As I noted recently in a Herald Democrat Outdoors Internet story, the 2018 ShareLunker program isn’t exactly what your dad and your grandfather grew to know in the years since the program began more than three decades ago.
From the evening of Nov. 26, 1986 when Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Inland Fisheries biologists jumpstarted the program a little bit early — thanks to Mark Stevenson’s catch of Ethel, the former 17.67-pound state record largemouth bass from Lake Fork — to the end of the 2016-17 ShareLunker season last year, the annual big bass catching parade took place from October through the end of April.
Big bass season, if you will.
But after the start of the current year, the TPWD program has been totally revamped for 2018 and beyond, running year round, although spawning donations can only take place during the months of January, February, and March.
With a successful first half of the year now in the books, TPWD reminds anglers across Texas that as mid-summer arrives, the chance for ShareLunker prizes and program recognition continues until Dec. 31.
How successful has the program been so far in 2018? According to TPWD a couple of weeks ago, anglers have entered nearly 300 largemouth bass ranging from 8 to 15.48-pounds from 64 water bodies across the state. Of those fish, 194 are “Lunker Class” (8-pounds and larger); 72 are “Lunker Elite Class” (10-pounds and larger); and three are “Legend Class” (13-pounds and larger).
That’s in addition to the six 13-pound plus largemouth bass caught during the first three months of 2018, fish that qualified as potential spawners and were donated to TPWD as “Lunker Legacy Class” largemouths.
The agency noted recently that each of the six Lunker Legacy Class fish loaned to biologists at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens have since been released back into their home lakes. That’s one each from Sam Rayburn, Kurth Reservoir, and Twin Buttes Reservoir, and three from Lake Fork.
What’s more, those lakes will receive a portion of the offspring produced from spawning efforts, based on the number of fish entered from each lake.
In addition, other pure Florida largemouth bass offspring from the Kurth Reservoir bass will be retained by the agency this year as hatchery brood stock so TPWD can stock millions of these Florida bass in statewide water bodies during coming years.
“Stocking offspring from the Lunker Legacy Class entries we collect during the spawning season is incredibly important to fulfill our mission of creating bigger, better bass in Texas; but the size and genetic data we collect from all of the entries 8-pounds and larger is another important piece of the puzzle,” said Kyle Brookshear, Toyota ShareLunker program coordinator for TPWD, in a news release.
Anglers can enter fish year round using the Toyota ShareLunker app — available for free download from the Apple App Store and Google Play — or by using a form online at www.texassharelunker.com.
Instructions for how to properly measure, weigh, and hold such bass are provided on both the app and the website, as well as instructions on how to provide a fish scale sampling for TPWD biologists to use in genetic analysis.
Anglers who participate at any level will receive a prize package for every certified ShareLunker bass they enter throughout the year. This package includes a Toyota ShareLunker Catch Kit that contains branded merchandise, an achievement decal, and other giveaways.
Entries also put anglers into a year-end ShareLunker prize drawing for an annual TPWD fishing license and a $5,000 Bass Pro Shops shopping spree.
“All of the corporate sponsors that support our program help us greatly in our efforts to make the best bass fishing possible in Texas,” said Brookshear in the news release. “The Bass Pro Shops shopping spree is the icing on the cake — we are very grateful to be able to offer that and other exciting prizes to recognize bass anglers in Texas and encourage participation in our program.”
For updates, photos, and to keep up with ShareLunker catches throughout 2018, join the ShareLunker Facebook community online at www.facebook.com/sharelunkerprogram.