In March 2006, angler Edward Reid pulled a staggering 14.48-pound largemouth bass from the depths of Lake Conroe near Houston. On Feb. 10, nearly 11 years later and more than 234 miles away, angler Ryder Wicker caught the 13.07-pound offspring of that fish from Marine Creek Lake near Fort Worth.
The Lake Conroe fish, later called ShareLunker 410, was able to leave a legacy of her big-bass genetics to the state thanks to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Toyota ShareLunker Program, which has been selectively breeding and stocking angler-caught largemouth bass over 13 pounds since 1986 with the goal of increasing the production of trophy-sized fish in Texas reservoirs.
After Reid donated ShareLunker 410 to the program in 2006, TPWD Inland Fisheries biologists took her to the “lunkerbunker” at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center (TFFC) in Athens to pair up with a male ShareLunker offspring. That pairing of pure Florida largemouth bass produced thousands of fingerlings that were stocked in Marine Creek Lake and other public Texas reservoirs a few months later, one of which grew into the 13.07 pounder Ryder caught last week: ShareLunker 566.
The genetic link was confirmed Feb. 17, just days after TFFC staff transported a fin clip to the A.E. Wood Hatchery in San Marcos. The tests confirmed what biologists already suspected based on the results of scanning a tag near the fish’s head – this was a daughter produced by ShareLunker 410 and a male fish with a more esoteric name, 0LB-0504.
“The catch of ShareLunker 566 from Marine Creek Lake not only validates the goal of TPWD’s selective breeding program of producing ShareLunker-size bass, but also demonstrates how anglers can help others by donating their ShareLunkers to TPWD for breeding purposes,” said ShareLunker Program Coordinator Kyle Brookshear. “Mr. Wicker can tip his hat to Mr. Reid for making this moment possible.”
ShareLunker 566 and the tagged fingerlings were stocked in Marine Creek Lake and other public reservoirs 11 years ago for a ShareLunker evaluation research project. Researchers wanted to compare growth of ShareLunker fingerlings to growth of the resident bass population in several Texas lakes.
Researchers on the ShareLunker evaluation project found that over a four year period of time, compared to wild fish of the same age (four years old) and gender (female), ShareLunker offspring weighed more by a half pound on average. Now those same TPWD biologists are in the process of comparing ShareLunker offspring with regular Florida largemouth bass and the initial results are showing even more significant size differences between the fish.
Mukhtar Farooqi, a TPWD Inland Fisheries biologist, said results from the study could be used as a basis to incorporate ShareLunker offspring into the Florida largemouth bass broodfish in hatcheries across the state. That would increase the total ShareLunker offspring stocked annually into participating lakes from tens of thousands to more than eight million.
Farooqi also said if ShareLunker 566 is able to spawn, the second generation offspring may have a better chance of obtaining a higher weight due to the concentration of those genes.
“We know this fish is a big fish produced by a big fish coming from the selective breeding program, so there is a bit of a lineage,” Farooqi said. “That’s what you would want to maintain; it’s the best scenario when you’re dealing with known genetics.”
ShareLunker 566 is the first 13 pound or larger Florida largemouth bass submitted to the Toyota ShareLunker program so far this season, but anglers have until March 31 to submit their catch for TPWD to collect as brood stock for spawning. Anglers can enter 13 pound or heavier bass into the program for certified weight, DNA sample and immediate release through April 30. Lake Conroe, the fishery that produced ShareLunker 410 and 16 other ShareLunkers, is hosting the Bassmaster Classic tournament March 24-26, which could yield another addition to the program.
The Toyota ShareLunker Program is made possible by a grant to the Texas Parks & Wildlife Foundation from Gulf States Toyota. Toyota is a longtime supporter of the Foundation and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, providing major funding for a wide variety of education, fish, parks and wildlife projects.
For updates on the ShareLunker program and to view photos of ShareLunker 566, visit https://www.facebook.com/ShareLunkerprogram/.