|  TPWD News Releases Dated 2011-02-28                                    |
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[ Note: This item is more than six years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [RM]
Feb. 28, 2011
Texas State Parks Welcome Participatory Sports Competitors
AUSTIN - While most people visit Texas state parks to picnic, camp, fish, hike or just relax beneath a shade tree, there is a smaller, more physically-fit contingent that uses some of the state's most scenic spots for more rigorous recreational pursuits.
Hardcore ultramarathoners who trod the trails each year at Huntsville State Park are perhaps the most extreme example. This year's mega-endurance challenge on the first weekend in February not only attracted more than 500 runners, it also produced an American record.
The 19th annual Rocky Raccoon 100-Mile Trail Run was no stroll in the park for 30-year-old Ian Sharman of San Jose, Calif., who set a national record by completing the grueling endurance event - five 20-mile loops around Lake Raven -- in just under 13 hours. His official time of 12:44:33 topped a field of 316 runners from around the country. A companion 50-mile run drew 196 starters.
On June 18, Huntsville State Park will host another competition for the relaxation-challenged.
The 2011 Texas State Championship Spring Adventure Race will feature a multisport team competition consisting of canoeing, a short trail run, a longer mountain bike race and a possible mystery event to be announced later. Exact distances and other particulars will be revealed during registration and packet pickup Saturday morning. For more race information, visit: http://www.terrafirmaracing.com/view.asp?id=43
Huntsville State Park superintendent Chris Holm says the park hosts a number of competitions throughout the year sponsored by businesses and private organizations. It's not unusual, he says, for the events to draw 500 to 700 competitors, all of whom pay the park entry fee, generating considerable income. There are other benefits to the park, as well.
"The winter events bring in people at a time of the year when we don't have high visitation," Holm explains. "It's an extremely effective marketing tool for this park. It's another way to get people into our park - not just participants but their families -- to see what we have to offer, so they might become future customers."
The Lone Star Runners Club will sponsor its annual Trail Run and Duathlon on April 23 at Palo Duro Canyon State Park near Amarillo, another state park favored by race directors and participants. Duathletes sandwich a nine-mile mountain bike ride between two-mile trail runs. Then, in a separate competition, trail runners take off on a nine-mile trail run. Both events start and finish in the Juniper Campground on the canyon floor. Then, all participants gather at noon to chow down on hamburgers and hot dogs. For more information, visit: www.lonestarrunnersclub.net.
For more than a quarter of a century, the dirt and gravel trails traversing picturesque Palo Duro Canyon have accommodated hundreds of runners competing in the Palo Duro Trail Run begun by Red Spicer. The Western States Qualifier attracts runners who chose to compete in the 20K, 50K or 50-mile event. To learn more, visit: http://www.palodurocanyon.com/pdcTrailRun2011.pdf
Mountain biking competitions are even more popular at Palo Duro Canyon State Park than running events such as the Palo Duro Marathon, according to acting park superintendent Nathan Londenberg. He says 24 Hours in the Canyon is a "huge event," raising funds for the local Don and Sybil Harrington Cancer Center and Livestrong.
The largest field of competitors to use state park facilities, up to 15,000 bikers, turn out for the annual MS 150, a two-day, 150-mile bike race from Austin to Houston held each April. Some 15,000 competitors pedal the pine tree-lined road linking Bastrop and Buescher state parks on their trek between the two cities to raise money for The Multiple Sclerosis Society.
Though not really a competition per se, but more of a celebration of mountain biking in the Big Bend, the first-ever Chihuahuan Desert Dirt Fest was held recently in Lajitas. Some of the rides, including one along a route recently named by the International Mountain Biking Association as an Epic Ride, took place in Big Bend Ranch State Park. The swanky Lajitas Resort served as the staging location for family-friendly rides of different lengths and difficulty. For more information, visit: http://desertsportstx.com/mountain-bike-event/.
On March 27, competitors will go up against granite in the Enchanted Rock Extreme Duathlon at Enchanted Rock State Natural Area in the Texas Hill Country.
The duathlon features a 5-mile run around the outer loop, then a 16-mile road-bike ride, culminating in a 1.5-mile spring up to the top of the giant rock mountain. For more, visit: http://www.redemptionrp.com/ERock2011.
Late October finds a different breed of competitor tackling Enchanted Rock in central Texas in probably the most unusual competition held in a Texas state park.
The 20th annual Granite Gripper at Enchanted Rock State Natural Area north of Fredericksburg will once again offer a variety of rope and bouldering competitions for men, women and youth of varying abilities. The fundraiser benefits the state natural area and the iconic granite batholith that gives the park its name. Visit: http://www.centraltexasclimbingcommittee.com/gripper.html
Triathletes who enjoy swimming, in addition to running and biking, can compete at Lake Tawakoni State Park near Dallas on April 17 in the first semi-annual Spring-Fall Sprint Triathlon Series sponsored by Big Earth Racing. Participants in what's being billed as the "Biggest Little Sprint in Texas" will swim half a mile, bike 23.8 miles and run 3.1 (5K) miles. A second triathlon is scheduled for Aug. 21.
