Texas Fishing News (2012)

(December 25 Update)
 TPWD Seeks Input on Possible Coastal Fisheries Regulation Changes
News Release
Media Contact: Steve Lightfoot, 512-389-4701, steve.lightfoot@tpwd.state.tx.us

AUSTIN — The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) has scheduled three public scoping meetings in January to gather input about possible regulation changes for 2013-14. The scoping items include incorporation of a rule regarding recreational possession limit, clarification of fish harassment rules, bonus red drum tag requirement changes and new possession rules in state waters for aquatic resources in excess of federal limits.

All meetings will begin at 7 p.m. and are set for:
Jan. 7 — Dickinson TPWD Regional Office, 1502 FM 517 East;
Jan. 9 — Corpus Christi on the TAMU CC campus, NRC #1003, 6300 Ocean Dr.;
Jan. 10 — San Antonio at Bass Pro Shops, 17907 W. IH 10.

During the regulation restructuring process where fishing and hunting regulations were separated into their own chapters, language regarding the definition of recreational possession limit was not carried forward into the Statewide Recreational and Commercial Fishing Proclamations chapter. Though the definition currently is enforceable from the Statewide Hunting Proclamation, this proposal will incorporate the definition into the Statewide Recreational and Commercial Fishing Proclamation making it clearer. The language to be incorporated reads:

The possession limit shall not apply after the wildlife resource has reached the possessor’s permanent residence and is finally processed.

TPWD is also looking to clarify language in the regulations regarding fish harassment, which currently states that it is unlawful for any person to use any vessel to harass fish. In an attempt to clarify this definition to make it clearer, the department proposes the following language:

It is unlawful to use any vessel to harry, herd, or drive fish including but not limited to operating any vessel in a repeated circular course, for the purpose of or resulting in the artificial concentration of fish for the purpose of taking or attempting to take fish.

The department is also considering removing the prohibition regarding simultaneous possession of the red drum tag and bonus red drum tag. Currently anglers must obtain these two tags at separate times. In an effort to make it easier for those anglers who wish to harvest more than one oversized red drum (>28 inches), the department proposes eliminating this prohibition. As TPWD currently only issues about 7,000 bonus red drum tags annually, and oversized red drum makes up only 3 percent of the total harvest, the department expects no negative impact to the population. Anglers would still only be issued one bonus red drum tag annually.

TPWD is also scoping a change making it a state violation for possession in state waters of aquatic resources taken in violation of federal regulations in the Exclusive Economic Zone. Differences currently exist between state and federal regulations. TPWD has maintained an annual agreement with the Office of Law Enforcement (OLE) of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration through which TPWD agrees to enforce federal regulations in state waters. The ability to enforce federal regulations will help prevent depletion and waste of aquatic resources.

Public input on these scoping items can also be submitted electronically at http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/business/feedback/public_comment/scoping/ by email to Jeremy Leitz at jeremy.leitz@tpwd.state.tx.us, or in writing to Jeremy Leitz, 4200 Smith School Road, Austin, TX 78744.

(December 12 Update)
 Toyota ShareLunker 538 Comes from Lake Fork
ATHENS—Gary Sims of Gunter, Texas, caught Toyota ShareLunker 538 from Lake Fork December 12. The fish weighed 15.02 pounds and was held for pickup at Oak Ridge Marina, an official Toyota ShareLunker weigh and holding station.

Examination revealed the fish was caught previously on March 13, 2011, by Ed Carter of Broken Bow, Oklahoma. At that time the fish weighed 14.25 pounds and was 22.25 inches in girth and 25 inches long and was Toyota ShareLunker 518. The fish is now 22 inches in girth and 25.25 inches long.

Sims was fishing for crappie with a double jig in 30 feet of water near the dam when the big bass bit. “She made several long runs, and at first I thought it was a catfish, because we had already caught several,” Sims said. “Finally she came up and I lipped her.”

Lake Fork has now produced 250 of the 538 entries into the ShareLunker program.

Genetic information on file shows the fish is an intergrade, or a cross between pure Florida largemouth and northern largemouth bass. Pure Floridas are held for spawning, while intergrades are returned to the lake as soon as possible. Fish caught on or after April 15 will be recorded and entered into the program but will not be transported to Athens for spawning. Experience shows that fish caught late in the season typically do not spawn in time for the offspring to be stocked before water temperatures rise beyond the optimum level for survival of the fingerlings.

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 the ShareLunker hotline at (903) 681-0550 or paging (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. All fish accepted into the program become official entries whether spawned or not, and anglers still receive all program prizes.

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. If a Texas angler catches the largest entry of the season, that person also receives a lifetime fishing license.

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 http://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.

(December 3 Update)
 Increased Access Available for Guadalupe River Trout Anglers
Media Contact: Tim Birdsong, (512) 389-4744, Timothy.Birdsong@tpwd.state.tx.us; Steve Magnelia, (512) 754-6844, Stephan.Magnelia@tpwd.state.tx.us

AUSTIN—Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has signed temporary leased access agreements with four Guadalupe River property owners to expand free public fishing access to the trout fishery downstream of Canyon Reservoir. In addition, new access sites for anglers are slated to open on the Brazos, Neches and Colorado rivers in time for high-quality spring fishing opportunities.

Recognized as one of the top 100 trout streams in America and the southernmost trout stream in the United States, the Guadalupe River below Canyon Reservoir is the only stocked trout fishery in Texas where trout survive through the summer. Free fishing access to the trout fishery is now available at Whitewater Sports, Rio Raft and Resort and Mountain Breeze Campground. Additional free fishing access will be available at Camp Huaco Springs beginning December 7, 2012.

Site maps, specific conditions for angler use at each site (including any special fishing regulations), and a link to the trout stocking schedule and locations can be found on the TPWD River Fishing web page http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/fishboat/fish/recreational/rivers/. Trout stockings are scheduled for this segment of the Guadalupe River on Dec. 7, 14, 21 and 28 and Jan. 4, 11, 18 and 25. Two of the four fishing access areas have special fishing regulations for rainbow and brown trout.

Additional leased fishing access areas will open along the Brazos, Colorado, and Neches rivers in time for high-quality spring fishing opportunities. The new angler access area on the Brazos River will be located upstream of Waco and provide excellent fishing opportunities for smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, and catfish. Already a popular fishing destination among fly anglers that target largemouth bass, the Colorado River access area will provide increased access for anglers downstream of Lady Bird Lake in Austin. The Neches River site will provide access to the popular spring white bass run at the State Highway 31 bridge crossing immediately upstream of Lake Palestine.

Directions to these new angler access areas and information on special conditions on use will be available soon on the TPWD River Fishing webpage at: http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/fishboat/fish/recreational/rivers

These new leased fishing access areas were made possible with grant funding provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program.

(November 27 Update)
 Illegal gill netting increasing along lower coast
News Release
Media Contact: Mike Cox, 512-389-8046, mike.cox@tpwd.state.tx.us

AUSTIN — With more than a month left in 2012, state game wardens already are looking at a record number of seizures of illegal gill nets and long lines in Texas and U.S. waters along the lower coast.

On Nov. 20, the U.S. Coast Guard notified the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department that following a three-mile pursuit by one of its boats, coast guardsmen had apprehended a commercial fishing vessel from Mexico in Texas waters. At the South Padre Island Coast Guard station, game warden Sgt. James Dunks removed an illegal gill net from the seized Mexican “launcha” and found some 180 sharks entangled in it.

The captain of the seized vessel, a Mexican national, was taken before a South Padre Island justice of the peace and charged with possession of an illegal fishing device and operating an unregistered vessel. The other person on the boat, a 16-year-old male, was released to the U.S. Border Patrol.

On Nov. 7, the TPWD patrol vessel Captain Williams discovered a three-mile-long gill net about 6 miles north of Brazos Santiago Pass and 7 miles offshore.

Dropping 30 feet deep, the net contained 17 greater hammerhead sharks, 13 unidentified sharks (because of their advanced decomposition), 8 black drum, 6 tripletail, 1 large red drum, and several hundred triggerfish. Game wardens confiscated the net and released all live fish entangled in the net.

So far this year, game wardens working aboard the Captain Williams operating along the lower Texas coast have seized 138,080 feet of long line; 53,840 feet of gill net; more than 6,000 sharks, 300 red snapper, 211 red or black drum; 21 gag grouper and 2 sailfish.

All of the illegal fishing devices are believed to have been set in Texas or federal waters by commercial fishermen operating out of Mexico, particularly from the village of La Playa Bagdad, which lies about nine miles south of the Rio Grande.

“Illegal gill netting has an adverse impact on shark species and also traps a wide variety of Texas game fish,” says Special Operations Chief Grahame Jones of the TPWD Law Enforcement Division.

Sharks, the most common target of these vessels, are harvested not only for their meat, but also for their fins. Shark fins, used for soup, are considered some of the world’s most expensive seafood and its high demand supports a world-wide black market.

In another recent trend, the U.S. Coast Guard recently found illegal long lines with hooked live brown pelicans being used as floats.

“They sometimes use live pelicans in an attempt to hide the lines, since they know we are looking for more traditional floatation devices,” explains Sgt. Dunks, who pilots the Captain Williams.

Dunks says that arrests in gill netting or long line cases are rare. When the commercial fishermen are caught in the act, the only charges that can be filed are misdemeanors punishable by fines. However, the illegal fishing equipment and vessel can be seized.

Marine interests spotting gill nets or long lines in Texas waters are urged to call the Operation Game Thief hotline at 1-800-792GAME (4263), contact a game warden or notify the U.S. Coast Guard

(November 20 Update)
 Winter Trout Stocking Program Locations Announced

AUSTIN – For an inexpensive, entry-level fishing experience the entire family can enjoy, it doesn’t get much easier than winter rainbow trout fishing in Texas.

Beginning in December and continuing through March, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department will stock upwards of 250,000 hatchery-reared rainbow trout at more than 100 sites across the state. Many of the fish stockings will be conducted at small community fishing lakes, state park lakes and popular river tailraces offering easy angling access.

Locations such as Beal Park Lake in Midland, Eisenhower Park Pond in Houston, and Waldron Park in Corpus Christi will be stocked this winter.

TPWD has been stocking rainbow trout in small urban lakes, state park lakes and popular river tailraces each winter since the 1970s, providing Texans a simple and economical opportunity to go fishing.

The program occurs in the winter due to the cooler water temperatures in Texas water bodies the fish require to survive.

Catching these hungry fish can be easy, making the experience ideal for both novice anglers and kids. The fish will bite almost immediately after stocking and typically will take a variety of baits, from whole kernel canned corn or commercial soft bait to artificial flies and even small spinnerbaits.

“It is important for anglers to understand that the posted schedule is tentative and is subject to change due weather conditions or other unforeseen circumstances,” said Todd Engeling, TPWD hatchery program director. “It is always best to check the web site before heading out to one of the stocking sites.”

For more information about the winter trout fishing program, including tips and the 2012-2013 trout stocking schedule listed by city or county visit http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/fishboat/fish/management/stocking/trout_stocking.phtml.

(November 13 Update)
 Group Recommends Ways to Protect Texas Seagrass, Reduce Coastal User Conflicts
News Release
Media Contact: Tom Harvey, 512-389-4453, tom.harvey@tpwd.state.tx.us

AUSTIN – An advisory group of fishing, boating and conservation interests has made nine recommendations to protect seagrass and five to reduce user conflicts along the Texas coast, Texas Parks and Wildlife Commissioners were told in a briefing here this week.

The 19-member Coastal User Working Group was created by TPW Commission Chairman Dan Friedkin of Houston and led by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Coastal Fisheries Director Robin Riechers, with representatives from the fishing, guiding, paddling, airboating, and birding communities, TPWD Law Enforcement, and various conservation organizations. The group met several times in recent months and recently completed a report containing its recommendations.

As seagrass meadows play a critical ecological role on the Texas, supporting higher biodiversity and production that any other biotic community, the working group’s highest priority recommendation, with near unanimous agreement, was for the State of Texas to develop a coastwide seagrass protection regulation. While TPWD does not currently have authority to create such a regulation, the working group said the department should collaborate and communicate with outside organizations and the Texas Legislature to create one. The group had other seagrass protection recommendations, including creating detailed maps depicting seagrass locations, developing tide indicators, and promoting a seagrass awareness campaign.

