ATHENS, TX -- Gilmer Reservoir sent a new lake record largemouth bass to the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center (TFFC) March 17, and the next day Caddo Lake sent the existing lake record largemouth to Athens for the second year in a row.
The Caddo fish is especially noteworthy since it was the biggest fish caught in Texas last season, and it moved into the lead again this year. At 16.07 pounds it tops a fish from Lake Austin that weighed 16.03 pounds. It takes over the number 20 spot on the Top 50 list of biggest bass ever caught in Texas and also ranks number 16 due to its previous catch, when it weighed 16.17 pounds.
Two fish caught this season now are on the Top 50 list, the Caddo fish and the Lake Austin fish, which dropped to number 23.
Catches of 16-pound or bigger fish are extremely rare. Only 25 have been reported in Texas. Two of those came during the current season and two last season. Prior to last season, no 16-pound or bigger fish had been reported in Texas since the 2001-2002 season. This is the fourth season that two or more 16-pound-plus fish have been caught. Three were caught in each of the 1990-91 and 1991-92 seasons; one of those was the current state record 18.18-pounder caught from Lake Fork in 1992.
Thomas Milam of Pittsburg kicked off the action March 17 about 2:20 p.m. when he caught a 14.0-pounder from Gilmer Reservoir on a pumpkinseed craw worm in four feet of water. The fish was 25 inches long and 21.75 inches in girth. It is new lake record, eclipsing the former record of 11.41 pounds caught in 2009.
Since 1996 Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) has stocked about 450,000 Florida largemouth bass into Gilmer Reservoir. It is likely that Milam’s fish was stocked into the lake in 2000 or 2001.
March 18 Sean Swank of De Berry, Texas, caught Toyota ShareLunker 522 from Caddo Lake. When the fish was scanned for a PIT tag (Passive Integrated Transponder) at TFFC, it was found to be the same fish caught from Caddo last year by Keith Burns and entered into the ShareLunker program as No. 487. At 16.17 pounds, it became the new lake record, which still stands, since the fish weighed 16.07 pounds when caught this year.
Burns returned the fish to the lake last year, as most anglers choose to do once the spawning season is over. Since the fish is less than 90 percent Florida bass, it will not be used for spawning but will be returned to Caddo Lake as soon as possible.
Swank becomes the new leader for Angler of the Year honors. The person who catches the season’s largest entry will be named Angler of the Year and will receive a prize package from G. Loomis valued at $818. The package includes a G. Loomis NRX854C jig and worm rod, a Shimano ChronarchD1007 casting reel and 150 yards of moss green Power Pro super-braid fishing line.If a Texas angler catches the largest entry of the season, that person also receives a lifetime fishing license.
ShareLunker program records include at least six fish that have been caught and entered into the program again. One fish, from Lake Alan Henry, was caught and entered into the program for three years in a row.
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 by calling program manager David Campbell at (903) 681-0550 or paging him at (888) 784-0600 and leaving a phone number including area code. Fish will be picked up by TPWD personnel within 12 hours.
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.
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.
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.
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.