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Texas Expands ShareLunker Program

More anglers will be eligible to participate in Texas' Toyota ShareLunker program in 2018, as Texas Parks and Wildlife (TPW) announces big changes in the strategy designed to grow bigger bass for the state's fisheries.

First, the program that began in 1986 now is year-around, instead of beginning in the fall and ending in spring. But most importantly, bass weighing 8 pounds and more now are eligible, a qualification identical to that of Florida's TrophyCatch.

“Angler recognition continues to be a primary goal of the Toyota ShareLunker program,” said Kyle Brookshear, program coordinator.

“This year, for the first time ever, anglers who catch a largemouth bass 8 pounds or larger can participate simply by providing important catch information for us to use to improve bass fisheries science.

"We will be recognizing and rewarding these anglers as well as those anglers who loan their lunker bass weighing 13 pound or greater to our breeding program during the spawning season.”

ShareLunker now has four levels: Lunker Legacy Class, Lunker Legend Class, Lunker Elite Class, and Lunker Class.

Lunker Legacy is awarded to anglers who loan bass of 13 pounds or larger during the spawning period from Jan. 1 to March 31

"These valuable fish are an integral piece of the Toyota ShareLunker selective breeding and stocking program and anglers will be eligible for an exciting prize package commensurate with the importance of sharing their lunker," TPW said.

Lunker Legend will apply to those who enter a largemouth bass of 13 pounds or more from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, while Lunker Elite is for anglers catching a bass weighing from 10 to 12.99 pounds. Anglers who enter a bass of at least 8 pounds or 24 inches in length from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31 will earn Lunker Class recognition.

All participants in the latter three will receive a Toyota ShareLunker Catch Kit, containing branded merchandise, fishing tackle, an achievement decal, and entry into the year-end ShareLunker prize drawing for a $5,000 shopping spree and an annual fishing license.

Anglers who catch qualifying fish can enter them using a new ShareLunker mobile application with their smartphones. It is free to download on iTunes and Google Play, as well as on the new ShareLunker website. Digital entry forms will allow anglers to submit photos of their fish being measured, weighed, and held. Additionally, anglers will be able to provide genetic samples of their fish by collecting and sending scales to TPW using instructions from the application and website.

“Monitoring the impact of ShareLunker stockings is critical to evaluating the success of the program,” Brookshear said. “That’s why the citizen scientist piece is so important.

"We need anglers to help us better understand the populations of our biggest bass in Texas and we are excited to offer exciting prizes in exchange for providing us with the information and genetic material from their lunker catches.”

Hatcheries staff will  attempt to spawn all eligible ShareLunkers 13 pounds or larger donated between Jan. 1 and March 31. Offspring of female genetic intergrades will be combined and stocked in the source locations for all ShareLunker entries for the year, Meanwhile, genetically pure offspring will be maintained at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center  and eventually distributed to all TPWD production hatcheries to be used as brood stock for statewide largemouth bass stockings.

“Our goal is for all hatchery-held Florida largemouth bass brood stock to eventually be the descendants of ShareLunkers,” Brookshear said. “Increasing the percentage of ShareLunker offspring being introduced into Texas waters is an important part of increasing the lunker genetic potential in the state.

"We are incredibly grateful for anglers who choose to loan us these valuable fish and we are looking forward to continuing our efforts to make Texas fishing bigger and better with the selective breeding program."


Two Bass on One Cast

Bite wasn't the best on Florida's Sand Lake today, but we still managed to catch about 15 bass on a variety of baits, including this double on a Rat-L-Trap.

Incredibly, less than 5 minutes later, we almost had another, but both fish pulled free as they were fighting over the bait.

I once caught a double, weighing 5 and 7 pounds, on a Fat Free Citrus Shad. And years ago, I wrote an article for Bassmaster about an angler who caught 5 bass on a crankbait. In other words, he got his limit with one cast.


Angler Credits Better Bass Fishing For Helping Him Catch Fish

I received the following note through my website from an Oklahoma angler. I am posting it as a shameless promotion for my book, Better Bass Fishing, available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. The photo above shows a 5-pound bass that he credits my book for helping him catch.

Here’s what he said:

I would like a signed copy of your book.  I came home from fishing a few weeks back and my TV was broken.  

I decided to get rid of that TV and cable and start reading some books.  The first book I checked out of the library was Better Bass Fishing.  

I read about 50 pages of your book and went out the next morning and caught a 5-pound largemouth.  It was in a lake that all my fishing friends struggle in also.  It is a pumpback reservoir so the level is always changing.  

Then about three days later I caught another 5-pounder.  Your book helped me tremendously.


Why We Fish: Airborne, Air-Breathing, Bird-Eating Predators

I caught this arowana while fishing for peacock bass on the Rio Negro, a tributary of the Amazon. It can breath air, as well as water, and often leaps out of the water to capture prey, including birds on low-hanging branches

It's but one of more than 2,500 species of fish (some say the number is closer to 5,000) in the massive Amazon River basin, which covers 2.5 million square miles and 30 percent of South America.

Seeing and learning about such miracles of nature are but two of the many reasons why I fish and why I wrote Why We Fish.


More Ethanol To Be Added to Fuel Supply In 2018

More ethanol will be added to the nation's gasoline supply in 2018, which means potentially more headaches for anglers and others who own boats.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), announced the increase in December, after originally proposing a slight decrease.

“In August, EPA originally proposed a slight lowering of the overall ethanol mandate. However, bowing to pressure from the ethanol backers, the agency actually notched the mandate higher,” said BoatUS Government Affairs Manager David Kennedy.

“We think the EPA’s decision unfairly supports the ethanol industry over protecting consumers, recreational boaters, and the environment. If ethanol is as good for America’s fuel supply as Big Ethanol would like you to believe, then why do we have a law that forces more ethanol each year into the market? The RFS (Renewable Fuel Standard) no longer works for Americans.”

Signed into law in 2005, the RFS requires an increasing amount of biofuels, such as corn, to be blended into the gasoline supply. In 2018, the amount will increase 0.05 percent to 19.29 billion gallons.

The law was written with the assumption that the nation would continue to use more fuel each year. That has not been the case. To keep up with the mandate, EPA started allowing E15 (15 percent ethanol) in 2010.

But only fuels containing up to 10 percent (E10) are approved for use in recreational boats. And as more ethanol is forced into the nation's gasoline supply, it will become ever more difficult for boat owners to find fuel that is safe for them to use. Additionally, the chances of misfueling will increase.

In 2014, the ethanol-free gasoline supply was 8 billion gallons. By 2016, it was reduced to 200 million. Already more than 90 percent of fuel contains 10 percent ethanol, with 15 percent becoming more prevalent, even though federal law prohibits its use in marine engines, ATVs, motorcycles, lawnmowers and cars made before 2001.

Many of the problems caused by ethanol are due to "phase separation," which can turn fuel stored in a boat's gas tank into a corrosive, unusable mixture. Half of those who responded to a  BoatUS survey said they have had to replace or repair a boat engine or fuel system parts because of suspected ethanol-related damage. Average cost for repairs was $1,000.

“Ethanol has been demonstrated to cause harm to many gasoline engines at the present 10 percent ethanol level, especially legacy outboard motors, decreases fuel efficiency, increases fuel costs for consumers, and has questionable environmental benefits,” said Kennedy. “BoatUS will continue to fight on behalf of America’s recreational boaters to fix the RFS.”