TPWD News Release — Oct. 31, 2005
ATHENS, Texas–Largemouth bass weighing 13 pounds or more are so rare only 385 have been entered into the Budweiser ShareLunker program over the past 19 years.
As rare as it is for an angler to land such a fish, it’s even more unusual for Texas Parks and Wildlife Department fisheries biologists to collect one during annual electrofishing surveys.
The crew of Charlie Munger, David DeLeon and Craig Bonds were lucky enough to have that experience on Lake Alan Henry the night of October 18. Using a specially equipped boat that sends an electric current into the water to temporarily stun fish, the three were themselves stunned when a 13.9-pound largemouth bass 24.8 inches long floated to the surface.
In comparison, the biggest bass ever electrofished from Lake Fork, the big bass lake in East Texas that has produced 222 Budweiser ShareLunkers, weighed in at 11.5 pounds and was collected in October 1992, according to Kevin Storey, TPWD biologist for that lake.
“I’ve electrofished public and private lakes in Virginia and Texas for 10 years, and that’s the largest fish I’ve personally electrofished,” Bonds said. “We electrofished a total of one hour that night, and we got four other fish over 5 pounds.”
Making the event even more unusual is the fact that Lake Alan Henry, located southeast of Lubbock, is a canyon lake with relatively little shallow water. Electrofishing is normally not effective in water more than about 8 feet deep. “We had just come out of a cove on Rocky Creek and rounded the main lake point when she came up out of a juniper bush with only its top sticking out of the water,” Bonds said. “She might have been suspended up in that bush.”
The normal routine of netting fish and dumping them into a holding tank to be weighed and measured came to a halt when DeLeon brought the big bass aboard with his long-handled dip net. “There was a lot of whooping and hollering even from folks somewhat used to seeing big fish,” Bonds said. “Everyone realized it may have been a once-in-a-career thing to sample a fish that big.”
The crew quickly weighed and measured the fish and returned her to the water. “She swam right off,” Bonds said. “She was just gorgeous—not really long, but very thick, plump, in great shape, not a blemish on her.”
While largemouths 13 pounds or larger are very rare, Lake Alan Henry has established a reputation as one of the best lakes in Texas to catch a trophy bass. During the Budweiser ShareLunker season that ended this past April, Lake Alan Henry produced 9 ShareLunkers, the most of any lake in the state.
Regional Inland Fisheries director Bobby Farquhar of San Angelo thinks the latest big fish bodes well for the upcoming ShareLunker season, which started October 1 and runs through April 30, 2006. “I have 30 years experience with TPWD, and I just talked to a biologist who retired after 35 years, and neither of us have ever seen a bass that big electrofished. That tells me Alan Henry probably has a pretty high percentage of big bass. The fact it weighed almost 14 pounds, and there were so many ShareLunkers caught last year and returned to the lake where they’ve had another year to grow, makes me think there should be 14 to 15 pound bass out there, and I’ll be surprised if someone doesn’t catch one this year.”
Any angler legally catching a largemouth bass weighing 13 pounds or more in Texas waters may enter it into the Budweiser ShareLunker program by calling program manager David Campbell at (903) 681-0550 or leaving a page at (888) 784-0600. A TPWD employee will pick the fish up within 12 hours, and it will be taken to the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens, where the big bass are used for spawning. Anglers receive ShareLunker clothing and a fiberglass replica of their catch at the annual ShareLunker banquet and may donate their fish to TPWD or have it returned to them after the end of the season.
The Budweiser ShareLunker program is made possible through support from Anheuser-Busch, Inc. Since 1991, Anheuser-Busch, in partnership with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation, has contributed millions of dollars in funding to support conservation causes and fishing, hunting and outdoor recreation programs in Texas.