Lot’sa Lunkers

Lot’sa Lunkers

Believers in the 36 year old ShareLunker program will likely remember 2022 as another stellar year for entries that some may call historic.

Story and photography by Matt Williams

The 2022 collection season for Toyota Legacy Lunkers rolled to a close on March 31 on the heels of what Texas Parks and Wildlife Department research scientists and other staunch believers in the 36 year old program will likely remember as another stellar year for entries. Some may even call it as historic.

Just so you know, Legacy Lunkers are Texas-caught largemouth bass weighing 13-plus pounds that are eligible for loan to the state for spawning and genetics research at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens. Anglers who catch qualifying fish between January 1 to March 31 are encouraged to contact TPWD by phone to arrange for transport to the TFFC. Anglers who loan fish receive a free fiberglass replica of their catch and other goodies.

The big females are genetically tested to determine the roots of their DNA. Those bass with pure Florida genes are kept separate from intergrades (Florida/northern strain cross). Scientists believe their genetics are superior to intergrades.

When the timing is right the fish are paired with hand-picked males for spawning on turf mats strategically placed in indoor hatchery raceways. Biologists are able to control water temperatures and other factors to help push the process along.

Some of the bass achieve successful spawns. Others don’t.

Scientists collect fertilized eggs from successful spawns for hatching. Resulting fry are eventually placed in outside ponds and grown to fingerling or advanced fingerling size.

A portion of the pure Florida offspring may be retained by TPWD for use in rebuilding its Florida bass hatchery program. The ongoing process is aimed at eventually creating an army of hatchery brood fish from the offspring off bass weighing upwards of 13 pounds. Remaining offspring, along with the donar fish, are released back into the lakes that produced them.

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