User conflicts are also likely to escalate as more people come to the Texas coast. Texas now has about 800,000 saltwater anglers, approximately 600,000 registered boats, and more than 74,000 duck hunters. These three user groups, and others, enjoy the coast in an increasing variety of ways. Wildlife watching in Texas has increased from just over 4 million people in 2006 to more than 6 million in 2011. Other activities such as kayaking, windsurfing, and shell collecting are also increasingly popular. As these numbers grow, the amount of recreation space available in Texas’s bays and estuaries remains finite, increasing the likelihood of user conflicts.

In an effort to reduce current and potential future user conflict between increasing and diversifying recreational activities, the working group developed five recommendations. These include the development of a code of ethics, lowering the minimum age required for boater education, and working with other agencies to allow for more effective rookery signage to be placed near bird nesting islands.

“Everyone who loves the Texas coast can appreciate the work of the Coastal User Working Group, and we at Texas Parks and Wildlife will be taking a hard look at their recommendations,” Riechers said. “Some of these, such as public education and signage, are an expansion of things we’re already doing. Many will require outside help. But their report gives us a thoughtful base of support to move forward.”

(November 6 Update)
 Cool, Crisp Camping Weather Major Texas State Parks Draw
AUSTIN – With summer vacations a distant memory, cooler temperatures on the horizon and foliage morphing into dazzling shades of crimson and gold, autumn promises optimum camping conditions in a Texas State Park near you.

Whether you’re a novice to the outdoors or seasoned camper, there’s no better time of year to pitch a tent or park your camper on a sunny beach, beneath towering pines or overlooking a sparkling lake at such destinations as Galveston Island, Buescher and Possum Kingdom state parks.

“Fall’s a perfect time to camp out because of cooler evenings, but daytime temperatures typically remain warm enough to enjoy water-based activities like canoeing and fishing,” says Ky Harkey, Texas State Parks outdoor education team leader.

Harkey recommends campers focus on three priorities: safety, Leave No Trace camping practices and simply having fun. He says for visitor safety and the protection of the environment, set up camp only in designated camping sites. Campfires are great for enjoying quality family time, but to keep the forest healthy avoid collecting firewood. Don’t forget the marshmallows and playing cards to complete a perfect evening.

For those who have never camped or haven’t done so in many years, Harkey suggests participating in the Texas Outdoor Family program. For only $65, families up to six can try a two-day workshop held at state parks throughout Texas that focus on teaching families how to set up a tent, cooking in the outdoors and learning valuable outdoor skills, such as paddling, geocaching and fishing.

Dallas and Fort Worth area families may want to attend a Texas Outdoor Family outing being held at Cedar Hill State Park on Nov. 10 or at Mineral Wells State Park on Dec. 8. Not far from Houston, Stephen F. Austin State Park in San Felipe will host a Texas Outdoor Family campout on Nov. 17. For Austin and San Antonio families, Harkey’s team will offer two workshops at Enchanted Rock State Natural Area near Fredericksburg on Dec. 1 and 8.

For a complete listing of upcoming Texas Outdoor Family workshops and information about Texas State Parks camping options, and tips on camping safety and etiquette, visit: http://www.texasstateparks.org/camping/

Customers can book reservations by calling the Customer Service Center in Austin at (512) 389-8900 or by using the online reservation system: http://texas.reserveworld.com/. For the best service, customers should call during afternoon hours Wednesday through Friday, though customer service representatives can take reservations from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.

(October 30 Update)
 NBC Sports Network to Broadcast Toyota Texas Bass Classic Nationwide Nov. 11

ATHENS—More than 75 million homes will be able to watch this year’s Toyota Texas Bass Classic (TTBC) when it airs on NBC Sports Network November 11. Considered the world championship of bass fishing, the TTBC event was held in Conroe September 28-30 and featured three days of country music and a barbecue cook-off championship.

“Being able to air on NBC Sports Network is a great showcase for the world’s top anglers,” Tournament Director Lenny Francoeur said. “Sharing TTBC with such a large number of people is exciting, and it provides Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s conservation and education efforts with a broader audience. Fans will get a great look at what professional anglers deal with during competition.”

As the broadcast partner of TTBC, NBC Sports Network will air the championship in an hour-long broadcast. There will also be one weekday re-air, to be announced at a later date. The debut will air on Sunday, November 11, 2012, at 8:00 a.m. CST.

Those who tune into the broadcast will watch 50 of the world’s best anglers compete for the TTBC title. The field includes representatives from the Bass Pro Shops PAA Tournament Series, the Walmart FLW Tour and the Bassmaster Elite Series, making it the only event to bring anglers from all the major tours to compete for one title.

Proceeds from the tournament benefit Texas Parks and Wildlife Department youth outreach programs, including Neighborhood Fishin’ and the Texas Division of the Wildlife Forever State-Fish Art Contest. So far the TTBC has raised $1.5 million for TPWD programs.

The Toyota Texas Bass Classic tournament functions are operated by the Professional Anglers Association with technical assistance and support from Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Inland Fisheries Division. Title sponsor for the event is Toyota. Other sponsors include: Ricoh, ATX Wheels, Coca-Cola, TXU and U.S. Reel.

(October 23 Update)
 Largemouth Bass at Lake Sweetwater Face Uncertain Future
Media Contact: Spencer Dumont, (325) 651-4846; spencer.dumont@tpwd.state.tx.us

ATHENS — Lake Sweetwater, the small—and shrinking—emerald jewel of West Texas lakes, is loaded with largemouth bass. However, a dropping water level and declining bluegill numbers could signal trouble ahead for Sweetwater’s bass.

Sweetwater, which filled in fall 2007, has since experienced a 17-foot drop in water level, 10 feet of that since 2011. “And to add insult to injury, all that rain we had a few weeks ago missed Sweetwater’s watershed,” said Spencer Dumont, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) Inland Fisheries regional director.

Normally a dropping water level is tough enough on fish populations. For example, bluegill—a favorite food of largemouth bass—declined from over 1,000 bluegill in one hour of electrofishing in 2009 to just 69 bluegill in one hour this fall. Such a decline could eventually lead to slower growth and a stockpile of smaller bass. Add the possibility of golden alga blooms to a dropping water level and you have a two-headed monster, the same monster responsible for Sweetwater’s slow and torturous demise from 1998-2007, when the lake dropped over 40 feet and golden alga killed most of the remaining fish.

“We believe, though, that golden alga may have been greatly reduced with all that fresh water the lake received in 2007,” Dumont said. “We’ll have the water tested this winter to determine the presence or absence of golden alga. In the meantime, bass are doing better than ever at Sweetwater, in spite of dropping water levels, likely because of dense stands of dead trees and bushes that cover most of the lake’s bottom.”

A district record 368 largemouth bass were collected in one hour of electrofishing, three times the district average. Although 81 percent of those bass were less than 14 inches long, the number of 14-inch and 18-inch and longer bass has steadily increased since 2009, a result, at least in part, of the 14- to 18-inch slot limit. (Fish over 14 inches but less than 18 inches in length must be immediately released by anglers).

Bass up to 7 pounds or more have been caught this year at Sweetwater, but the future of this still yet-to-peak fishery depends on Mother Nature, Dumont said. “If we go another year without appreciable inflow into the lake, there could be a repeat of the early 2000’s, but, if the lake catches a slug of water, look for Sweetwater to be a trophy bass factory. I’m crossing my fingers for the latter,” he said.

For more information on area reservoirs and fish populations, contact the Abilene Inland Fisheries district office at (325) 692-0921, send an email to spencer.dumont@tpwd.state.tx.us or visit http://www.facebook.com/tpwdifabilene.

(October 16 Update)
 Toyota ShareLunker 537 Comes from Lake Austin
Catch is earliest entry ever from Lake Austin
News Release News Images
Media Contact: Larry Hodge, 903-676-2277, larry.hodge@tpwd.state.tx.us

ATHENS—Bennett Cowan of San Marcos caught Toyota ShareLunker 537 about 2:00 a.m. October 16 from Lake Austin.

The 14.28-pound fish was 20.5 inches in girth and 27.25 inches long. Lake Austin has now produced 18 entries into the ShareLunker program, five of which weighed 14 pounds or more.

Cowan’s catch was also the earliest entry into the ShareLunker program from Lake Austin. The earliest previous entry into the program from the lake came on January 27, 2011. Two entries have come from the lake in January, seven each in February and March, and one in April.

The catch may be a signal that Lake Austin is poised to have a banner year. On Monday, October 1, an angler caught a 12.6-pound bass from Lake Austin that proved to have been entered into the program as ShareLunker 528 by Brett Ketchum in January 2012.

Lake Austin continues its rise to prominence as one of the top largemouth bass lakes in the state. Only Lakes Fork (249 entries into the ShareLunker program), Alan Henry (25), O.H. Ivie (25), Sam Rayburn (23) and Falcon (19) have produced more 13-pound or bigger bass.

Bennett was fishing a bluff with a hand-poured 17-inch worm when the fish bit. Anglers fishing for big bass at night often use large plastic worms on the theory that the big baits move a lot of water and are easier for the fish to detect.

The fish was picked up by Nathan Reynolds of the A.E. Wood State Fish Hatchery in San Marcos and taken there to await the results of DNA testing. If the bass is pure Florida, it will be moved to the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens and held for spawning. If not, it will be returned to the lake as soon as possible.

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 the ShareLunker hotline at (903) 681-0550 or paging (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.

The person who catches the season’s largest entry will be named Angler of the Year. If a Texas angler catches the largest entry of the season, that person also receives a lifetime fishing license.

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 http://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 http://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

(October 9 Update)
 Outdoors Halloween Events Scheduled at Texas State Parks
News Release
Media Contact: Rob McCorkle, 830-866-3533, robert.mccorkle@tpwd.state.tx.us

AUSTIN – If you’re looking for a different and healthier way to help your youngsters celebrate Halloween, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department invites you to visit its state parks and fisheries centers for some special treats.

Ray Roberts Lake State Park in Valley View invites all little ghosts and goblins to the Johnson Branch unit of the park on Oct. 20 for the Spooky Critter Hike from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. The park will host a very special night of family fun, candy, surprises and educational talk about critters of the night! Each time you find a night critter with a ranger on our short hike, there will be a treat waiting for you! Participants are encouraged to dress up! Please RSVP if possible by calling (940) 637-2294. No pets are allowed on the hike.

For the sixth year in the row, Estero Llano Grande State Park in Weslaco will present the Spooky Science Fest – Protectors of the Park from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 20. Superheroes of all ages from across the universe will be in a battle to save Texas State Parks, as well as our natural and cultural resources, from the clutches of evil. There will be Superhero photos, a mad science lab, games, crafts, hay rides, live animals, costume contests, food, drinks and much, more. What can you do to save the park? The cost is $6 for adults, $4 for children 12 and under, and $2 for those with a Texas State Parks Passport. Call (956) 565-3919 for more information or visit: http://www.worldbirdingcenter.org/

On that same Saturday, Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historic Site between Brenham and Navasota will be hosting a look at funerary practices of early Texas with a tour of the Old Washington Cemetery. The “Burying the Dead” program will be presented at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. and is open to all ages. Children must be accompanied by an adult.

Return to the state historic site the following day to listen to costumed presenters tell Revolutionary Ghost Stories about the spirits who haunted the Lone Star State in its early days. Presentations will take place at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. Arrive 5 to 10 minutes early at the Visitors Center to stroll to a period setting for the 30 to 45-minute, chill-inducing storytelling about things that go bump in the Texas night. Fees are $5 for adults, students $5 and free for children 6 and younger. For additional details, please call (936) 878-2214, ext. 224.

Representatives of Athens businesses and organizations will hand out free candy treats during the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center’s annual Halloween at the Hatchery from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 25. For more information, call (903) 670-2266.

Bring your little ghouls and goblins to Fort Richardson State Park & Historic Site in Jacksboro after 5:30 p.m. on Oct. 27 and pay no entry fee during the Trunk or Treat and Ghost Walk. Let your youngsters trick or treat through the campsites from 5:30 p.m. to dusk, and then go for a Ghost Walk around the historic site. Call (940) 567-3506 for more information.

