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Entries in Lake Fork (16)

Wednesday
Mar282018

Kurth Reservoir Yields First Texas ShareLunker Ever

For the first time in the 32-year history of the Toyota ShareLunker program, Kurth Reservoir in Lufkin has produced a largemouth bass entry exceeding 13 pounds. Angler Pablo Torres Jr., of Lufkin, caught the 13.34-pound, 26-inch Legacy Class lunker in less than 8 feet of water while fishing with his son-in-law March 25.

“At first I didn’t even know it was a fish – it thought I was hung up,” Torres said. “I tightened up, and it started swimming, and when it started pulling the line, I thought ‘this might be a good fish.’”
 
“Catching a ShareLunker from Kurth was the farthest from my dreams until I saw it in the net,” Torres added. “When we got it to the boat and it turned to the side, my jaw dropped and I thought ‘Oh my gosh.'”
 
Although he has seen and heard of larger fish being caught from Kurth, Torres said being the first angler to enter a Toyota ShareLunker from the lake was a great feeling. He decided to loan the fish to the Toyota ShareLunker program for spawning to contribute to the number of Florida largemouth bass being stocked in his area.
 
“Kurth is a fantastic lake with a lot of lunkers in it,” Torres said. “[Texas Parks and Wildlife Department] stocks a lot of the ‘Floridas’ in Sam Rayburn Reservoir and other surrounding lakes, so this is a good way for me to help contribute to the area. And this fish will be released back to Kurth when they are done with it.”
 
Todd Driscoll, the TPWD Inland Fisheries District Supervisor for the Jasper district, said he was not surprised at all to hear that the East Texas lake had produced a Toyota Sharelunker entry.
 
“This lake has everything it needs to produce big fish – including ample amounts of aquatic vegetation like hydrilla, which covers 30-40 percent of the reservoir,” Driscoll said. “That produces really strong year classes of fish. In addition to a 16-inch maximum limit, we have also been stocking it for years with frequent stockings of pure Florida largemouth bass to increase trophy potential of lake.”
 
ShareLunker 575 is the fifth Legacy Class entry of the season with the previous entries coming from Twin Buttes Reservoir and Lake Fork. 
 
ShareLunker 575 was transported to the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens where hatchery staff will monitor and care for her in preparation for spawning. Also in the “Lunker Bunker” are the four other Legacy Class entries of the season: Toyota ShareLunker 574, a 13.40 pound largemouth bass caught by angler Austin Terry from Twin Buttes Reservoir March 14; Toyota ShareLunker 573, a 13.06 pound largemouth bass caught by angler Alex Finch from Lake Fork March 11; Toyota ShareLunker 572, a 13.00 pound largemouth bass caught by angler Michael Terrebonne from Lake Fork March 8; and Toyota ShareLunker 571, a 15.48 pound largemouth bass caught by angler John LaBove from Lake Fork March 2.
 
Texas anglers who catch a 13 pound or larger largemouth bass can loan the fish to the Toyota ShareLunker program for spawning through March 31.
 
Every angler who loans a 13 pound or larger Legacy Class bass to the Toyota ShareLunker program during the spawning period Jan. 1 to March 31 will receive a Toyota ShareLunker Catch Kit containing branded merchandise and fishing tackle items, a 13lb+ Legacy decal, VIP access to awards programming at the Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest, a replica of their fish, and an entry into the year-end ShareLunker Prize Drawing to win a $5,000 shopping spree and an annual fishing license. These anglers will also be entered into the Legacy Class Prize Drawing for a $5,000 shopping spree and an annual fishing license at the end of the spawning period March 31.
 
The Toyota ShareLunker Program is made possible by a grant to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation from Gulf States Toyota. Toyota is a longtime supporter of the Foundation and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, providing major funding for a wide variety of education, fish, parks and wildlife projects.
 
For updates on the Toyota ShareLunker program and to view photos of all of the 13-pound-plus largemouth bass caught this season, go here or here.

Tuesday
Mar132018

Lake Fork Gives Up Third 13-Pounder In Less Than Two Weeks

AUSTIN – For the third time in less than two weeks, Lake Fork has delivered what many anglers dream about for a lifetime – a 13-pound-plus Toyota ShareLunker largemouth bass. For angler Alex Finch, who landed the 13.06 pound Legacy Class largemouth bass during a solo fishing trip March 11, the catch checked off a “bucket list” item he’s been aiming at for years.

“This was one thing in my lifetime I said I wanted to do – catch a ShareLunker,” said Finch, of North Richland Hills. “I’ve accomplished a lot in the sport of fishing and I’ve caught a lot of big bass by most people’s standards, but I’ve never put one on the scale and had it read like that. My initial reaction was like “finally!”

