Texas ShareLunker program

Texas ShareLunker program: Florida strain of largemouth bass.

Yesterday I copied a recap of the latest season of the Toyota ShareLunker program from a TPWD press release. Overall, I think it was a mediocre season with only 13 bass turned in. However, anecdotal evidence suggests many more than that were caught at Falcon Lake, but never submitted to the program.

In Texas, a number of people are opposed to submitting to the ShareLunker program. A lot of those naysayers are in the Falcon Lake area, either residents or fisherman who travel there. 

I understand their frustrations. (More on that later.) But since I was involved with ShareLunker number 525, I'm amazed at how much traction that one fish has gotten. The publicity has been nearly non-stop. The photo I took has been in TPWD press releases, Bassmaster magazine, Texas Parks & Wildlife digital fishing magazine and in numerous newspaper stories and online blogs and stories — not only in Texas, but all over the world. That is a lot of PR from one fish.

I'm not a biologist but I've been around them for many decades in my career. I do understand the goals and objectives of the program — biologically.

But from a PR perspective, the ShareLunker program is genius. There are not many programs that generate so much publicity. As a communications professional, it seems to me that the PR value alone is worth every effort that is put into the ShareLunker program.

How many tourism dollars does catching a big fish mean to Texas? I don't think it has ever been quantified, but it sure is a lot. I've been to Falcon a bunch in the last year. The number of out-of-state anglers (and international) I meet there is remarkable. Do you know how far away Falcon is from anywhere?

The arguments against the program have to do with costs, transporting, and the science. It is costly to move a fish from a lake like Falcon to the nearest TPWD hatchery, let along taking the fish to Athens, TX. Then there is the possible loss (death) of the fish while being transported and handled.

The arguments against the program when it comes to science is where the detractors lose traction. Many argue it is best to put the fish back and let mother nature take its course. But it is faulty logic to assume that one particular fish is going to produce lots of future 13-pound fish.

Outside a controlled environment, no telling which male bass the female is hooking up with. If it spawns with a northern strain or already Florida/northern cross, then the trophy potential of those offspring goes down drastically.

And, even if the bass mated with another bass with the "right" genes, the fry have very little chance of surviving. In terms of the biology, mating the female Florida bass with a male Florida bass and keeping the fry in a hatchery until they reach a certain size is what is going to produce the best outcomes.

As far as one of the other frustrations related to the program is the commitment that is required from the angler catching the ShareLunker. Once you realize it may take 7-12 hours for TPWD to pick up your fish, you will have doubts about whether you should submit the fish. Yes, it was a seven-hour wait for us, but it was worth every minute. I can't wait to get one of my own!

So now that the season is over, I'll lay out my strategy for next year. Should I make several trips to Falcon, or spend nearly every evening on Lake Austin next year? I'm leaning toward Falcon.

For more information:
Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine digital fishing special 
See page 32.

Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine website (numerous articles about big bass in Texas)

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