Ray Roberts Lake State Park (Johnson and Isle Du Bois units) in North Texas will be awarding prizes to the top three Jack O’ Lanterns in the Great Pumpkin Carving Contest, from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 27. One entry per family, please. Halloween treats and a spooky campfire session await Halloween revelers. For more details, call (940) 637-2294.

Take a walk down the Haunted Trail at Martin Dies, Jr. State Park in Jasper and encounter scary monsters and frightening ghouls. The haunted hike takes place from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Cozy up to the campfire while roasting a hotdog and marshmallows provided by the Friends of Martin Dies Jr. State Park for a $1 donation to the group. Get a temporary Halloween tattoo, play games and win prizes. Call (409) 384-5231 for details.

Sea Center Texas in Lake Jackson will host its 6th annual Halloween Spooktacular from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 28. Children and adults are encouraged to dress up in their favorite costume and participate in crafts, face painting, picture taking, games and trick-or-treating through the Visitor Center. The costume contest is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Winners will receive a trophy and prizes. Admission is free, but there is a $5 fee for participation in craft activities. For more information, call (979) 292-0100.

To see a complete listing of Halloween events at state parks, visit the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Web site.

(October 2 Update)
 Bryan Thrift Wins Toyota Texas Bass Classic

Enduring a field of 50 of the world?s best bass anglers, and brutally rough wind and rain conditions during Sunday's championship round, Bryan Thrift of Shelby, NC, boated a five-fish, 25-pound stringer on the final day of the Toyota Texas Bass Classic to run away with the top spot and a $150,000 prize package. Thrift brought in a three-day total of 15 fish, weighing 53 pounds, 4 ounces.

Toyota also donated $250,000 from the event to benefit Texas Parks and Wildlife's public fishing programs. For more information, visit www.ToyotaTexasBassClassic.com.

(September 25 Update)
 Toyota ShareLunker Season 27 Just Around the Corner
Toyota renews sponsorship for another three years

Media Contact: Larry Hodge, (903) 670-2255, larry.hodge@tpwd.state.tx.us; Juan Martinez, (903) 670-2285, juan.martinez@tpwd.state.tx.us

ATHENS—The 27th season of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) Toyota ShareLunker program will begin October 1.

Title sponsor Toyota has agreed to fund the angler recognition program for another three years. 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. The person who catches the season’s largest entry will be named Angler of the Year. If the Angler of the Year is a Texas resident, that person also receives a lifetime fishing license.

Prizes and funding for the banquet are provided by Toyota, which also provides a Tundra pickup truck for use in picking up and returning the majority of lunkers and their offspring.

Anglers calling in ShareLunker catches this season will be speaking to the new ShareLunker program manager, Juan Martinez. Martinez is a hatchery biologist based at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center (TFFC) in Athens, the home of the ShareLunker program. He has been in charge of caring for the big bass during their stay at TFFC for the past seven seasons.

The numbers to call to report a ShareLunker catch remain the same. The voice number, which is answered 24 hours a day, seven days a week during the season, is (903) 681-0550. If poor cell phone service prevents use of the voice number, anglers can leave a phone number (including area code) at (888) 784-0600. That number is also monitored 24/7 during the season.

Martinez outlined several changes to pickup procedures that will be instituted during the upcoming season.

“We have divided the state into regions based on the locations of our freshwater hatcheries,” he said. “Fish will be picked up by personnel based at the hatchery located within that region. This will often reduce the amount of time it takes to retrieve a fish.”

In another move designed to reduce stress on the fish, each crew picking up a fish will have a database of the passive integrated transponder (PIT) tag numbers that have been injected into ShareLunkers. Crews picking up a lunker will use an electronic scanner to determine if a fish has been tagged. If it has, the database will allow the crew to determine on the spot if the fish is a pure Florida or an intergrade. If the fish is an intergrade and therefore not eligible to be used in the selective breeding program, it will be returned to the lake immediately. The angler will still receive all the program prizes, but the fish will be spared the trip to Athens.

Fish that have not been tagged will continue to be picked up and will be held pending the results of DNA testing. Pure Floridas will be held for spawning, while intergrades will be returned to the lake as soon as possible.

A featured attraction of the upcoming Toyota ShareLunker season will be the ShareLunker Club Tournament on Lake Conroe, which offers a $100,000 prize to the participant catching the largest ShareLunker entry from the lake between October 1 and October 21. You must be registered in the tournament to win. Details are at www.toyotatexasbassclassic.com. The number to call in an entry into the ShareLunker Club Tournament is the ShareLunker number.

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. Fish will be picked up by TPWD personnel within 12 hours.

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.

To receive text message notifications of ShareLunker catches as soon as they are confirmed by TPWD, text “follow ShareLunker” to 40404 from your mobile device. You do not need to have a Twitter account.

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.

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.

(September 18 Update)
 $100,000 Up For Grabs in Toyota Texas Bass Classic ShareLunker Club Tournament
Participants Will Compete for $100,000 prize at Lake Conroe

Media Contact: Lenny Francoeur, Tournament Director, (479) 715-610, lenny@toyotatexasbassclassic.com; Mallory Beck, Marketing and Communications Coordinator, (919) 531-0400, mallory.beck@octagon.com

ATHENS—The Toyota Texas Bass Classic (TTBC) is proud to welcome back the ShareLunker Club Tournament (SCT) on Lake Conroe, Oct. 1–21, 2012. Once again, members will have the opportunity to compete for $100,000, and this year, participants will also be competing against the world’s top anglers.

To participate in the tournament, anglers will need to first register and become a SCT member, and then fish on Lake Conroe between Oct. 1 – 21, 2012 (the “Tournament Period”). A $100 fee is required to become a member and only pre-registered members will be eligible for the $100,000 prize. The member who catches the largest Toyota ShareLunker from Lake Conroe during the Tournament Period will win a cash prize of $100,000. A portion of the program proceeds will benefit the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s youth outreach programs.

Anglers must call in their catch to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s ShareLunker hotline, (903) 681-0550, or leave a phone number with area code on the program pager, (888) 784-0600.
A new component has been added to this year’s tournament, adding more competition to the field of anglers. Professionals fishing in the Toyota Texas Bass Classic, Sept. 28-30, 2012, will be able to participate in the ShareLunker Club Tournament (during TTBC official rounds only). In order to be eligible, they will also need to pay the $100 fee to become an SCT member.

“The ShareLunker Club Tournament is a great way for anglers of all skill levels to reel in a fish (and payday) of a lifetime!” said Toyota Texas Bass Classic Tournament Director Lenny Francoeur. “We know there are $100,000 fish swimming around in Lake Conroe, and someone’s life could change in just one cast. It’s going to be an exciting tournament.”

A Toyota ShareLunker, as defined by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, is a legally caught (in Texas waters) largemouth bass that weighs over 13.00 pounds and is accepted into Toyota ShareLunker Program. The contest will be limited to the first 1,000 anglers signed up, and anyone who signs up after Sept. 29 will be subject to a 48-hour grace period before they are eligible to participate. Visit toyotatexasbassclassic.com to download a registration form and submit the membership fee. Additionally, interested anglers can sign up at Stow-A-Way Marina & RV Park, located on Lake Conroe at 13988 Calvary Rd, Willis, TX 77318.

The ShareLunker Club Tournament is the perfect way to cap off the Toyota Texas Bass Classic and continue the excitement from the event, which will be held on Lake Conroe, Sept. 28-30. The Toyota Texas Bass Classic will feature 50 of the best professional anglers in the world along with three days of concerts and expos, with the anglers battling it out to claim the title of the world’s best.

The 2012 SCT will kick off the annual Toyota ShareLunker Program across the state of Texas. The Toyota ShareLunker Program runs Oct. 1 through April 30 with the mission of promoting the catch-and-release of large fish and selectively breeding trophy largemouth bass.

The Toyota Texas Bass Classic tournament functions are operated by the Professional Anglers Association with technical assistance and support from Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Inland Fisheries Division. Title sponsor for the event is Toyota. Other sponsors include: Ricoh, ATX Wheels, Coca-Cola, TXU and U.S. Reel. Corporate partnership opportunities are available for 2012. For additional information, visit toyotatexasbassclassic.com.

Limited quantities of free tickets are available this year to the three-day outdoor music festival and professional bass fishing world championship. Fans can obtain free tickets online now at toyotatexasbassclassic.com, while supplies last. Tickets are available for Friday, Saturday and Sunday individually. Fans can also pick up TTBC tickets at any Toyota dealership or Academy Sports + Outdoors location in the greater Houston area. Walk-up tickets the day of the event will require a donation towards the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, and all days are subject to sell-out.

The daily tickets are valid for admission into the festival grounds for angler weigh-ins and the concert on that particular day. All activities, including concerts, weigh-ins, Reliant Outdoor Adventures Area and Bass Pro Shops Outdoor Expo will take place at the Lone Star Convention & Expo Center’s festival grounds in Conroe. Concert headliners include Dierks Bentley, Gary Allan and Jake Owen

(September 11 Update)
 Three New Public Fishing Access Areas Open on the Guadalupe River
Media Contact: Tim Birdsong, (512) 389-4744, Timothy.Birdsong@tpwd.state.tx.us

AUSTIN—Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has signed temporary leased access agreements with three Guadalupe River property owners to expand public fishing access to the trout fishery downstream of Canyon Lake.

Access is now available through Mountain Breeze Campground, Rio Raft and Resort, and Whitewater Sports.

Recognized as one of the top 100 trout streams in America and the southernmost trout stream in the United States, this segment of the Guadalupe River is managed through special fishing regulations (http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/fishboat/fish/action/fishregs2.php?water=1244)  and is stocked in the winter months by TPWD (http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/fishboat/fish/management/stocking/guadalupe.phtml) and the Guadalupe River Chapter of Trout Unlimited.

The new leases will provide anglers with free access to the Guadalupe River at the three properties from 30 minutes before daylight until 30 minutes after dusk from now until the end of February 2013.  Anglers will be able to use the properties for bank fishing and to launch non-motorized watercraft such as rafts, kayaks and canoes for the purpose of fishing.  The three leases were made possible with grant funding provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program.

For additional information or directions to the leased access areas, call or visit the following websites.

Mountain Breeze Campground (http://mountainbreezecamp.com/site/)
201 Mountain Breeze Camp, New Braunfels, TX 78132, (830) 964-2484

Rio Raft and Resort (http://rioraft.com/index.php)
14130 River Road, New Braunfels, TX 78132, (830) 964-3613

Whitewater Sports (http://www.floattheguadalupe.com/)
11860 Farm to Market 306, New Braunfels, TX 78132, (830) 964-3800

(September 4 Update)
 Bluegill Family Fishing Tournament September 29 at Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center
Media Contact: Jim Booker, (903) 670-2266, james.booker@tpwd.state.tx.us; Larry Hodge, (903) 670-2255, larry.hodge@tpwd.state.tx.us

ATHENS, Texas—The Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center’s annual Bluegill Family Fishing Tournament will take place this year on Saturday, September 29.

Numerous prize packages will be awarded, including an X-Box 360 with game, fishing equipment and gift cards from local businesses. More than $2,500 in prizes will be awarded.

Sponsors of the event include: Wulf Outdoor Sports, Lake Athens Property Owners Association, Aaron’s Sales and Lease Ownership, Best Western Royal Mountain Inn, Holiday Inn Express Hotel and Suites—Athens, WalMart Supercenter of Athens, Chicken Express and First State Bank.

Sponsors also include Lake Fork Trophy Lures and Brookshire’s Grocery. Brookshire’s will provide free bottled water to contestants.

The tournament awards prizes for the heaviest stringers of sunfish, but the event is really about adults and children having fun fishing together.

Teams must consist of one adult 18 years of age or older and one child under 18 years of age. Each team can weigh in a maximum of four fish. Multiple teams can fish from the same boat, making it possible for both parents to partner with different children and still fish as a family. Team members are not required to be related.

Teams may choose to fish either on Lake Athens, which is adjacent to TFFC, or in TFFC’s ponds and streams, some of which have been stocked with bluegills.

All species of sunfish or bream (except largemouth bass) are allowed; for information on identifying them, see http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/landwater/water/aquaticspecies/inland.phtml.

Pre-registration is required. Mail registration must be received by Wednesday, September 26. To download an entry form, go to http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/publications/nonpwdforms/media/bluegill_flyer.doc.

