ATHENS—Lake Austin produced its twentieth Toyota ShareLunker February 21 when Robert Whitehead of Austin caught a 13.19-pound bass while fishing the upper end of the lake.
Whitehead was fishing in five feet of water when the fish took his plastic worm about 1:30 p.m. The fish was 27.28 inches long and 19.84 inches in girth.
Toyota ShareLunker 555 is the seventh program entry of the current season. Previous entries have come from Lakes Fork, Athens and Palestine. Whitehead’s catch moved Lake Austin into a tie for fourth place (with Falcon International Reservoir) on the list of lakes producing the most ShareLunkers. Lake Fork has produced 256, O.H. Ivie and Alan Henry 25 each, and Sam Rayburn 23. ShareLunkers have come from 21 private water bodies.
Catches of big bass typically begin to increase in February and peak in March as water temperatures warm and fish begin moving into shallow water to spawn. So far this season catches number one in November and two each in December, January and February. Abnormally cold temperatures in December appear to have pushed back the start of spawning activity. However, with seven entries at the present time and the month of March just ahead, the ShareLunker program seems on track to receive the 20 entries it’s averaged in the past.
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. Fish will be picked up by TPWD personnel within 12 hours.
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 the Angler of the Year is a Texas resident, that person also receives a lifetime fishing license.
The number to call to report a ShareLunker catch is (903) 681-0550. If poor cell phone service prevents use of the voice number, anglers can leave a phone number (including area code) at (888) 784-0600.
Official ShareLunker weigh and holding stations have been established at a number of reservoirs; a list is at http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/spdest/visitorcenters/tffc/sharelunker/holding/.
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/. The site also includes a searchable database of all fish entered into the program along with pictures where available.
Information on current catches, including short videos of interviews with anglers when available, will be posted on www.facebook.com/sharelunkerprogram. “Like” this page and you can receive notification and photos of catches as soon as they become available.
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.
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.