Fishing & Boating News

Budweiser ShareLunkers Come Home to Lake Fork

by: Larry D. Hodge,

(Jun. 09, 2004 - Athens, TX) In a scene as rare as a 13-pound bass, four Budweiser ShareLunkers will be returned to Lake Fork at one time on Monday, June 14. The public and members of the media are invited to visit with the anglers who caught the fish before watching them put the lunkers back into the lake starting at 5:00 p.m. at the Oak Ridge Resort, on Texas 154 seven miles north of Quitman, Texas. Catch-and-release is at the heart of the Budweiser ShareLunker program, which invites anglers to donate or lend largemouth bass weighing 13 pounds or more caught in Texas waters to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department for spawning. The big females are used in a breeding program known as "Operation World Record" which is trying to improve the growth rate and the ultimate maximum size of largemouth bass in Texas reservoirs. ShareLunker program manager David Campbell says the ShareLunker program, which just completed its 18th season, is showing positive results. "California, Florida and Georgia have produced bigger largemouth bass than Texas, but I believe we are at the top in the number of fish weighing in the teens," Campbell says. More than 360 fish from 52 public and 12 private bodies of water have been entered in the program; more than half came from Lake Fork. Three of the fish to be released were caught during the season just ended, and one was carried over from the 2003 season. The big bass are held at the Edwin L. Cox, Jr., Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens, home of the Budweiser ShareLunker program. Budweiser has supported the program for the last 10 years by providing funding for the operations of the program, prizes awarded to participants, and even the truck used to pick up and return lunkers. The fish from the 2004 season were caught by Texas anglers Alvin Helms of Wills Point, Ross Allcorn of Burleson and Jeff Bassinger of Alvarado. The 2003 fish was caught by Brandon Moss of Ardmore, Oklahoma. The combined weight of the four fish when caught was 53.06 pounds. Moss's fish, at 13.51 pounds, was the heaviest of the lot. The current Texas state record largemouth bass—18.18 pounds—was caught from Lake Fork in 1992. "What we've learned from working with these large fish enables us to manage the state's fisheries better," Campbell says. "I tell people who want to catch a trophy fish that all they have to do is go fish almost anywhere in Texas. Fifty-two public lakes have produced fish weighing 13 pounds or better. Even some state park lakes have produced ShareLunkers. I don't believe there is a fishery anywhere else in the country that can match the state of Texas." It's also likely that nowhere else in the world will the public have the chance to see four 13-pound bass in the same place at the same time. And the best part for anglers is those fish will be out there waiting to be caught again. A tiny microchip injected into each fish when it is entered into the program makes it possible to determine if a fish already entered into the program is caught again. Some ShareLunkers remain on display at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center along with the new world record blue catfish caught from Lake Texoma in January. "These large fish are the best argument I can think of for catch and release," said TFFC director Allen Forshage. "The interest in the fish has just been tremendous." The Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center is an innovative aquatic nature center and hatchery complex operated by Texas Parks and Wildlife located 75 miles SE of Dallas on FM 2495 four miles east of Athens. Attractions include 300,000 gallons of aquariums, daily dive show and on-site fishing. Hours are Tues.-Sat. 9 a.m.-4 p.m. and Sunday 1-4 p.m.. Adults $5.50, seniors $4.50, children 4-12 $3.50. For information call the Center at 903-676-2277.