To request a registration form by mail, call (903) 670-2222.

You may register in person on the day of the event by going to the admissions booth at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center AFTER 7:00 a.m.

A $15 entry fee per team will be charged. The entry fee includes admission to TFFC. Fishing will take place from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., with the weigh-in at the Anglers Pavilion at TFFC at 2:30.

For more information or to request an entry form, contact Craig Brooks at (903) 670-2222.

(August 28 Update)
 Toyota Texas Bass Classic Announces First Group of Qualifiers
Field includes 2009 TTBC Champion and Angler of the Year
Media Contact: Lenny Francoeur, Tournament Director, (479) 715-6103 or lenny@toyotatexasbassclassic.com; Adam Harris, Marketing & Communications Director, (919) 531-0500 or adam@toyotatexasbassclassic.com

ATHENS — The Toyota Texas Bass Classic has long been considered a world championship of bass fishing, bringing the top anglers to Lake Conroe year after year, and with the first set of qualifiers to the 2012 field, the tournament will continue to be a showcase for the world’s best.

The top 15 Professional Anglers Association members from the 2012 Walmart FLW Tour Angler of the Year List have qualified for the tournament. Highlights from the field include Angler of the Year David Dudley and 2009 Toyota Texas Bass Champion Dave Lefebre.

The Toyota Texas Bass Classic will take place Sept. 28-30 at the Lone Star Convention & Expo Center in Conroe.

“These first qualifiers to the 2012 TTBC are an impressive group of anglers,” Tournament Director Lenny Francoeur said. “All 15 make for an exciting and talented field and just demonstrate why the Toyota Texas Bass Classic is a world class bass fishing tournament.”

In seven FLW tournaments this season, Dudley has won twice and finished in the top 10 four times. 2012 marks the third Walmart FLW Tour Angler of the Year title for him in his 17-year FLW career, winning in 2011 and 2008. One of the most successful anglers on the Tour, Dudley becomes the first back-to-back FLW season point winner. Dudley is looking for his first win at TTBC, finishing 12th in 2011, 25th in 2009 and tied for 16th in 2010.

“I’m excited to be fishing in what is considered the Pro Bowl of bass fishing, where all the top anglers from every circuit come together to compete,” Dudley said. “I can’t wait to get out there.”

2009 TTBC Champion Lefebre finished 11th in the Walmart FLW Tour Angler of the Year rankings, earning one win at Kentucky Lake in June and finishing in the top 10 twice. In his ten years as a FLW Tour professional, Lefebre has five career tournament wins and 45 top-10 finishes. Lefebre followed up his 2009 TTBC victory with a fifth place finish in 2010 and 41st in 2011.

The other qualified anglers are Jacob Powroznik, Ron Shuffield, Jim Moynagh, Cody Meyer, Luke Clausen, Bryan Thrift, JT Kenney, Matt Arey, Andy Morgan, Clifford Pirch, Wesley Strader, Clent Davis and Jim Tutt.

The remaining 45 spots will be filled by the 2011 Champion Keith Combs, the top 15 from the 2012 Bassmaster Elite Series Toyota Tundra Angler of the Year standings, the top 15 from the 2012 Bass Pro Shops PAA Tournament Series Angler of the Year standings and four tournament sponsor exemptions.

Limited quantities of free tickets are available this year to the three-day outdoor music festival and professional bass fishing world championship. Fans can obtain free tickets online now at toyotatexasbassclassic.com, while supplies last. Tickets are available for Friday, Saturday and Sunday individually. Fans can also pick up TTBC tickets at any Toyota dealership or Academy Sports + Outdoors location in the greater Houston area. Walk-up tickets the day of the event will require a donation towards the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department and all days are subject to sell-out.

The daily tickets are valid for admission into the festival grounds for angler weigh-ins and the concert on that particular day. All activities, including concerts, weigh-ins, Reliant Outdoor Adventures Area and Bass Pro Shops Outdoor Expo will take place at the Lone Star Convention & Expo Center’s festival grounds in Conroe. Concert headliners include Dierks Bentley, Gary Allan and Jake Owen.

The Lone Star Convention & Expo Center is a state-of-the-art facility conveniently located minutes from Lake Conroe and The Woodlands and only 40 minutes north of Houston. The location offers easy access to event activities, local shops and restaurants. For more information, visit thelonestar.org.

The Toyota Texas Bass Classic tournament functions are operated by the Professional Anglers Association with technical assistance and support from Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Inland Fisheries Division. Title sponsor for the event is Toyota. Other sponsors include: Ricoh, ATX Wheels, Coca-Cola, TXU and U.S. Reel. Corporate partnership opportunities are available for 2012. For additional information, visit toyotatexasbassclassic.com or call 1-866-907-0143.

(August 21 Update)
 Hill Country River and Stream Angler Survey Underway
Media Contact: Zack Thomas (Project Manager), TTU, zachary.thomas@ttu.edu 325-446-2301 ext. 254; Dr. Tom Arsuffi, tom.arsuffi@ttu.edu 325-446-2301 ext. 235; Steve Magnelia, TPWD, stephan.magnelia@tpwd.state.tx.us 512-754-6844 Ext. 224

AUSTIN — Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Inland Fisheries Division is partnering with Texas Tech University’s Department of Biological Sciences and the TTU Llano River Field Station to conduct a four-month survey of anglers who fish Texas Hill Country rivers and streams.

The survey will determine recreational angling effort (time spent fishing), gather information on angler attitudes and opinions, and evaluate the economic impact of angling in the region’s rivers and streams.

Anglers who have fished a Hill Country river or stream during the past 12 months are encouraged to participate in the survey.  Information from anglers who target Guadalupe bass, the state fish of Texas, is of special interest.  TPWD is engaged in an ongoing effort to restore and preserve Guadalupe bass populations in the Llano, Blanco, Pedernales, San Antonio and James River watersheds.

Anglers can participate in the survey through a link on the TPWD fishing web page  http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/fishboat/fish/ or directly at https://www.research.net/s/HillCountryFishingSurvey.  Additional river and stream fishing-related web sites will also be asked to add a link to the survey in the near future. As an incentive to participate, anglers completing the survey will be eligible to win either a spinning rod and reel combo ($200 value) or fly rod and reel combo ($300 value).  A drawing for the two rod and reel prizes will be held in January 2013. The survey will take about 15 minutes to complete and results are completely confidential.  All results will be aggregated so individual responses will be anonymous.

Counties of interest include Bandera, Bexar, Blanco, Brown, Burnet, Comal, Coleman, Edwards, Gillespie, Hays, Kimble, Kendall, Kerr, Lampasas, Llano, Mason, McCulloch, Medina, Menard, Mills, Real, San Saba, Travis, and Williamson. Major rivers include the Blanco, Colorado, Guadalupe, James, Llano (North and South forks), Medina, Pedernales, San Antonio, San Marcos and San Saba.  A map showing the entire area of interest is included at the beginning of the survey.  Anglers fishing smaller rivers, streams and creeks within the area of interest, are also encouraged to participate.

Information gathered from the survey will ultimately be used to help guide future habitat restoration efforts, efforts to expand fishing access, and other actions by TPWD to enhance fishing opportunities in rivers and streams in the Hill Country and throughout Texas.

(August 14 Update)
 Youth Sets New Striped Bass Record for Lake Texoma
Media Contact: John Moczygemba, fisheries biologist, (903) 786-2389, john.moczygemba@tpwd.state.tx.us

ATHENS — Drake Hunter Holmes of Sherman shattered the junior angler Lake Texoma record for striped bass Sunday with a 5.03-pound, 23.5-inch-long fish.

Holmes caught the fish while fishing with his dad, Kennith Holmes. If approved as the official record, the fish will beat the old record of 2.68 pounds caught by Mitchell Kisel of Denison. He caught the striper while they were slabbing on the Table Top area just outside the Little Mineral Arm of Lake Texoma.

Kennith Holmes said Drake has caught bigger stripers, but they did not realize what the record was until they went to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) website (www.tpwd.state.tx.us ) to check.

If you think you have a new fish record, contact the Lake Texoma Fisheries Station at (903) 786-2389 or check TPWD’s mobile-friendly web site, http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/fishboat/fish/conservation/mobile/frecord.php. The categories for public waters include fly-fishing, rod and reel, bowfishing and unrestricted (other legal methods).  The junior level (for anglers under age 17) has the same categories.

“We will see that you get an Angler Recognition Award application, if needed,” said John Moczygemba, TPWD fisheries biologist. “Bring the fish to our office and we will weigh it for you, or many grocery stores will weigh your fish on their certified scales. Some bait shops have certified scales also. The scales must have been certified within the past year. The fish must be weighed within three days of the catch. However, weigh the fish as soon as possible to prevent any weight loss due to regurgitation or dehydration.”

The Lake Texoma Fisheries Station is at 947 Ranger Road, Pottsboro, off Texas 289, and is staffed from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Monday through Friday unless the crews are doing field work. Call (903) 786-2389 before going.

 Locations of certified scales can be found at https://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/fishboat/fish/programs/fishrecords/scales.phtml.

“Take several pictures so the fish can be identified,” Moczygemba advised. “There should be one picture with the angler holding the fish and one with the fish on a ruler. Don’t be shy, if you catch a big fish; check it out to see if it is a record.”

(August 7 Update)
 TPWD Seeks Businesses to Weigh Big Fish
Media Contact: Ron Smith, (512) 389-8302, anglers@tpwd.state.tx.us
Aug. 2, 2012

ATHENS — Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Angler Recognition Program will launch a new tool this fall to assist Texas anglers in locating certified public scales for weighing record catches. Businesses that agree to participate will be publicized as official weigh stations on the TPWD website.

The new initiative is designed to partner with fishing-oriented businesses and facilities that will be provided official signage and a supply of Angler Recognition Program applications. There is no fee to participate, but participants will be required to keep their scales certified on an annual basis.

Businesses and facilities that wish to participate are invited to sign up now.

To request certification as an official weigh station, applicants should fill out the secure web form at: https://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/fishboat/fish/programs/fishrecords/weighstation_form.phtml

For more information contact Ron Smith at (512) 389-8302 or by email at anglers@tpwd.state.tx.us

(July 31 Update)
 Emergency Zebra Mussels Order Signed
Media Contact: Brian Van Zee, (254) 867-7974, brian.vanzee@tpwd.state.tx.us or Mike Cox, (512) 389-8046, mike.cox@tpwd.state.tx.us

AUSTIN – Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Executive Director Carter Smith has signed an emergency order adding Lake Ray Roberts and Lake Lewisville to the list of water bodies under special regulations intended to control the spread of zebra mussels.

Smith’s action comes following the discovery in mid-July that the destructive invasive species had been found in Lake Ray Roberts, north of Denton.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission earlier this year amended TPWD’s regulations to require that boats operated on Lake Texoma and Lake Lavon be drained (including live wells and bilges) before they leave those water bodies. Taking this precaution is crucial in efforts to slow the spread of this species, since contaminated boats are one of the primary ways this happens. Draining water from boats prevents the spread of a microscopic form of the zebra mussel called a veliger, which is invisible to the naked eye.

The emergency rule does allow a person to travel on a public roadway via the most direct route to another access point located on the same body of water without draining water from their boat.  The emergency action would extend the applicability of the current regulation to all impounded and tributary waters of the Elm Fork of the Trinity River above the Lake Lewisville dam including Lakes Ray Roberts and Lewisville.

The zebra mussel is a small, non-native mussel originally found in Eurasia. It has spread throughout Europe, where it is considered to be a major environmental and industrial menace. The animal appeared in North America in the late 1980s and within 10 years had colonized in all five Great Lakes and the Mississippi, Tennessee, Hudson, and Ohio river basins. Since then, they have spread to additional lakes and river systems, including in North Texas.

Zebra mussels live and feed in many different aquatic habitats, breed prolifically, and cannot be controlled by natural predators. Adult zebra mussels colonize all types of living and non-living surfaces including boats, water-intake pipes, buoys, docks, piers, plants, and slow moving animals such as native clams, crayfish, and turtles. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates the potential economic impact of zebra mussels to be in the billions of dollars.