During the two events, the state park will be closed to the general public. Participants and spectators must register online at: www.bigearthracing.com. For park information, call (903) 560-7123.
For those who don't like to compete solo, grab a partner and come to Cedar Hill State Park near Dallas on Oct. 16 for the Columbia Muddy Buddy Dallas off-road competition, featuring a total course distance of from six to seven miles. Each partner will run and bike approximately three miles, one running while the other bikes. They will switch off in a transition/obstacle area. Each race team will have to conquer a mud pit before crossing the finish line together. For more information, visit: http://www.trifind.com/re_33420/ColumbiaMuddyBuddyDallas.html.
The banks of the San Marcos River at Palmetto State Park near Gonzales are the perfect vantage point to witness the annual Texas Water Safari, a 260-mile marathon canoe race from Aquarena Springs in San Marcos to Seadrift. This year's event will be held from June 11-15.
For a partial list of competitive events held at a Texas state park near you, visit: http://beta-tpwd.texas.gov/calendar/competitions.

[ Note: This item is more than six years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [LH]
Feb. 28, 2011
Toyota ShareLunkers 514, 515 Come From Lake Austin
ATHENS--Just when you thought this Toyota ShareLunker season was going to be all about O.H. Ivie, along comes Lake Austin.
The urban lake on the northwest side of the state capital has produced three ShareLunkers so far this season. One, the 16.03-pound lake record, came January 27. Two more came this last weekend. Lake Austin has now produced 12 entries into the ShareLunker program, tying it with Lake Amistad and lagging Choke Canyon and Falcon International Reservoir by only one.
Billy Weems of Liberty Hill started the action Friday, February 25, with a 13.21-pound lunker caught about noon in 12 feet of 62-degree water on a swim bait.
Cody Erin Smith of New Braunfels followed up Saturday with a 14.28-pounder caught about 10:00 a.m. on a jig.
Both were fishing in the vicinity of the Loop 360 bridge. "This whole area is just one big spawning flat," said Weems. "The big fish are just starting to move up."
Weems's assessment that the best fishing for big bass may be yet to come is borne out by the record. Of the nine entries the lake had produced prior to this season, three were caught in February, five in March and one in April.
Making that seem even more likely is the fact that at least two more fish were reported this past weekend that barely missed making the 13-pound mark.
Last season the lake produced two ShareLunkers, the first time in its history it had more than one entry in a season.
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) Inland Fisheris biologist Stephan Magnelia manages the Lake Austin fishery, and he attributes the lake's production of big bass to several factors. "I believe it's a combination of an ongoing Florida bass stocking program, good habitat (aquatic vegetation) in the upper third of the reservoir, and catch-and-release by anglers," he said.
Since 1996 TPWD has stocked about 4.5 million Florida bass into Lake Austin, and in 2008 and 2010 it received stockings of ShareLunker offspring. Each lake that contributes a fish to the program receives a portion of that season's production of offspring.
TPWD's chief of research and management, Dave Terre, agrees. "We have been working to reduce hydrilla (an invasive plant) with timed water-level drawdowns and periodic stockings of triploid grass carp," he said. "Our goals are to reduce or eliminate hydrilla and also enhance native aquatic plants. We think aquatic vegetation is very important for habitat for bass in Lake Austin and is one reason this lake is so special for big fish. It also takes the Florida largemouth bass genetics and voluntary catch and release by anglers, because the fish need to live long enough to get that big."
Weems had caught a small fish prior to hooking his ShareLunker, and at first he thought he had hooked a two- or three-pounder. "She came right to the boat," he said. "She ran around the outside of my boat, and then she just took off for deep water. I was using a heavy action rod, and she just bowed that thing down and started stripping drag. The rest of the time she fought mainly under the boat. It took three or four minutes to get her in."
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.
ShareLunker entries are used in a selective breeding program at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center (TFFC) in Athens. Some of the offspring from these fish are stocked back into the water body from which they were caught. Other ShareLunker offspring are stocked in public waters around the state in an attempt to increase the overall size and growth rate of largemouth bass in Texas.
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. The package includes a G. Loomis NRX854C jig and worm rod, a Shimano ChronarchD1007 casting reel and 150 yards of moss green Power Pro super-braid fishing line.If a Texas angler catches the largest entry of the season, that person also receives a lifetime fishing license.
T.J. Nissen is currently in the lead for Angler of the Year with his 16.03-pound fish from Lake Austin.
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 tpwd.texas.gov/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.