Waiting for the First ShareLunker of the Season

#Only the sound of running water fills the Lunker Bunker at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center. The 22 round, 1,500-gallon ShareLunker holding tanks are ready to receive fish. As of yet, none have arrived - but it's only a matter of time.The Toyota ShareLunker season starts October 1 and runs through April 30 because Texas is so large that the spawning season stretches over many months. Over the 25-year history of the program, six 13-pound or bigger fish have been entered into the program in October, nine in November and 20 in December.In a typical season, the action really picks up after the first of the year. There have been 55 entries in January, 119 in February, 224 in March and 85 in April.October entries have come pinball-machine fashion from all over the state?from Lake McQueeney near San Antonio to Toledo Bend on the Louisiana border to Lake Fork in Northeast Texas to Lake Meredith in the Panhandle.Things start to settle down in November, with six of the month?s nine entries coming from Lake Fork, one from the Nueces River, one from Lake Lewisville and one from a private pond in Anderson County. And one of those, Mark Stevenson?s 17.67-pound monster from Lake Fork, was ShareLunker No. 1 and remains the biggest bass reported caught on an artificial lure in Texas.Surprisingly, more southerly Texas lakes like Falcon and Amistad have not been heard from until December. Lake Fork leads the December catch pack with seven entries followed by Falcon and Conroe with three each. But the pinball effect still shows up, with entries from Baylor Creek near Childress, O.H. Ivie near San Angelo, Amistad near Del Rio, Ray Hubbard near Dallas and Sam Rayburn and Nacogdoches in East Texas.The pattern seems to be that there is no pattern, at least as far as location is concerned. But one thing is clear: The first Toyota ShareLunker of the 2011-2012 season is out there somewhere waiting to be caught.You would look good wearing the Toyota ShareLunker shirt and jacket and G. Loomis cap holding a fiberglass replica of a big bass. Why don?t you go catch that first ShareLunker?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 program manager David Campbell at (903) 681-0550 or paging him at (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. Other ShareLunker offspring are stocked in public waters around the state in an attempt to increase the overall size and growth rate of largemouth bass in Texas.Anglers entering fish into the Toyota ShareLunker program receive a free replica of their fish, a certificate and ShareLunker clothing and are recognized at a banquet at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens.The person who catches the season?s largest entry will be named Angler of the Year. If a Texas angler catches the largest entry of the season, that person also receives a lifetime fishing license.For complete information and rules of the ShareLunker program, tips on caring for big bass, a list of official Toyota ShareLunker weigh and holding stations and a recap of last year?s season, see //www.tpwd.state.tx.us/sharelunker.
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