Under authority granted by the Legislature, emergency rules can be adopted if the commission or the executive director finds that there is an immediate danger to a species authorized to be regulated by the department. This emergency rule will continue for no more than 120 days from the date this notice is filed with the Texas Register.  TPWD will be preparing a non-emergency rule for consideration by the commission that would go into effect when the emergency rule expires.

For more information on zebra mussels and how to clean, drain and dry a boat, visit http://www.texasinvasives.org/

(July 24 Update)
 Zebra Mussels Found in Lake Ray Roberts
Boaters urged to continue to clean, drain and dry
Media Contact: Brian Van Zee, (254) 867-7974, brian.vanzee@tpwd.state.tx.us or Mike Cox, (512) 389-8046, mike.cox@tpwd.state.tx.us

AUSTIN – Three years after the discovery that zebra mussels had established themselves in Lake Texoma, the destructive invasive species has been confirmed in Lake Ray Roberts north of Denton. This is only the second lake in Texas found to have zebra mussels, and the first in the Trinity River basin.

“Unfortunately, from an environmental and economic standpoint, this is very bad news,” says Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Executive Director Carter Smith. “For a host of reasons the implications of this discovery are substantial to Texas waters and their future use and management. We intend to continue working with our partners to do everything reasonably possible to try and prevent the further spread of this harmful invasive species.”

Smith emphasized that the discovery underscores the importance of boaters helping to prevent the spread of zebra mussels, which can be unknowingly spread when boats and trailers are moved from lake to lake. TPWD and a coalition of partners has a public education campaign underway in North Texas encouraging lake users to clean, drain and dry their boats, trailers and gear. An instructional video and other tips on how to prevent the spread are available at http://www.texasinvasives.org

Originally from the Balkans, Poland and the former Soviet Union, zebra mussels found their way to the Americas in the 1980s via ballast water of a ship. The small invaders were first found in 1988 in Lake St. Clair, Mich., and are currently known to have infested 29 states and more than 600 lakes or reservoirs in the United States.

Zebra mussels can have economic and recreational impacts in Texas reservoirs. They can clog public-water intake pipes, harm boats and motors left in infested waters by covering boat hulls and clogging water-cooling systems, annoy boat-dock owners by completely covering anything left under water and can make water recreation hazardous because of their razor-sharp edges.

From the environmental perspective, zebra mussels are filter feeders, which mean they compete with baitfish such as shad for available forage. Any impact on baitfish in turn can affect their predators — game fish such as bass, striped bass and catfish. Zebra mussels are also very harmful to native mussel populations because they will colonize on their shells and essentially suffocate them.

The latest discovery came following the DNA analysis of water samples collected from 14 North Texas reservoirs. While 12 of the samples proved negative, zebra mussel DNA was confirmed in the Lake Ray Roberts and Lake Texoma samples. The Texoma results were expected, but the Ray Roberts results were very concerning.

Following receipt of those results, TPWD fisheries biologists conducted a survey of the lake and confirmed the presence of small zebra mussels in several different locations on the lake and immediately below the dam.

“This is the first confirmed reservoir on the Trinity River Basin to have an established population of zebra mussels,” explained Brian VanZee, TPWD’s regional Inland Fisheries director. “The ones that have been found are only 1/8 to ¼ of an inch in size, so that means they were likely spawned earlier this year.”

TPWD does not know exactly when or how the zebra mussels managed to reach Lake Ray Roberts, a 29,350-acre impoundment that sees heavy recreational use.

“More than likely, it was a boat that operated in Lake Texoma or some other lake infested with zebra mussels and then was used in Lake Ray Roberts without first being cleaned, drained and dried,” says Gary Saul, TPWD Inland Fisheries Division Director. “In reality, we’ll probably never know.”

In the late summer of 2010 TPWD tried without success to chemically eradicate zebra mussels in a creek which feeds into the Trinity River system in North Texas. Unfortunately, no magic bullet has been found that will eliminate the bivalves once they have established themselves in a body of water.

However, the spread of zebra mussels can be slowed by making sure that boats that operate in zebra mussel-infested waters are not used in any other body of water until they have been cleaned, drained and dried. In addition, TPWD has recently adopted rules regarding the transfer of zebra mussel larvae in water from Lake Texoma and Lavon. To comply with those rules, boaters and anglers need to drain all water from their boats (including live wells) before leaving those lakes.

For two years, TPWD and a coalition of partners have been reaching out to boaters in North Texas to help educate them about the importance of taking action to slow the spread of zebra mussels. These partners include: North Texas Municipal Water District, Tarrant Regional Water District, Trinity River Authority, City of Dallas Water Utilities Department, Sabine River Authority, Canadian River Municipal Water Authority, San Jacinto River Authority, Angelina and Neches River Authority, Brazos River Authority and Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Saul said TPWD will be looking at expanding current regulations dealing with clean, drain and dry rules to prevent the transfer of zebra mussel larvae to other lakes.

“With this somber news, I hope Texas boaters will always remember to “Clean, Drain, Dry” their boats, trailers and gear because all it takes is one instance of not properly cleaning to introduce this highly invasive and unwelcome species to a water body in Texas,” Smith said.

Anyone wishing to receive a supply of informational brochures, wallet cards or posters about zebra mussels to distribute to boaters around Lake Ray Roberts or Lake Texoma, please contact marketing@tpwd.state.tx.us.

(July 17 Update)
 Texas Early Migratory Seasons Set for Dove, Teal and Canada Geese
News Release
Media Contact: Steve Lightfoot, 512-389-4701, steve.lightfoot@tpwd.state.tx.us

AUSTIN — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service SRC (Service Regulations Committee) has approved the 2012-2013 Texas early migratory game bird seasons, including a 70-day season and 15-bird daily bag statewide for dove, a 16-day early season statewide for teal, and 16-day early season for Canada geese in the Eastern Goose Zone.

Texas dove season in the North and Central Dove Zones will run from Saturday, Sept. 1 through Wednesday, Oct. 24 and reopen Saturday, Dec. 22 through Sunday, Jan. 6, with a 15-bird daily bag and not more than two white-tipped doves.

The South Zone dove season will run Friday, Sept. 21 through Sunday, Oct. 28, reopening Saturday, Dec. 22 through Tuesday, Jan. 22 with a 15-bird daily bag and not more than two white-tipped doves.

The Special White-winged Dove Area will be restricted to afternoon-only (noon to sunset) hunting the first two full weekends in September running from Sept. 1-2 and 8-9 and reopen when the regular South Zone season begins on Friday, Sept. 21 through Sunday, Oct. 28 and again from Saturday , Dec. 22 through Friday, Jan. 18. The Special White-winged Dove Area season takes four of the allowable 70 days, so when the regular season opens, this area must close four days earlier than the rest of the South Zone. During the early two weekends, the daily bag limit is 15 birds, to include not more than four mourning doves and 2 white-tipped doves. Once the general season opens, the aggregate bag limit will be 15 with no more than 2 white-tipped doves.

The early teal season will run Sept. 15-30 statewide with a daily bag limit of four teal. The early Canada goose season will also run Sept. 15-30 in the East Goose Zone with a bag limit of three Canada geese. The possession limit is twice the daily bag limit.

(July 10 Update)
 Gulf of Mexico Shrimp Season to Open July 15
News Release
Media Contact: Steve Lightfoot, 512-389-4701, steve.lightfoot@tpwd.state.tx.us

AUSTIN — The Gulf of Mexico commercial shrimp season for both state and federal waters will open 30 minutes after sunset Sunday, July 15, 2012. The opening date is based on an evaluation of the biological, social and economic information to maximize the benefits to the industry and the public.

In making its determination, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Coastal Fisheries Division used the best available scientific information including samples collected by using trawls and bag seines in TPWD routine data collection.

The purpose of the closed Gulf season is to protect brown shrimp during their major period of emigration from the bays to the Gulf of Mexico until they reach a larger, more valuable size before harvest and to prevent waste caused by the discarding of smaller individuals.

Federal waters (from 9 to 200 nautical miles offshore) will open at the same time that state waters will open. The National Marine Fisheries Service chose to adopt rules compatible with those adopted by Texas.

(July 3 Update)
 Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center Gearing up for July 4 Fireworks
Media Contact: James Booker, (903) 670-2266

ATHENS, Texas—Preparations are under way for the annual Fourth of July fireworks show at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center (TFFC). The show will last approximately one-half hour and is one of the biggest in East Texas.

The fireworks show is directed and produced by Alpha-Lee Enterprises, Inc., of Liverpool, Texas. The show is a Keep Athens Beautiful event.

TFFC will be open for regular visitation from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Free admission for the fireworks show will start at 4 p.m. Visitors are encouraged to fish in the stocked casting pond while waiting for the fireworks, which will begin at dark. No license is required to fish, and bait and tackle are furnished for free. Fishing ends approximately one-half hour before the fireworks begin.

Food and beverages will be available for purchase, and people are encouraged to bring picnics. KCKL (FM 95.9) will broadcast patriotic music during the show.

Pets, alcohol, tobacco products and private fireworks, including “snap caps” and sparklers, are not allowed.

The fireworks show is sponsored and paid for by the City of Athens, local businesses and individuals.

Contributors include: City of Athens; First State Bank; Kim Hodges; East Texas Radiological Consultants P.A., Harold Smitson, M.D.; Charlie and Cindy Akin; Athens Bank; Citizens State Bank; The Cain Foundation; Athens Steel Building Corporation; Lance and Kathryn Etcheverry; Carol and Pat Wallace; East Texas Medical Center Athens; Stephen and Karen Jones; Ellen Key; Lake Athens Property Owners Association; Athens Marina; David and Melinda Thomas; Michael and Nan Clough; Athens Bank/The First State Bank; Dallas Bank of Texas/Tome & Becky Abbott; Carol Barton; Robert W. Bushnell; Dalton Family Properties; Bill and Carmen Hunt; William Goodwin; Bryon and Tamara Lichtenberg; McCord Properties; Mamie Stafford; Sam and Karen Whitten; Charles Span; Melissa and Hillesheim; Thad and Lisa Hardin; Charles and Carletta Ramsey; Nell and Neal Velvin; Peggy and Bob Gould.

 The event has become an area tradition, with many people dressing in red, white and blue in keeping with the holiday theme. Parking is available in the main TFFC parking lot and in an overflow parking area on Peninsula Point Road. Persons using the overflow parking area may enter through Gate C, which is across the street from the parking area.

For more information or directions, call (903) 676-2277.

(June 26 Update)
 Angler’s Legacy Program Offers Anglers Chance to Share the Gift of Fishing
Media Contact: Spencer Dumont, (325) 692-0921, sdumont@sbcglobal.net

ATHENS—It is generally recognized that getting young people involved in the outdoors benefits them in many ways. Research shows that children who engage in outdoor activities are happier and do better in school. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) Inland Fisheries biologist Spencer Dumont of Abilene has some suggestions on how to make that happen.

“Many times over the years anglers have asked me what they can do to help make fishing better,” Dumont said. “Anglers have helped by providing tournament results, assisting with habitat projects, going electrofishing with us, and a few other things. However, there is another way, one that may be more important than anything else an angler can do: Introduce someone to fishing who has never been fishing before.”

The Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation (RBFF) is an organization whose mission is to increase participation in recreational angling and boating and thereby increase public awareness and appreciation of the need to protect, conserve and restore this nation’s aquatic natural resources.

“My favorite RBFF program is the Angler’s Legacy Program,” Dumont said. “The concept is simple: Give back what you have been given (pay forward the gift of fishing) by promising to introduce somebody to fishing.”

 The promise comes in the form of “taking the pledge” on the TAKE ME FISHING website, http://www.takemefishing.org/community/anglers-legacy/take-the-pledge.

As an Anglers’ Legacy Ambassador (one who has taken the pledge), a person vows to share the love of fishing with at least one new person each year; to pass on traditional skills and earned knowledge; to pay forward the thrill of fishing and their love of the great outdoors and commitment to a healthy environment with friends, family, neighbors, colleagues or anyone; and to give back what someone once gave them—the gift of fishing.

TPWD’s Inland Fisheries Division, in addition to providing the best possible fishing, strives to ensure the conservation of Texas’ aquatic natural resources through the continuous recruitment of anglers, the most important aquatic natural resource stewards.

