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Entries in trophy bass (69)

Tuesday
May012012

Anglers Enter 13 Trophy Bass in 26th Season of ShareLunker Program 

This lunker from O.H. Ivie was the only mortality in the program this season. Photo by Larry D. Hodge, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

Thirteen largemouth bass weighing 13 pounds or more were entered into the Texas ShareLunker program before it ended for the season on April 30.

Taken from O.H. Ivie on April 6, Ronald Johnson’s 13.36-pounder (in photo above) was the final entry for the 26th season of the program sponsored by Texas Parks and Wildlife (TPW), with Toyota. Number of bass entered in the program now stands at 536.

Gary Wingate earned Angler of the Year honors with the biggest Sharelunker of the season, a 14.39-pound bass that he pulled from Falcon. (This Rio Grande impoundment recently was named the No. 1 bass lake in the nation by Bassmaster Magazine.)

TPW adds the following:

In addition to the replica of his catch and ShareLunker clothing received by all anglers in the program, Wingate will receive a lifetime fishing license and 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.

The six lakes producing entries this season will also be winners. Each will receive a share of the offspring produced by the fish that spawned. To date Wingate’s fish and a fish caught by Stan Lawing from Ray Roberts have produced more than 132,000 fry. These fish will be divided among Lakes Fork, Falcon, Austin, Toledo Bend, Ray Roberts, and O.H. Ivie.

One fish, Toyota ShareLunker 528, was a repeat entry. Originally caught by Carl Adkins from Lake Austin in 2010, it was caught again by Landon Glass on Feb. 14. ShareLunkers have an electronic tag injected so that they can be identified.

Lake Austin was the top-producing reservoir this season with five entries. Lakes Fork, Falcon and O.H. Ivie each had two. Ray Roberts and Toledo Bend each had one.

It is known that some bass grow larger than others, but why remains unknown. TPWD is planning to conduct research to try to identify the gene or genes that may influence size in Florida largemouth bass. This research has never been done before. If this effort is successful, TPWD will be able to use that information to guide its breeding and stocking of largemouth bass in the future.

 “If we can identify the genetic markers that result in maximum growth, we can select brood fish that have those markers,” said Allen Forshage, director of the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center. “The goal of the ShareLunker selective breeding program is to increase the occurrence and size of eight-pound or larger bass, and this research is the next step in that process.”

Toyota ShareLunker anglers will be recognized at a banquet at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens on June 2.

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 the ShareLunker hotline at (903) 681-0550 or paging (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.

Anglers entering fish into the Toyota ShareLunker program receive a free replica of their fish, a certificate and ShareLunker clothing.

Information on catches, including short videos of interviews with anglers when available, is posted at Facebook.

Friday
Mar302012

From Egg to Trophy the Texas ShareLunker Way

Future lunker. (Texas Parks and Wildlife photo)

Want to watch some big bass being “cooked up” in Texas?

Check out the video on the Texas ShareLunker Facebook page. It takes you through the processing of eggs from ShareLunker 531.

That hefty bass was caught on March 16 from Lake Falcon and produced more than 44,000 eggs on March 29.

Hatchery staff at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center (TFFC) removed the eggs from a spawning mat, counted them, and put them into a hatching jar. The eggs will hatch in three or four days, and the fry will be raised to about 1.5 inches in length before being stocked.

Texas Parks and Wildlife adds this:

ShareLunker 531 was caught by Gary Wingate of Amarillo and is the first ShareLunker to spawn this season. Multiple spawns from the same fish are not uncommon. Six of the current entries are pure Florida largemouth bass and are being held for spawning. Those fish came from Lakes Falcon, Austin (two fish), Fork, Ray Roberts and O.H. Ivie.

So far this season 12 ShareLunkers have been caught from six different lakes: Falcon, Austin, Fork, Toledo Bend, Ray Roberts and O.H. Ivie. Each lake producing an entry into the ShareLunker program during the season receives a portion of all the fingerlings produced.

Pure Florida ShareLunkers are paired at TFFC with pure Florida males that are themselves the offspring of ShareLunkers. This selective breeding process is intended to result in offspring that have the best possible genetics. Appropriate measures are taken to ensure that genetic diversity is maintained.