After landing ShareLunker 573 on a bait he built himself – a Finch Nasty Thumper Gizzard Shad – Finch took the fish to be weighed and held at the Minnow Bucket Marina until Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) Inland Fisheries staff arrived to verify the catch and transport it to the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center (TFFC) in Athens. The fish is now in the “Lunker Bunker” at the TFFC being monitored and cared for by hatchery staff to prepare for spawning as part of the program’s selective breeding program.

“Loaning the fish to the ShareLunker program for spawning was an easy decision for me,” Finch said. “My priorities were taking good care of the fish and the public purpose of the donation. The Toyota ShareLunker program has really helped make Texas fishing better than it is in any other state.”

ShareLunker 573’s roommates at the “Lunker Bunker” include Lake Fork’s two other Legacy Class entries for the season – Toyota ShareLunker 572, a 13.00 pound largemouth bass caught by angler Michael Terrebonne March 8; and Toyota ShareLunker 571, a 15.48 pound largemouth bass caught by angler John LaBove March 2.

Although Lake Fork is well known as a big bass hotspot, not every year yields Toyota ShareLunker entries. To have three caught and entered in less than two weeks was surprising to many local anglers, including Finch.

“I’ve been fishing at Lake Fork for 5 years and I’ve seen it cycle,” Finch said. “Last year we really started to see the population of fish coming back. We knew there were going to be some big fish caught here this year, but we had no idea we would be seeing three ShareLunkers in nine days – that’s incredible.”

Texas anglers who catch their “bucket list” 13 pound or larger largemouth bass can loan the fish to the Toyota ShareLunker program for spawning through March 31.

Every angler who loans a 13 pound or larger Legacy Class bass to the Toyota ShareLunker program during the spawning period Jan. 1 to March 31 will receive a Toyota ShareLunker Catch Kit containing branded merchandise and fishing tackle items, a 13lb+ Legacy decal, VIP access to awards programming at the Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest, a replica of their fish, and an entry into the year-end ShareLunker Prize Drawing to win a $5,000 shopping spree and an annual fishing license. These anglers will also be entered into the Legacy Class Prize Drawing for a $5,000 shopping spree and an annual fishing license at the end of the spawning period March 31.

The Toyota ShareLunker Program is made possible by a grant to the Texas Parks & Wildlife Foundation from Gulf States Toyota. Toyota is a longtime supporter of the Foundation and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, providing major funding for a wide variety of education, fish, parks and wildlife projects.

For updates on the Toyota ShareLunker program and to view photos of all of the 13-pound-plus largemouth bass caught this season, visit www.facebook.com/ShareLunkerprogram or https://texassharelunker.com/.

Monday
May152017

Caddo Angler Catches Second 15-Pounder for ShareLunker Program 

Ronnie Arnold earned himself a unique place in Texas' Toyota ShareLunker program recently, when he landed a 15.7-pound largemouth bass in Caddo Lake, a fishery on the border with Louisiana.

In donating the fish to the trophy bass spawning program managed by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), Arnold became the first angler to enter two fish of 15 pounds or more. In 2009, he caught a 15.1-pound fish, also at Caddo.

Seventeen anglers have multiple entries, including five with three fish. Bill Reed's two were the heaviest pair collectively, with one weighing 16.54 pounds and the other 14.91.

Arnold's catch was the ninth from Caddo donated to the program begun in 1986. The lake record, 16.17, was entered by Keith Burns in 2010. Then, Sean Swank caught the same fish in 2011, when its weigh had dropped slightly to 16.07.

The latest Caddo entry was the third of the spring statewide for ShareLunker and No. 568 since the program began in 1986. It also was the largest since Swank's catch.

With a minimum weight requirement of 13 pounds, the program was established "to promote catch-and-release of large fish and to selectively breed trophy largemouth bass," TPWD said. "The first fish entered into the program was also a new state record, a 17.67-pounder caught from Lake Fork in November (1986)."

The first ShareLunker of the 2017 season, meanwhile, also was historic. Testing revealed the 13.07-pound fish caught at Marine Creek Lake was spawned from ShareLunker 410 and a male ShareLunker offspring. That made it the first of that size from  specially selected trophy-potential parents paired in 2006 as part of a research project to evaluate the growth of selectively bred, faster-growing Florida largemouths in public reservoirs.

“The catch of ShareLunker 566 from Marine Creek Lake not only validates the goal of TPWD’s selective breeding program of producing ShareLunker-size bass, but also demonstrates how anglers can help others by donating their ShareLunkers to TPWD for breeding purposes,” said ShareLunker Program Coordinator Kyle Brookshear.

Friday
Mar312017

You Just Never Know . . . 

While fishing for bass with a swim jig on Lake Kinkaid, Ryan Povoloish just caught this Illinois state record for crappie. It weighed 4 pounds, 8.8 ounces, surpassing the old mark of 4.5 set in 1976 on Rend Lake.

Back in 1992, Barry St. Clair caught this state record largemouth bass on Lake Fork while fishing for crappie with a shiner. It weighed 18.18 pounds. It's officially the only Texas bass to top 18 pounds.