“The Angler’s Legacy Program is a great opportunity for anglers to help support the future of fishing in Texas,” Dumont said. “Everybody in our office took the pledge to make a difference.  We encourage you to do the same.”

Dumont encourages anyone interested in learning more about the Angler’s Legacy Program, either as a potential Ambassador or as someone new to fishing, to contact the Abilene Inland Fisheries district office at (325) 692-0921 or visit them on Facebook, http://www.facebook.com/tpwdifabilene

(June 19 Update)
 Texas Fish Hatcheries Serve as Refuges for Imperiled Species
Media Contact: Larry Hodge, 903-676-2277, larry.hodge@tpwd.state.tx.us

ATHENS—The five state-operated fish hatcheries in Texas generally have one job: to produce fish for stocking into Texas waters.

But the record-breaking drought of 2011 was a game-changer for Texas in many ways, including how Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) uses its fish hatcheries. One, the Dundee State Fish Hatchery near Wichita Falls, actually had to suspend operation because of lack of water.

Two fish hatcheries added new activities to their ongoing sportfish production responsibilities.   The Possum Kingdom State Fish Hatchery used one pond to hold two species of minnows from the upper Brazos River in case it went dry. The A.E. Wood State Fish Hatchery in San Marcos improved a small portion of their incubation room to hold mussels that might be lost to dried-up rivers or highway bridge construction.

In both cases the purpose is the same: to provide a refuge for species threatened by natural conditions or human activities until they can be safely returned to the wild.

Brewing Shiners
The smalleye shiner (Notropis buccula) and sharpnose shiner (Notropis oxyrhynchus) are found nowhere in the world besides the Brazos River. They have been dealt near-fatal blows by humans and by nature. A string of dams in the mid-section of the Brazos River took away the ability of the species’ semibuoyant eggs to drift downstream for 50 or more miles while they hatch and grow into small fry. Changes in water quality and water flows in the Lower Brazos contributed to the fish disappearing from that stretch. Then came the record heat and intense drought of 2011, and the last remaining stronghold of the shiners, the Upper Brazos—the Salt Fork, the Double Mountain Fork and the North Fork of the Double Mountain—stopped flowing.

“These fish live only two years, and they don’t reproduce when there is not flowing water to spawn in,” said Kevin Mayes, a TPWD fisheries biologist with the Rivers Studies program headquartered at the Texas Rivers Center in San Marcos. “We had no idea what was coming in 2012, so the decision was made to capture shiners from shrinking pools in the Upper Brazos, hold them at the Possum Kingdom hatchery over the winter, and stock them into the Lower Brazos.”

Mayes worked with Dr. Gene Wilde, professor of biology at Texas Tech University, to coordinate collection and transport of the shiners and to be sure water conditions at the hatchery were suitable. Wilde has been working with the fish since 1996 and has published several scientific papers on the two species. “They live in fairly salty water in the Brazos, but they are pretty adaptable,” Wilde said. “Even though they live in water that has half the concentration of salt as sea water, they can handle the switch to fresher water pretty well.”

That adaptability may be the key to the effort to establish a second population of the fish in the Lower Brazos to serve as a safety net for the species if the Upper Brazos forks go completely dry.

On May 29, 2012, Mayes and fisheries technician Steve Boles trucked some 700 healthy, lively, ready-to-spawn shiners from the Possum Kingdom hatchery to the Farm-to-Market 485 crossing west of Hearne. Mayes and Boles ferried the shiners down a steep, slippery bank in buckets and an ice chest and mixed river water with the hauling water. Then, for the first time in years, smalleye and sharpnose shiners swam in the Lower Brazos.

“Historically, these fish occurred throughout the Brazos as far downstream as College Station and below,” said Mayes. “They disappeared from the Lower Brazos after reservoirs were constructed. We’re not sure if the conditions in the Lower Brazos have improved enough for the shiners to survive, but we do know that conditions in the Upper Brazos are very dire.”

Mayes said stocking the shiners into the Lower Brazos at least gives them a fighting chance. “The Middle Brazos has been impacted by fish kills from golden alga, and we don’t think the reaches between dams in the Middle Brazos are long enough to allow the fish to fulfill their life cycle,” he explained. “We have hundreds of miles below the last dam on the Lower Brazos. We are hoping to get them kick-started down here so if we need to we can take them from down here to restock the Upper Brazos, or use them for research to learn how to spawn them in captivity.”

Saving the fish may prove to be important in ways we do not yet understand, says Wilde. “In most years, these are the most abundant fish in the Brazos,” he said. “They are the basis of the food chain, which is important to people who fish for bass or catfish. There is nothing to take their place. If they go away, we don’t know what will happen to other species of fish in the river, or how water quality will be affected. All these things are interrelated.”

Ultimately the fish will make the last call. “They will tell us how well the river is doing,” Mayes said.

Flexing Mussels
Fish are much more visible than mussels, which live in on the bottoms of streams and filter their food from the water. Both, however, must have water to live and are important to the ecology of the streams where they live.

As the drought of 2011 reached critical levels, TPWD’s Inland Fisheries Division put together a team to look for solutions to problems that could result from streams and rivers going dry. TPWD’s hatchery system seemed ideal places to temporarily hold small populations of fish or mussels.

Carl Kittel, TPWD’s hatchery program director for black basses, sunfish, trout and forage species, led the effort to establish a mussel-holding facility at the San Marcos State Fish Hatchery. There was one problem: money. The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) stepped in.

“TPWD had the space, but not the money,” said Dr. Stirling Robertson, TxDOT’s senior biologist in the Environmental Affairs Division. “We are involved in a project to replace a bridge over the San Saba River where we have identified three mussel species that are state-listed as threatened species and have to be relocated before construction, but we couldn’t identify a suitable site upstream of the bridge. Building the holding facility where we could take the mussels and then return them after the project is complete is simpler.”

About 150 yards of stream are involved, and it might seem simpler and cheaper still to just move the mussels elsewhere. But there’s a catch. Mussels have a complicated life cycle that requires their larvae to attach to the gills of a species of fish—and for some just one species will do—and feed off the fishes’ blood as they grow. “We don’t know what the host fish for these mussels is, or if it will be present elsewhere in the stream,” Robertson said. “We do assume that where they are, they like that place. If you move them to a new place, you have to monitor them to be sure they are surviving, and that is expensive.”

“There is some habitat partitioning among species,” said Mark Fisher, manager of the Ecological Resources Branch of TxDOT’s Environmental Affairs Division. “Some species seem to be habitat-specific. Some  have to have clean water. Other species are more tolerant of low dissolved oxygen, mud and silt. Most listed species seem to need minimally impacted, ‘nicer’ environments.”

TxDOT is currently funding studies aimed at developing a model that will help predict if mussels will be found in a particular type of habitat. “Right now we have to triage and make an assessment at every bridge site,” Fisher said. “One of the things that is emerging is shear stress. Mussels have to stay in the same location in a stream during flood events. If you channelize a stream, they may wash away in a flood event. We think flow dynamics have a significant impact on their distribution.”

As it turns out, TxDOT will take some mussels to the hatchery and relocate others. “There are a lot more mussels at the site than we originally thought,” Robertson said. “We will not be able to house all of them at the San Marcos facility, so we will relocate some downstream of the construction site and monitor them. That will let us look at differences between holding them at a hatchery and relocating them.”

“We recognize that the work hatcheries do in fish production is important, but the state of Texas benefits greatly from agencies being able to collaborate on this type of project.” Fisher said.

Why all the fuss about a creature that lives in the muck at the bottom of streams, doesn’t move much, isn’t particularly pretty and bears awful names like heelsplitter, pimpleback and fatmucket?

“Once you get to know them, they are not so unattractive,” said Robertson. “They have very complex life cycles, and they are important sentinels of water quality. If you have a lot of mussels, you have good water. The ones listed as threatened are not very tolerant of contaminants. They are the real canaries in the coal mine.”

Describing mussels as canaries doesn’t quite do them justice. They may not sing or pose prettily on a perch, but they do a service songbirds never could: As filter feeders they pump enormous amounts of water through their bodies, cleaning it and removing algae, bacteria and organic particles. In so doing they improve the health of the river itself. What flows from your faucet was made better by flowing through a mussel.

Whether smalleye shiner or Texas fatmucket, the almost unknown creatures that live in Texas streams are linked to us in ways we know exist but are only beginning to understand. This much we do know: The water they live in eventually becomes part of us.

That alone should make us wish them well.

(June 12 Update)
 Angling Legends Inducted into Texas Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame
Media Contact: Larry Hodge, 903-676-2277, larry.hodge@tpwd.state.tx.us

ATHENS—Anglers Tommy Martin and Lonnie Stanley were inducted into the Texas Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame at a banquet in Athens Saturday night.

Martin, of Hemphill, and Stanley, of Huntington, were joined by about 100 friends and family as they received their awards and viewed videos recapping their careers.

The two were the twenty-third and twenty-fourth inductees into the Texas Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame, which was established in 1996 and inducted its first honorees in 1997. The purpose of the Hall of Fame is to recognize and honor those who have made a lasting contribution to freshwater fishing in Texas, and to foster a sense of appreciation, awareness and participation in the sport of fishing.

Hall of Fame videos of Martin and Stanley may be viewed at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Texas-Freshwater-Fisheries-Center/128462433868391.

(June 5 Update)
 Clean your boat. Save your lake.
Media Contact: Spencer Dumont, (325) 692-0921, sdumont@sbcglobal.net

ATHENS — Invasive species, plants or animals that find their way to new places they don’t belong and cause economic, environmental or ecological damage, have wreaked havoc throughout the U.S. A couple of well-known examples are the lamprey invasion of the Great Lakes and everybody’s favorite in Texas, the fire ant.

Texas is home to a number of aquatic invasive species. Two species in particular are at the top of the most-wanted list: zebra mussels and giant salvinia.

Zebra mussels are small, less than 1 ½ inches long as adults, and currently exist in Lake Texoma (on the Red River of the Texas/Oklahoma border) and in West Prong Sister Grove Creek above Lake Lavon.

Zebra mussels hitchhike their way from lake to lake on boats and boat trailers. Zebra mussels, once they invade, attach themselves to almost any underwater object and quickly form large colonies on rocks, boat hulls, boat docks, pipes or even your trotline. They can make water recreation dangerous because of their razor-sharp edges, harm boats and motors, damage public-water intake structures and alter aquatic ecosystems to the detriment of native species and sport fish.

Giant salvinia, first found in Texas in 1997, is a free-floating fern that can double in size in just a few days and can form mats up to three feet thick. It can take over an entire cove in a matter of weeks, choking out all aquatic life below its thick mats and making boating, swimming or fishing impossible.

One way to curb the spread of these destructive hitchhikers is to clean, drain and dry boats and trailers after recreating on any Texas water body known to have aquatic invasive species. (Hydrilla, the only known aquatic invasive in the Big Country, is found at Lakes O. H. Ivie and Hubbard Creek). First, CLEAN all debris and plant material from the boat and trailer. Second, DRAIN all water from the boat, engine, livewells and bait buckets. Third, let the boat and trailer DRY for at least a week before using the boat in a non-infested water body. If your boat has invasive species on it or if you don’t have time to let it sit out and dry for at least a week, wash it using a high pressure washer with hot (140 degree F), soapy water.

No Big Country water body has either zebra mussels or giant salvinia. Let’s keep it that way. For more information on Texas invasive species, go to www.texasinvasives.org. You can also visit YouTube on the internet and search “don’t let invasives take over texas lakes” or, for a humorous public service announcement, search “giant salvinia PSA texas parks and wildlife.” These videos are also on our Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/tpwdifabilene).

(May 29 Update)
 Public Meeting Set for June 13 on Lake Texana State Park
News Release
Media Contact: Rob McCorkle, 830-866-3533, robert.mccorkle@tpwd.state.tx.us

AUSTIN — The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department will hold a public meeting on Wednesday, June 13 regarding plans to terminate its lease with the Lavaca-Navidad River Authority to operate Lake Texana State Park.

The meeting will be held at 7 p.m. in the recreation center of the LNRA’s Breckenridge Park and Campgrounds, 891 Breckenridge Parkway in Edna, across the highway from the 575-acre state park, which has been operated by TPWD since 1981.