DNA testing allows Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to determine the parentage of and relatedness among ShareLunker offspring.

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.

To learn more about the ShareLunker Program, go here.

Monday
Feb272012

States Hope Florida Genes Will Help Grow Bigger Bass

Dave Burkhardt caught this 13-8 Florida-strain largemouth at Mexico’s Lake El Salto. Florida bass grow quickly to trophy size south of the border, but can their genes help grow bigger bass in more northern states? (Photo by Robert Montgomery)

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, fisheries chief for the Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR). “I hope that can happen in Chickamauga. And, if it does, we’ll move to other lakes with it.”

So far, Wilson has one very persuasive piece 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.

By contrast, the existing state record is just 14-8 and was caught in 1954.

Bureaucratic complications delayed tests to determine the genetic makeup of that extraordinary bass, but results are expected soon. Meanwhile, limited sampling from Browns, Gibson County and other agency lakes where Florida bass have been stocked reveal that larger fish do have introduced genes.

“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’re in the process of finishing up the project right now,” says Keith Floyd, a fisheries supervisor for the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

“We haven’t stocked them (Florida bass) on a regular basis,” he adds. “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.

Norm Klayman also caught this 10-4 at Lake El Salto. Its bulging eyes indicate it is a fast-growing fish that is large for its age. (Photo by Robert Montgomery)

AS DWR waits for lab results, “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. This past spring, 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 soon.

(This article appeared originally in B.A.S.S. Times.)

Monday
Jan232012

TrophyCatch to 'Promote and Celebrate' Florida Bass Fisheries

Activist Angler with a TrophyCatch-size largemouth of 8-5 that he caught on Lake Okeechobee in October. (Photo by Dave Burkhardt)

Twenty-five years ago, the first largemouth bass entered in Texas’ fledgling ShareLunker program also proved to be a state record, weighing 17.67 pounds.

Since then, anglers fishing Texas waters have caught more than 500 bass weighing at least 13 pounds, including 50 that weighed 15.38 pounds or better. Among them, an 18.18 record caught in 1992.

It’s almost a certainty that all of those fish were either Florida-strain largemouths or carried Florida genes that enabled their trophy stature.

Coincidentally, Florida’s state record, weighing 17.27 pounds, also was taken in 1986.

Since then, anglers fishing Florida waters have caught . . . Well, we don’t know how many trophy largemouths that they’ve caught. Texas has done a great job of recording and promoting Florida bass in its waters. But the state for which they are named?

Not so much.

That’s all about to change with TrophyCatch, set to commence in October 2012.

“We do mirror the ShareLunker program in some ways,” says Tom Champeau, fisheries chief for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).

“A lot of anglers like the Sharelunker program so we sent some of our staff to Texas to see what they’re doing.”

A key difference, though, is that the Lone Star State uses those big bass in its hatcheries to create even more lunkers for its reservoirs. Florida bass are not native to Texas.

By contrast, many of the Sunshine State’s lakes, ponds, and rivers are naturally populated by Florida strain bass. In other words, breeding stock is not needed.

A golf course lake, a retention pond, a canal, just about any body of water in Florida could be home to a state-record bass just waiting to be caught --- and entered into TrophyCatch.

As a matter of fact, in this state that the Florida bass calls home, dozens of fish of state-record proportion --- and possibly even a world record or two --- have been caught but were not verified by FWC personnel. At RiverBassin.com, you can see a list of “unofficial” big bass, including several of more than 20 pounds and more than two dozen heavier than the current record. 

Appropriately, then, FWC states proudly on the TrophyCatch website that “no other place on earth has this largemouth bass promotion opportunity.”

If bass aren’t needed for reproduction, what is the value of offering incentives to anglers who catch, document, and report their catches of bass weighing 8 pounds or more?

Genetic research certainly, to find out more about the unique strain of bass that soon might by reclassified from a subspecies to a separate species of black bass. But also to “promote and celebrate our fisheries,” says Champeau.

“We want to promote fishing, catch and release, and environmental stewardship to keep our fisheries healthy,” he explains.

That’s one of four cornerstones upon which TrophyCatch was created as the “promotional engine” for the state’s new Black Bass Management Plan. Use of sound science, public involvement in management of the resource, and adaptive management are the other three. The latter involves constant monitoring and periodic adjustment to reach an end point, as opposed to inflexible policy.

