- All donated fish are tested to determine their exact genetic make-up. Only fish that test out to be “pure Florida bass” are accepted into the selective breeding program. While we know bass having a combination of northern and Florida bass genes (intergrades) can reach large size, pure Florida bass are more likely to produce offspring that reach trophy size. By limiting the selective breeding program to those fish, we are able to cross pure Florida bass females over 13 pounds with pure Florida bass males which are offspring of previous ShareLunkers, increasing the odds of superior genetics and potential for achieving maximum size. All fish that are not accepted into the breeding program are returned to the lake of origin as soon as they have fully recovered from the initial trip, if that is the desire of the angler who donated the fish.
- How many of the ShareLunkers successfully spawn in the hatchery?
- Not all ShareLunkers successfully spawn in the hatchery. Sometimes late-season entries from southern reservoirs have already spawned. During the last four years, 11 ShareLunkers have been paired, and six of these spawned. Some of these fish spawned more than once while at the hatchery.
- Who decides whether or not a ShareLunker is returned, and are they always returned to the reservoir of origin?
- A ShareLunker is the property of the angler who caught it. Most choose to release the fish back into the reservoir from which it was caught. In a few cases, anglers have chosen to release the fish into a different reservoir. Some anglers have permanently donated their fish to TPWD so it can be used in future years for selective breeding.
- How can I find out the status of a donated fish?
- The information on the status of each fish can be found by searching the archives on our website. There you can find out if the fish died, its genetic make-up, if the fish spawned, and when it was returned to the lake. Similar information is being added for previous ShareLunkers as time allows.
- If a 13-pound fish is returned to the lake instead of loaned to the program, how many offspring will it produce in the wild?
- A typical female largemouth bass produces 5,000 to 15,000 fertilized eggs. This is similar for fish that successfully spawn in the hatchery and in the wild.
- If a ShareLunker successfully spawns in the hatchery, how many of its offspring survive after being stocked into Texas reservoirs?
- Less than 10 percent of largemouth bass offspring produced in the wild survive to be 1 inch long because of predation and unfavorable environmental conditions. While TPWD has no data on how many hatchery-reared fish survive after being stocked, the presence of a strong Florida largemouth bass influence in reservoirs statewide proves that stocking works.
- What is selective breeding?
- Selective breeding is the intentional breeding of organisms with a desirable trait in an attempt to produce offspring with a similar desirable trait. In the case of ShareLunker we are attempting to produce offspring with traits of fast growth rates and greater maximum body size.
- What is the origin of the male paired with a ShareLunker?
- The males that are paired with ShareLunker females are the offspring of previous ShareLunkers.
- How many ShareLunker offspring are produced?
- A little over 575,000 ShareLunker offspring were produced from 2005 to 2011. Annual production ranged from a low of about 10,000 in 2007 to a high of 175,000 in 2011.
- Where are ShareLunker offspring stocked?
- From 2005 to 2011, the vast majority of offspring (96 percent) were stocked into public water bodies. Allocation of these offspring was:
- Public reservoirs for OWR research (15 percent)
- Private reservoirs for OWR research (4 percent)
- Public reservoirs for management (81 percent)
- Does removing a few 13-pound fish from a reservoir reduce a reservoir’s ability to produce trophy fish in the future?
- We feel that the impact is minimal. Many ShareLunkers are returned to the producing reservoir. Also, by the time they’ve reached 13 pounds they have spawned multiple times, insuring that their genetic traits have already been passed to new generations. In addition, reservoirs that contribute ShareLunkers are supplementally stocked with selectively bred ShareLunker offspring that may have improved genetic traits over what is produced in the wild.
- Why do some Texas waters receive stockings of ShareLunker offspring and others do not?
- The primary destinations are research lakes or lakes which have produced ShareLunkers in the past. In most years, all lakes producing a ShareLunker get a stocking even if the ShareLunker from a particular lake did not produce offspring or have the appropriate genetic make-up for inclusion in the selective breeding program. Fingerlings have also been stocked in new or recently filled lakes that have good trophy potential to give us the unique opportunity to track their impacts (examples: Lake Naconiche and Lake Sweetwater). A list of public waters receiving stockings of ShareLunker fingerlings can be found via our stocking reports.
- What is the difference between Northern bass, Florida bass and ShareLunker offspring?
- Northern bass offspring are fingerlings from the subspecies of largemouth bass that is native to Texas.
- Florida bass offspring are fingerlings from the subspecies that is native to the Florida peninsula and were introduced to Texas in the early 1970s. Florida bass have demonstrated the potential to grow much larger than Northern bass.
- ShareLunker offspring are selectively bred Florida bass that come from the pairing of a female ShareLunker and a male bass that is the offspring of a previous ShareLunker.
- Do ShareLunker offspring out-perform offspring produced in the wild and pure Florida bass?
- Recent studies showed that ShareLunker offspring stocked into six public reservoirs averaged about one-third pound heavier at age 4 than same-age resident fish, which were mostly intergrades. Studies are currently underway to compare growth of ShareLunker offspring to the pure Florida bass that are normally produced in our fish hatcheries.
- Have ShareLunkers been used as brood fish in production of Florida bass fingerlings?
- ShareLunker offspring are currently being raised to be integrated into our regular Florida bass brood stock. Great care must be used to insure that this is done in a way that maintains a high level of genetic diversity.
- Have any of the donated 13-pound fish come from ShareLunker parents?
- There is currently no definite proof that any ShareLunkers were direct descendants of the ShareLunker parents used in our breeding program. However, recently developed DNA fingerprinting technologies will allow us to track this in the future.
- What are the economic benefits of the ShareLunker program?
- The ShareLunker program has been a vital part of making Texas a bass-fishing destination known around the world. This has a substantial economic impact on communities near trophy bass lakes. For example, a study of the impact of the Lake Fork trophy bass fishery on the local economy showed it to be $27 million annually.
- Do other states have similar programs?
- Several other state fisheries agencies have inquired about Texas’ ShareLunker program, and some initiated similar projects or programs, but on a much smaller scale. The ShareLunker program remains unique to Texas.
- If I catch a ShareLunker, what can I do to give it the best chance of survival?
- Handle the fish as little as possible and get it to a ShareLunker holding station or into a minnow tank as soon as possible after catching it. See tips for care and handling.
- Consider equipping your livewell with an oxygen system.
- Learn how to treat fish for barotrauma. Find instructions at the bottom of this article.
- How can I get more information about the ShareLunker program?
- To find out current events pertaining to the ShareLunker program, visit the ShareLunker Facebook page.
To ask questions about or discuss the ShareLunker program, call or write:
Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center
5550 F.M. 2495
Athens, Texas 75752
(903) 676-BASS (2277)
To donate a 13-pound or larger bass to the ShareLunker program:
Call our toll-free, 24-hour pager at 1-888-784-0600 (October 1-April 30 only) or (903) 681-0550.