TPWD invites all interested parties to attend the public meeting that will include an overview of the agency’s plans to terminate the current lease and tentative plans for operating the site as a public park. LNRA and TPWD are currently discussing issues related to the transfer to ensure minimal impact to the public.

TPWD has determined that terminating the current lease for Lake Texana State Park is necessary and should take effect on Aug. 31. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission was briefed about the lease termination at its May 23 meeting in Austin.

The site on Lake Texana in Jackson County was leased to TPWD in 1977 for a term of 50 years. Due to ongoing budget constraints, TPWD’s State Parks Division has been evaluating sites to determine whether or not local ownership and operation might be appropriate. Staff concluded that it is necessary to end the lease and to have operations revert to the river authority, which has expressed a willingness to assume management of the site.

The LNRA will be working with TPWD in coming months to effect a smooth transition in park operations and decide on the best way to incorporate the state park’s amenities, which includes a day use area and roughly 140 campsites, into its current roster of recreational facilities to create a unified park system.

For more information, contact Russell Fishbeck, director of the South Texas state park region, at 361-790-0303.

(May 22 Update)
 Free Food, Fishing to Highlight National Fishing Day at Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center
Media Contact: James Booker, (903) 670-2266; james.booker@tpwd.state.tx.us

ATHENS, Texas—The Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens will kick off National Fishing and Boating Week June 2 by making a family fishing trip affordable with free admission for kids 12 and under plus free fishing for the whole family.

Free hot dogs, chip and drinks will be served from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. by employees of the Athens Wal-Mart Supercenter.

Kids may also win prizes in a catfishing tournament at TFFC’s casting pond.
In addition to fishing, visitors can walk the wetlands trail; see a diver hand feed fish; learn about the history of fishing in the freshwater fishing museum; shop for a Father’s Day gift in the Flat Creek Bait ‘n Goods Gift Shop and watch the alligator feeding at 3:30 p.m.

National Fishing Day at TFFC is sponsored by Athens Wal-Mart Supercenter, Wulf Outdoor Sports, Red Hat Rentals, Ernie Yarborough and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
National Fishing and Boating Week comes at the start of the summer vacation season and is designed to encourage families to spend time together on and around water. No fishing license is required anywhere in the state on the first Saturday in June, which is designated Free Sportfishing Day.

The Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center is an aquatic nature center and hatchery complex operated by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. It is located 75 miles southeast of Dallas and four miles east of Athens on F.M. 2495. Dive shows take place at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturdays, 11 a.m. Tuesday through Friday, and 2 p.m. Sundays. Hours are 9 to 4 Tuesday through Saturday and 1 to 4 Sunday. Usual admission is adults, $5.50; seniors, $4.50; children 4-12, $3.50. For information go to http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/tffc/ or call (903) 676-2277.

(May 15 Update)
 State Game Wardens Stress Boater Education in Water Safety
News Release
Media Contact: Mike Cox, 512-389-8046, mike.cox@tpwd.state.tx.us

AUSTIN – With many Texas lakes holding more water than they did this time last year, Texas Parks and Wildlife game wardens are anticipating a busy boating season. And while they will be doing everything they can to make it a safe one, wardens could use a little help from boaters.

“Last year we had 32 boating fatalities across the state,” said Jeff Parrish, assistant chief for marine law enforcement. “Tragic as that number is, we can learn something from statistics. Of those 32 deaths, all but five were of people not wearing a personal flotation device. That really underscores the vital importance of wearing a life jacket.”

State law requires that a personal flotation device be available for each occupant of a boat, but only those under 13 years of age are mandated by the law to wear one while the boat or paddle craft is underway or drifting.

“The numbers speak for themselves,” Parrish continued. “Wear a life jacket and your chances of surviving a life threatening event on the water increases 10 fold.”

While the life jacket requirement is not new, the last session of the legislature did make it mandatory that all persons born on or after Sept. 1, 1993 obtain a boater education certificate before they can legally operate a vessel with a rating of more than 15 horsepower. Anyone supervising the operation of a vessel by another must be exempt from the boater ed requirement (born before 1993) or have a boater ed certificate.
Six of the boating deaths in 2011 were alcohol-related, underscoring the importance of not drinking while operating a boat.

“If you want to drink when you’re out on the water, do so responsibly or have a designed operator,” Parrish said. “Anyone our wardens find operating a boat while intoxicated will be going to jail.”

In addition to the 32 boating fatalities in 2011 (up four from 2011), Texas saw 229 boating accidents that resulted in 121 injuries. State game wardens and other marine enforcement officers made 259 BWI arrests and issued 305 citations for no life jacket.

“Anyone stumped on a gift idea for a high school graduate could see that they get signed up for a boater ed class,” Parrish said. “That’s a gift that could end up saving a life.”

Other than having the required boater education course, wearing a life jacket and not boating while intoxicated, Parrish said it’s a good idea to make sure someone knows where you plan on operating a boat and when you expect to return as well as paying close attention to weather reports.

“Getting caught on open water in a storm is not a fun experience,” Parrish said. “If rough weather is anticipated, it’s best to stay off the water or close to shore.”

The online boaters’ safety course is offered through www.boat-ed.com/tx/ for $20. Boaters with the online course certificate may receive a discounted rate from their boating insurance provider.

(May 8 Update)
 New Regulations to Affect Boaters, Anglers on Texoma, Lavon, Red River
Aim is to stop spread of invasive species
Media Contact: Brian Van Zee, (254) 867-7974, brian.vanzee@tpwd.state.tx.us

ATHENS—Recent changes mean that boaters and anglers who take steps designed to prevent the spread of invasive species such as zebra mussels, silver carp and bighead carp won’t have to worry about being in violation of state laws prohibiting the possession of certain exotic species. These changes take effect May 17.

“Boaters and anglers on Lake Texoma, Lake Lavon and the Red River and its tributaries are being asked to take proactive steps toward being good stewards of the state’s aquatic resources by draining all water from their watercraft before leaving a boat ramp and hitting the road,” said Brian Van Zee, regional inland fisheries director for Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD).

Zebra mussels have become well established in Lake Texoma, and they can be spread to other waters by boats. Boaters are already prohibited from transporting exotic species that are visible to the naked eye, such as adult zebra mussels.

The new regulation is intended to prevent the spread of zebra mussel larvae, or veligers, which are so tiny they cannot be seen without a microscope. Veligers can survive for days in water trapped in a boat. Boaters on Lakes Texoma and Lavon who drain all bait buckets, livewells, bilges and any other systems or receptacles that could contain water prior to traveling on a public roadway will not be considered to be in possession of zebra mussels in violation of state law, with certain exceptions.

“The regulation does allow persons to travel from one boat ramp to another on the same water body without draining water,” said Ken Kurzawski, regulations and information director for Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Inland Fisheries Division. “This will allow striper guides on Lake Texoma to trailer from one boat ramp to another during the day. It will also allow bass tournament anglers to take out at one ramp and go to another for weigh-in. Guides and anglers will also be allowed to collect shad for bait in Texoma and then go below the dam to fish without draining water.”

In short, all water will need to be removed from a boat before leaving Lakes Texoma or Lavon for another lake, the boater’s home or other destination. The regulation applies to the Red River from the I-44 bridge in Wichita County downstream to the Arkansas border, including all Texas waters of Lake Texoma and Lake Lavon.

A second regulation designed to prevent the spread of silver and bighead carp also takes effect May 17. This regulation primarily affects anglers who collect live bait; it prohibits the transport of live non-game fish from waters known to be inhabited by the two species of carp. Waters affected are the Red River below Lake Texoma downstream to the Arkansas border, Big Cypress Bayou downstream of Ferrell’s Bridge Dam on Lake O’ the Pines (including the Texas waters of Caddo Lake) and the Sulphur River downstream of the Lake Wright Patman Dam.

“Collection and use of non-game fishes for bait on those water bodies will still be legal,” said Kurzawski. “The regulation prohibits the moving of live bait fish from one water body to another. Young silver and bighead carp can easily be confused with native bait fish such as gizzard and threadfin shad. Anglers need to note that while it will be legal to take shad from Lake Texoma to below Denison Dam on the Red River, it will not be legal to take live bait from the Red River below the dam back to Lake Texoma or any other water body.”

The new regulations are one part of the next phase of a continuing effort to protect the waters of Texas from invasive species. In late May TPWD will launch a public information campaign aimed at getting boaters to Clean, Drain and Dry their boats in order to help stop the spread of zebra mussels and other invasives. The campaign will use billboards, banners, signage at area businesses, buoys at boat ramps and radio public service announcements to get the message across.

Zebra mussels have the potential to hinder the water supply of communities throughout North Texas by damaging water treatment plants and clogging water supply pipelines. Once they have become established in a reservoir, there is no known way to get rid of them. Zebra mussels were brought to Lake Texoma on boats trailered in from other states with infected lakes. Stopping their transport from one water body to another by boats appears to be the only way to prevent their spread.

(May 1 Update)
 Toyota ShareLunker Season Ends
News Release
Media Contact: Larry Hodge, 903-676-2277, larry.hodge@tpwd.state.tx.us

ATHENS—April 30 marked the end of the 26th season of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s ShareLunker program.

Thirteen largemouth bass weighing 13 pounds or more were entered into the program during the season, bringing to 536 the number of big bass entered since the program’s inception in 1986.
The season also saw the end of an era with the retirement of David Campbell, who had guided the program since its beginning and personally picked up most of the fish. Campbell was “Mr. ShareLunker” to hundreds of anglers.

Campbell handed over responsibility for the program to TPWD fisheries biologist Juan Martinez at the end of March.

The largest fish entered into the program this season was a 14.39-pounder caught from Falcon International Reservoir by Gary Wingate of Amarillo. Falcon was named the number one bass fishing lake in the nation by the editors of Bassmaster magazine.

Wingate’s catch earned him Angler of the Year honors. In addition to the replica of his catch and ShareLunker clothing received by all anglers in the program, Wingate also will receive a lifetime fishing license and 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.

The six lakes producing entries this season will also be winners. Each will receive a share of the offspring produced by the fish that spawned. To date Wingate’s fish and a fish caught by Stan Lawing from Ray Roberts have produced more than 132,000 fry. These fish will be divided among Lakes Fork, Falcon, Austin, Toledo Bend, Ray Roberts, and O.H. Ivie.

One fish, Toyota ShareLunker 528, was a repeat entry. Originally caught by Carl Adkins from Lake Austin in 2010, it was recaught by Landon Glass on February 14. ShareLunkers have an electronic tag injected so that they can be identified.

Lake Austin was the top-producing reservoir this season with five entries. Lakes Fork, Falcon and O.H. Ivie each had two. Ray Roberts and Toledo Bend each had one.

It is known that some bass grow larger than others, but why remains unknown. TPWD is planning to conduct research to try to identify the gene or genes that may influence size in Florida largemouth bass. This research has never been done before. If this effort is successful, TPWD will be able to use that information to guide its breeding and stocking of largemouth bass in the future.

“If we can identify the genetic markers that result in maximum growth, we can select broodfish that have those markers,” said Allen Forshage, director of the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center. “The goal of the ShareLunker selective breeding program is to increase the occurrence and size of eight-pound or larger bass, and this research is the next step in that process.”
Following is a chronological list of this season’s entries.

Toyota ShareLunker 524 was caught from Lake Fork December 27, 2011, by Andrew Watson of Highland Village. The fish weighed 13.51 pounds and was 25.5 inches long and 21.25 inches in girth. The top producer of big bass in Texas, Fork came in at number 26 on Bassmaster’s list of top trophy bass lakes.

Toyota ShareLunker 525 was caught December 28 from Falcon International Reservoir by Jason Brudnicki of Salt Lake City, Utah. The 13.36-pound fish was 26.25 inches long and 21 inches in girth.

Toyota ShareLunker 526 came from Lake Austin on January 29, 2012. It was caught by Brett Ketchum of Austin and weighed 13 pounds even. It was 25.75 inches long and 20.25 inches in girth.

Toyota ShareLunker 527 also came from Lake Austin. Wesley Hayden of Round Rock caught the 13.22-pounder on February 11. It was 26 inches long and 21.25 inches in girth.

Toyota ShareLunker 528 made it three in a row from Lake Austin on February 14. The Valentine’s Day fish was caught by Landon Glass of Jarrell; it weighed 13.03 pounds and was 25.75 inches long and 21.75 inches in girth.

