Toyota renews sponsorship for another three years
The 27th season of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) Toyota ShareLunker program will begin October 1.
Title sponsor Toyota has agreed to fund the angler recognition program for another three years. 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.
Prizes and funding for the banquet are provided by Toyota, which also provides a Tundra pickup truck for use in picking up and returning the majority of lunkers and their offspring.
Anglers calling in ShareLunker catches this season will be speaking to the new ShareLunker program manager, Juan Martinez. Martinez is a hatchery biologist based at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center (TFFC) in Athens, the home of the ShareLunker program. He has been in charge of caring for the big bass during their stay at TFFC for the past seven seasons.
The numbers to call to report a ShareLunker catch remain the same. The voice number, which is answered 24 hours a day, seven days a week during the season, 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. That number is also monitored 24/7 during the season.
Martinez outlined several changes to pickup procedures that will be instituted during the upcoming season.
“We have divided the state into regions based on the locations of our freshwater hatcheries,” he said. “Fish will be picked up by personnel based at the hatchery located within that region. This will often reduce the amount of time it takes to retrieve a fish.”
In another move designed to reduce stress on the fish, each crew picking up a fish will have a database of the passive integrated transponder (PIT) tag numbers that have been injected into ShareLunkers. Crews picking up a lunker will use an electronic scanner to determine if a fish has been tagged. If it has, the database will allow the crew to determine on the spot if the fish is a pure Florida or an intergrade. If the fish is an intergrade and therefore not eligible to be used in the selective breeding program, it will be returned to the lake immediately. The angler will still receive all the program prizes, but the fish will be spared the trip to Athens.
Fish that have not been tagged will continue to be picked up and will be held pending the results of DNA testing. Pure Floridas will be held for spawning, while intergrades will be returned to the lake as soon as possible.
A featured attraction of the upcoming Toyota ShareLunker season will be the ShareLunker Club Tournament on Lake Conroe, which offers a $100,000 prize to the participant catching the largest ShareLunker entry from the lake between October 1 and October 21. You must be registered in the tournament to win. Details are at www.toyotatexasbassclassic.com. The number to call in an entry into the ShareLunker Club Tournament is the ShareLunker number.
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.
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, is posted on www.facebook.com/sharelunkerprogram.
To receive text message notifications of ShareLunker catches as soon as they are confirmed by TPWD, text “follow ShareLunker” to 40404 from your mobile device. You do not need to have a Twitter account.
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.
Logo courtesy Texas Parks and Wildlife