To make TrophyCatch a success, sponsors will be needed, along with angler input and participation. Champeau is looking to businesses both in and outside the sport for prizes to offer participants.

“The response that we got from industry at ICAST (annual fishing industry show) to TrophyCatch was very positive,” he says.

“If we can get a truck manufacturer onboard, we could offer a truck (for biggest bass of the year),” he says. “We want to make it newsworthy.”

And how about $1 million for a new state record?

“If we can afford an insurance policy to offer that, it would be awesome,” the fisheries chief says.

“We get lots of reports of bigger bass out there, and we can’t disprove them. But we want to make sure that record-size fish are certified and legitimate.”

By starting at 8 pounds for entry, TrophyCatch could be documenting thousands of bass annually once it’s up and running. With tourists, guides, and resident anglers all participating, biologists theorize several hundred of those fish could weigh between 10 and 13 pounds and an impressive 30 to 50 could be heavier than that.

Not long ago, an 8-year-old caught and released a 15-pounder in Polk County.

“Those big fish are out there,” says Champeau. “And it’s a shame that people aren’t getting credit. With TrophyCatch, we want to document and reward them for their effort.”

(A variation of this article appeared originally in B.A.S.S. Times.)

Friday
Jan202012

Growing a World Record Bass in Texas

Photo by Larry Hodge, Texas Parks and Wildlife.

Big bass are plentiful in Texas waters. That’s because of an aggressive stocking program for Florida-strain largemouths and an innovative ShareLunker project that both publicizes and perpetuates the state’s trophy fisheries.

Since ShareLunker began in 1986, anglers have donated more than 500 bass weighing 13 pounds or better. Before being released by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), the big fish spawn in a hatchery, with their offspring then used for more stocking.

Except for a fish caught in a private lake in 1981, the state’s 50 largest bass, all weighing more than 15 pounds, were taken after ShareLunker began. By all accounts, the program seems an unqualified success.

Still . . .

The Texas state record is just 18.18 pounds, more than four pounds off the world record, and it was caught in 1992.

Are Lone Star State waters incapable of yielding the 20-pound-plus bass caught in California waters? Certainly Texas bass will never enjoy a high-calorie diet of rainbow trout as they do in California.

But maybe there’s another way. That’s why TPWD biologists initiated Operation World Record (OWR). For Texas waters, they’re hoping, genetics rather than forage might be the key.

“We have reason to believe that these fish (entered in ShareLunker) have unique genetic characteristics,” said Dave Terre, chief of management and research for Inland Fisheries.

“What they are exactly, we don’t know. But we’re hoping to maximize them.”

From 2005 to 2008, biologists bred female ShareLunkers with the male offspring of other female ShareLunkers.  They then stocked their offspring into six Texas fisheries.

“None of these big fish were being used for the good of the hatchery program, and it was frustrating,” said Bill Provine, Terre’s predecessor.

He added that selective breeding programs had been used successfully in other areas, including livestock production and deer management “to obtain certain desirable traits.

“It made sense that it would also work with fish.”

And it seems to be, according to Michael Baird, one of four investigators who monitor the selectively bred bass.

Four years after they were stocked, OWR fish had an average weight of about 7 ounces more than resident fish of equivalent age. They also were about one inch longer.

“Additionally, the largest bass collected were almost always Lunker offspring while the smallest were almost always resident offspring,” Baird added.

But the biologist cautioned that all that has been proven so far is that OWR offspring are larger up to age four. What happens after that remains to be seen.

Possibly, the heavier average weights are due to a genetic advantage, and that advantage will be sustained throughout their lives. But it’s also possible the perceived advantage will be lost after age four.

“Only a much longer-term study, utilizing many more stocked fish, could determine this,” Baird explained.

The biologist added that he believes that bass up to 20 pounds can be grown in Texas, but whether genetic selectivity will be responsible is uncertain. “I think there is a good chance it will happen in my lifetime,” he said.

But evidently, not everyone thinks that growing a world-record bass is a good idea. An interesting discussion about that is at Texas Fish & Game.

(A variation of this article appeared originally in B.A.S.S. Times.)