ATHENS – Offspring from the Toyota ShareLunker Program are set to be delivered to waterbodies across the state. Between May and July, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) will stock Texas lakes with pure Florida strain largemouth bass exclusively from broodfish produced from Legacy Class (13+plus pound) entries into the ShareLunker program. Dubbed “Lone Star Bass” to denote their special significance to Texas, the unique fish are made possible by the valued partnership with anglers who loan their fish to the program.
This project marks the beginning of a long-term goal of the program. Once the process is finished, TPWD will have stocked 53 waterbodies with more than 6 million Lone Star Bass fingerlings, all descendants of ShareLunkers. The upgraded broodfish are expected to advance the work started decades ago to genetically enhance largemouth bass populations in Texas and provide Bigger Better Bass.
“We are excited to reach the goal of converting our Florida strain largemouth bass hatchery broodfish to all be offspring of Legacy-class fish,” said Craig Bonds, Director of Inland Fisheries. Since the ShareLunker program’s inception, we’ve stocked offspring from successful spawns of donated fish, but fully incorporating a portion of those offspring into our hatchery broodfish lines dramatically increases the number of ShareLunker descendants being stocked throughout Texas waters. This is a potential game-changer in elevating largemouth bass fisheries management to the next level.”
Beginning in 1974, TPWD used pure Florida strain largemouth bass, acquired directly from Florida, as the source of broodfish for stocking Texas’ public waters. This program was successful and allowed the state record for largemouth bass to increase from approximately 13.5 pounds to 18.18 pounds by 1992.
This initiative also launched the Toyota ShareLunker Program in 1986, which has enjoyed great success in spawning large bass at TPWD hatcheries with the help of anglers who reeled in those 13-plus pound fish. Approximately 1.2 million fingerlings from the spawning of ShareLunkers have been stocked back into lakes that produced ShareLunkers since the inception of the program. This change allows TPWD to stock 6 to 8 million fingerlings across the state each year.
TPWD hatcheries were successful in producing one group of pure Florida strain largemouth bass from a donated ShareLunker on their first attempt in 2018. Three additional batches of pure Florida strain largemouth bass were spawned in 2019 from ShareLunkers acquired that year. The early success of the program allowed TPWD Inland Fisheries to set a date of spring 2022 for the first spawning and statewide stocking of ShareLunker descendants. Several more batches of pure Florida ShareLunker offspring were produced since 2019 and broodfish are currently being reared at three TPWD Inland Fisheries hatcheries.
The year-round Toyota ShareLunker Program offers four levels of participation for catching bass over eight pounds, or 24 inches, in Texas. ShareLunker entry classes include the Lunker Class (8lb+), Elite Class (10lb+), and Legend Class (13lb+). During the first three months of the season (Jan. 1 through March 31), anglers who reel in a 13+ pound bass can loan it to TPWD for the ShareLunker selective breeding and stocking program. The continued donation of 13-plus pound fish by anglers will be critical to the ongoing maintenance and replacement of future broodfish.
Once a lunker is reeled in, anglers need to enter the catch data on the Toyota ShareLunker mobile app – available for free from the Apple App Store and Google Play – or on the Toyota ShareLunker online app at TexasSharelunker.com. In addition to providing basic catch information, anglers can also provide a DNA scale sample from their lunker bass to TPWD researchers for genetic analysis.
The Toyota ShareLunker Program is made possible in part by the generous sponsorship of Toyota. Toyota is a longtime supporter of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation and TPWD, providing major funding for a wide variety of fisheries, state parks and wildlife projects.
Prize donors include Bass Pro Shops, Lake Fork Taxidermy, American Fishing Tackle Co., Stanley Jigs and 6th Sense Lures. For updates on the Toyota ShareLunker Program, visit facebook.com/sharelunkerprogram/ or TexasSharelunker.com.