When you go fishing, you just never know what you'll catch. That's one of the many reasons we go fishing. It's also one of the many reasons that I wrote Why We Fish. Here's an excerpt:

"Sadly, the snook weren’t biting. But a tarpon was. It ate my jig, nearly yanked the rod out of my hand, and then rocketed toward deep water. All I could do was hold on. I knew that I couldn’t stop the fish, no matter how skillfully I played it. I waded out into the water as far as I dared, knowing as I did so that it was a pointless gesture.

"But then the miraculous occurred, just as I looked down at my reel to see all of the line gone except for the knot."

Thursday
Dec292016

More States Look to Grow Trophies With Florida-Strain Bass

Tennessee state record bass caught in 2015 at Lake Chickamauga.Can Tennessee biologists turn Chickamauga into another Lake Fork?

Probably not.

That Texas lake is the gold standard for trophy bass fisheries, and duplicating the success there is not a reasonable expectation, especially for a state with a less hospitable climate.

But resource managers are hopeful that they can grow bigger bass in Chickamauga through the introduction of Florida-strain largemouths into the population.

“I’m convinced that Florida bass will grow big in Tennessee,” says Bobby Wilson, assistant director of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. “I hope that can happen in Chickamauga. And, if it does, we’ll move to other lakes with it.”

So far, Wilson has two very persuasive pieces of evidence to support his conviction: In October of 2009, biologists electroshocked a 16-15 largemouth at Browns Creek Lake, where Floridas also have been stocked. And in 2015, Gabe Keen caught a 15.2 in Chickamauga, good enough to establish a new state record.  

By contrast, the previous record was just 14.5, caught in 1954 at Sugar Creek.

 “We’ve had a few 13-pounders reported by fishermen (from agency lakes),” Wilson adds. “They probably were Florida bass.”

But the verdict still is out on Chickamauga.

The same goes for Lake Guntersville, just to the south in Alabama.

 “We haven’t stocked them (Florida bass) on a regular basis,” said Keith Floyd, a fisheries supervisor for the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. “It’s been periodically in one or two embayments, to see if we can incorporate Florida genomes into the population.”

Tennessee, however, has been much more deliberate in its approach. After stocking 200,000 fry annually for five years throughout Chickamauga failed to show much of a genetic shift, biologists decided to focus on three creeks for the next five.

“Anglers (at Chickamauga) are saying they are catching bigger bass,” Wilson explains. “And they say that the bass look different from what they are used to seeing.”

Anglers also are catching bigger bass at Lake Atkins in adjacent Arkansas, where the fishery was rehabilitated and then stocked with Floridas. In 2011, anglers caught at least three 12-pound bass in that 752-acre fishery.

Wilson says that his state used criteria from Arkansas and Oklahoma in deciding where Florida-strain bass could be stocked successfully in Tennessee. That turned out to be south of a line from Dyersburg in the west to Chattanooga in the east.

But as Virginia proved during the early 1990s, bass with Florida genes can do well even farther north than that. After being stocked in the late 1980s, Briery Creek Lake yielded a 13-4 trophy in 1992. It followed with a 16-3 (one ounce shy of the state record) in 1995 and 16-2 in 2002. And from 1994 to 2002, it produced the largest bass in the state annually.

“A lot of people are excited about this,” Wilson says about Tennessee’s Florida bass program. “But some don’t want them because they have heard that they are finicky than northern bass.”

And there’s the argument that native bass populations are weakened when Florida bass are added.  “But these aren’t native systems,” the Tennessee fisheries chief points out. “These are manmade impoundments.”

Texas’ long-term success with Florida bass in Lake Fork and other reservoirs provides a strong argument in support of Wilson. And the fact that more than 500 largemouth bass of 13 pounds and more have been entered in its Sharelunker program seems to dispel the “finicky” fear as well.

From my own decades of experience with Florida bass in Florida, Texas, and Mexico, I’ve noted that they can turn off when temperature drops just a degree or two. But I do not believe them more difficult to catch than northern bass. When cold and/or high pressure turns them off, you just have to slow down and adjust your tactics. Instead of throwing a spinnerbait, flip a soft plastic along the edge of a weedline.

Also, I’ve found Florida bass to be, pound for pound, much more challenging fighters than northern bass. A big Florida is like a mean smallmouth with a belly. And I’ve seen 12-pounders tail walk.

Count me as one who is not troubled by the occasional finickiness of Florida bass or the fact that they are being introduced into manmade fisheries in Tennessee, Arkansas, Alabama, and perhaps other states outside their native range. I’ve been blessed to catch a few double-digit Floridas, and I’d like to see more opportunities for other anglers to do so as well.

Whether Chickamauga and Guntersville are two of the fisheries capable of growing those genetically enhanced big fish likely will be revealed in the years ahead.