TEXAS GAME WARDENS are filing several Class B misdemeanor charges on 10 restaurants and markets in the Houston and Dallas area for selling shark fins and shark fin products.
“Protecting the many shark species residing and migrating through the Gulf of Mexico, as well as the illegally trafficked sharks from around the world, offered for sale in Texas is one of our highest priorities,” said Col. Grahame Jones, Law Enforcement Director at the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. “Texas Game Wardens will continue to proactively work investigations related to illegal shark fin products and violations against the many species of wildlife found throughout the state.”
The charges, which are being filed with the Harris and Dallas County District Attorney’s offices, are the result of an extensive investigation involving several businesses allegedly participating in the illegal commercialization of fins from various protected shark species. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Special Investigations Unit and game wardens from the Houston and Dallas area executed multiple search warrants, which led to evidence seizures in both cities.
Additionally, Harris County game wardens are wrapping up an investigation from December 2019 that resulted in Class A and Class B misdemeanor charges on multiple retail and wholesale fish dealers in the Houston and Seabrook area. Charges include possession of a shark without the fins and the unlawful commercial sale or purchase of aquatic products.
During the investigation, about 30,000 pounds of shark carcasses were found to have been sold and several hundred pounds were seized by wardens. All charges are being filed through the Harris County District Attorney’s office.
JUST DAYS AFTER being blanketed in snow, West Texas lake Alan Henry Reservoir produced the first Legacy Class largemouth bass entry of the 2020 Toyota ShareLunker season on February 9. Angler Blake Cockrell of Lubbock caught the 14.36 pound, 26.25 inch largemouth bass on a crankbait in five to ten feet of water while targeting spotted bass on the lake.
“When I put my hands on her to lift her out of the water and land her in the boat, I was in disbelief,” Cockrell said. “I said out loud, ‘you’re something special.’ At that moment I knew this fish was bigger than anything I’ve ever caught.”
After notifying the Toyota ShareLunker program of his catch, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Inland Fisheries biologists were quickly dispatched to collect and transport “ShareLunker 582” to the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens., There, biologists will attempt to spawn her and produce bigger, better bass to stock in and enhance fishing in Texas lakes.
Cockrell said loaning the fish to TPWD for the selective breeding program was important to him because he’s seen first-hand what stocking ShareLunker offspring has done for the bass fisheries in nearby lakes.
“We have a lake by us called J.B. Thomas that has been stocked with ShareLunker bass, and they are growing three to four pounds a year,” Cockrell said. “I’ve seen what the program has done in the past and the things it has done for people.”
East Texas typically produces the Toyota ShareLunker program’s first and biggest entries most years. However, TPWD fisheries biologists urge anglers not to overlook West Texas as a bass fishing destination.
In 2019, O.H. Ivie Reservoir near San Angelo was among the top five ShareLunker producing lakes for the year. Alan Henry Reservoir has produced 28 ShareLunker entries ranging from 13 to 15 pounds since 2000.
“We are very excited that Alan Henry Reservoir has produced the first—and so far, the biggest—Toyota ShareLunker entry of the year,” said Caleb Huber, TPWD Inland Fisheries District Supervisor for Amarillo. “This proves you shouldn’t underestimate West Texas if you want to catch the fish of a lifetime.
“Although our lakes are prone to fluctuating water levels and drought, increased rainfall over the last few years has greatly improved water levels and the production of larger bass. I’m hopeful of more good things to come.”
Every angler who loans a 13-pound or larger Legacy Class bass to the Toyota ShareLunker program during the spawning period January. 1 to March 31 will receive a Toyota ShareLunker Catch Kit containing branded merchandise and fishing tackle items, a 13-pound+ Legacy decal, VIP access to awards programming at the Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest, a replica of their fish, and an entry into the year-end ShareLunker Prize Drawing to win a $5,000 shopping spree and an annual fishing license.
These anglers will also be entered into the Legacy Class Prize Drawing for a $5,000 shopping spree and an annual fishing license at the end of the spawning period March 31. You can enter by calling the program directly—any time of day—at (903) 681-0550.
Anglers who catch a largemouth bass over eight pounds or 24 inches can also enter their fish into the program year-round for recognition and prizes and to provide catch and genetic data that helps fisheries biologists better manage lunker bass in Texas lakes. These entries can be submitted on the Toyota ShareLunker app—available for free from the Apple App Store and Google Play—or on the Toyota ShareLunker website, https://texassharelunker.com/.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Toyota ShareLunker Program has been selectively breeding and stocking angler-caught largemouth bass of more than 13 pounds since 1986 with the goal of increasing the production of trophy-sized fish in Texas reservoirs.
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 Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. The company provides major funding for a wide variety of education, fish, parks and wildlife projects.
Prize sponsors Bass Pro Shops, Lake Fork Taxidermy, American Fishing Tackle Co. and Stanley Jigs provide additional support for this program.