Toyota ShareLunker 529 was caught by Ryan Pinkston of Center on February 25 from Toledo Bend Reservoir. The fish weighed 14.2 pounds. Due to an error the fish was released before it could be picked up, so length and girth are not known. Toledo Bend was named the number 15 bass lake in the U.S. by Bassmaster.

Toyota ShareLunker 530 came from Lake Ray Roberts. Caught by Stan Lawing of Poetry on March 3, the 13.06-pound fish was 25 inches long and 21 inches in girth. The pickup and care of this fish will be featured on the World Fishing Network’s Reel Fishy Jobs on May 31. The fish spawned and produced more than 39,000 offspring.

Toyota ShareLunker 531 was caught by Gary Wingate of Amarillo from Falcon International Reservoir on March 16. The 14.39-pound fish was 26.5 inches long and 20.75 inches in girth. ShareLunker 531 spawned twice and produced more than 93,000 offspring.

Toyota ShareLunker 532 was caught by Michael Justus of Garland from Lake Fork on March 18. It weighed 13.1 pounds and was 25.75 inches long and 21 inches in girth.

Toyota ShareLunker 533 took the ShareLunker flag back to Lake Austin. Corey Johnson of Cedar Park caught the 13.18-pound fish March 21. It was 26.5 inches long and 20 inches in girth.

Toyota ShareLunker 534 also came from Lake Austin on the same day as 533. The 13.59-pound fish was caught by Charles Whited of San Marcos and was 26.125 inches long and 20 inches in girth.

Toyota ShareLunker 535 marked O.H. Ivie’s return to the ShareLunker program. Stacy Brookings of Midland caught the 13.22-pounder on March 25. It was 26.5 inches long and 20 inches in girth. O.H. Ivie occupies the number 88 spot on the Bassmaster list of top bass lakes.

Toyota ShareLunker 536 brought the season to a close on April 6. Kyle Johnson of Abilene caught the 13.36-pounder from O.H. Ivie. It was 27.5 inches long and 20 inches in girth. This fish was the only mortality of the program this season.

Toyota ShareLunker anglers will be recognized at a banquet at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens on June 2.

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 the ShareLunker hotline at (903) 681-0550 or paging (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.

Anglers entering fish into the Toyota ShareLunker program receive a free replica of their fish, a certificate and ShareLunker clothing.

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 http://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 as well as answers to frequently asked questions about the program.

(April 24 Update)
 Legendary Anglers to be Inducted into Texas Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame
News Release News Images
Media Contact: Larry Hodge, 903-676-2277, larry.hodge@tpwd.state.tx.us

ATHENS—Professional angler Tommy Martin of Hemphill and lure manufacturer and angler Lonnie Stanley of Huntington will be inducted into the Texas Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame June 2, 2012, at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens.

Martin began guiding on Sam Rayburn Reservoir in 1968 and fished in his first tournament the following year. He turned pro in 1972 and won the prestigious Bassmaster Classic just two years later.

In 1975 Martin became the first professional bass angler to acquire cash sponsors. He won 19 national tournaments, was a 19-time Bassmaster Classic qualifier and won five B.A.S.S. national titles. He also competed in FLW Outdoors events and qualified for both the Forrest L. Wood Cup and the Stren Series championship.

Martin helped found Texas Black Bass Unlimited, a Texas conservation organization that played a key role in developing the Texas bass fishery into the best in the nation.
He was inducted into the National Bass Fishing Hall of Fame in 2003.

Stanley, owner of Stanley Baits, Inc., started building jigs in 1979 after winning a tournament on Toledo Bend Reservoir with one he’d made. In 1980 he founded Stanley Lures, manufacturing jigs, spinner baits and other products. While continuing to build jigs in his garage in College Station, he won six more tournaments in 1980 and 1981.

Innovative ideas such as interchangeable skirts, silicone skirts and multi-colored skirts helped Stanley build his company into a multi-million-dollar organization. Part of his success sprang from his prowess as an angler and five-time Bassmaster Classic qualifier.

Stanley co-hosted ESPN’s “Sportsman’s Challenge” television series for 18 years.

Both Martin and Stanley are noted for giving back to the sport by working with conservation groups, appearing at youth events and giving generously of their time to charitable fundraisers. They both also worked with Paul Hinton, the founder of East Texas Get Hooked on Fishing—Not Drugs.

Nine other individuals or organizations were nominated to the Texas Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame this year. They include the Lake Fork Sportsman’s Association, Yantis; the Concho Bass Club, San Angelo; Dicky Newberry, Houston; Mark Howell, Wichita Falls (deceased); Bill Carey, Pottsboro; Barry Stegall, Portland; Dr. Bob Ditton, College Station (deceased); Edward Parten, Kingwood; and Bill Higdon, Cedar Park (deceased).

The Texas Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame is housed at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens. Its mission is to “recognize and honor those who have made a lasting contribution to freshwater fishing in Texas, and to foster a sense of appreciation, awareness and participation in the sport of fishing.”

In addition to the Hall of Fame, the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center includes a visitor center, production hatchery, stocked casting pond, wetlands trail, fishing museum and dive theater. It is the home of the Toyota ShareLunker program, which uses selective breeding to increase the number and size of trophy bass in Texas public waters

(April 17 Update)
 Texas Coastal Fisheries Hatcheries Celebrate 30 Years
News Release
Media Contact: Steve Lightfoot, 512-389-4701, steve.lightfoot@tpwd.state.tx.us

CORPUS CHRISTI— Putting blackened redfish on the menu back in the 1970s almost helped land the popular game fish on another list, for protected species, had it not been for an ambitious fisheries management initiative that included development of the Texas marine fisheries hatchery system.

Providing a jump start to resurrect a red drum, aka redfish, fishery depleted by commercial fishing pressure was the impetus for constructing the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s first marine fisheries hatchery, the CCA-CPL Marine Development Center, now celebrating its 30th anniversary.

In 1980, the Gulf Coast Conservation Association (now CCA Texas) announced plans to partner with Central Power and Light Company (CPL) and TPWD to build the world’s largest red drum hatchery at the Barney Davis Power Plant in Corpus Christi.

The CCA provided funding for the construction of the original hatchery as well as the expansion phase in the late 1980s. Much of this money was used as state match towards a $10 million dollar U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Sport Fish Restoration grant for construction of the hatchery expansion. The hatchery facility became operational in 1982.

Since 1983, 624 million hatchery-reared red drum fingerlings have been released in Texas waters. The CCA Marine Development Center can produce between 30 and 50 percent of the 24 million fingerlings released annually along the coast. It is also one of the premier marine aquaculture research facilities in the United States and is well known to scientists around the world.

“The recovery of red drum is the result of a combination of management strategies, including fisheries monitoring, protection by banning commercial sale and prohibiting netting, and through the hatchery stocking program,” said Mike Ray, TPWD Coastal Fisheries Division Deputy Director. “In recent years, coastal fish hatcheries have increased emphasis on spotted seatrout and southern flounder population recovery, with 65 million spotted seatrout fingerlings and more than 20,000 southern flounder fingerlings stocked."

Significant advancements in southern flounder spawning, larvae incubation, fingerling rearing techniques have been achieved. More refinement is needed to reach the ultimate goal of developing a large-scale production program.

In addition, hatchery facilities remain well positioned to respond to disasters such as freezes, harmful algal blooms, hypoxia, and pollution events that can result in significant losses to recreationally important fish populations.

The hatchery system relies on significant contributions from dedicated sportsmen’s organizations like CCA Texas and the Saltwater-fisheries Enhancement Association (SEA).

The SEA has been an important partner to the hatchery program by providing funding for projects such as rearing pond improvements (i.e., adding electrical outlets to operate aeration paddle wheels) and laboratory equipment.

In recent years, CCA Texas has provided critical funding to help develop large-scale methods to culture southern flounder for stocking into coastal waters. During the past two years, the CCA Texas as spearheaded by the Mid-Coast Chapter donated $170,000 to construct two fishing piers at this hatchery for education and outreach activities.

More information about Texas coastal fisheries hatcheries is available on the TPWD web site www.tpwd.state.tx.us.

(April 10 Update)
 O. H. Ivie Proves Toyota ShareLunker Was No Fluke
News Release News Images
Media Contact: Larry Hodge, 903-676-2277, larry.hodge@tpwd.state.tx.us

ATHENS—When O.H. Ivie, the West Texas reservoir now below 20 percent capacity, produced Toyota ShareLunker 535 March 25, some people assumed the catch was an aberration.

That illusion vanished on Good Friday, April 6, when Kyle Johnson of Abilene caught Toyota ShareLunker 536, a 13.36-pound largemouth bass that was 27.5 inches long and 20 inches in girth.

Johnson proved that even in a lake that is more than 30 feet below conservation pool, it is still possible to find the shallow water where bass like to spawn. He caught the fish in three to four feet of water on a jig.

“When she hit, she almost took the rod out of my hand,” Johnson said. “Then she took me around the boat twice.”

The fish was weighed and held for pickup at Elm Creek Village, an official Toyota ShareLunker weigh and holding station. Elm Creek Village manager Jerry Hunter said he believes there are more big bass to come from the lake this season. “People have been catching a lot of sevens and eights and a few double-digit fish,” he said. “I think the spawn is about two weeks behind what we usually see.”

ShareLunker 536 is the second fish of the season to come from O.H. Ivie, the thirteenth entry into the program this season, and the twenty-fifth ShareLunker to come from the lake. O.H. Ivie is now tied with Lake Alan Henry for second place in the number of ShareLunkers produced. Lake Fork leads the pack with 249.

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.

The current leader in the race for Angler of the Year is Gary Wingate of Amarillo with his 14.39-pounder caught from Falcon International Reservoir on March 16. That fish was pure Florida largemouth and so far has spawned twice, producing nearly 80,000 eggs.

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 the ShareLunker hotline at (903) 681-0550 or paging (888) 784-0600 and leaving a phone number including area code. Fish will be picked up by TPWD personnel within 12 hours.
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.

(April 3 Update)
 Falcon ShareLunker Produces Large Spawn
ATHENS—Toyota ShareLunker 531, caught from Falcon International Reservoir March 16, spawned more than 44,000 eggs March 29.

Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center (TFFC) hatchery staff removed the eggs from the spawning mat, counted them and put them into a hatching jar. The eggs will hatch in three or four days, and the fry will be raised to about 1.5 inches in length before being stocked.

A video of the processing of ShareLunker 531’s eggs may be viewed on the ShareLunker program Facebook page.

ShareLunker 531 was caught by Gary Wingate of Amarillo and is the first ShareLunker to spawn this season. Multiple spawns from the same fish are not uncommon. Six of the current entries are pure Florida largemouth bass and are being held for spawning. Those fish came from Lakes Falcon, Austin (two fish), Fork, Ray Roberts and O.H. Ivie.

So far this season 12 ShareLunkers have been caught from six different lakes: Falcon, Austin, Fork, Toledo Bend, Ray Roberts and O.H. Ivie. Each lake producing an entry into the ShareLunker program during the season receives a portion of all the fingerlings produced.

Pure Florida ShareLunkers are paired at TFFC with pure Florida males that are themselves the offspring of ShareLunkers. This selective breeding process is intended to result in offspring that have the best possible genetics. Appropriate measures are taken to ensure that genetic diversity is maintained.

DNA testing allows Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) to determine the parentage of and relatedness among ShareLunker offspring.

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.

(March 27 Update)
 Lake Austin ShareLunker Streak Continues; O.H. Ivie Joins In
News Release News Images
Media Contact: Larry Hodge, 903-676-2277, larry.hodge@tpwd.state.tx.us

ATHENS—Lake Austin has produced two more Toyota ShareLunkers, bringing its season total to five. The last two were caught on the same day, March 21.

Lake O.H. Ivie, which had a hot streak the past two seasons, produced its first entry of the current season March 25.

O.H. Ivie now ranks number 3 in total number of ShareLunkers produced, with 24. Lake Austin ranks sixth with 17.

Other reservoirs that have produced double-digit numbers of ShareLunker entries include Lake Fork with 249; Alan Henry, 25; Sam Rayburn, 23; Falcon, 19; Conroe, 16; Choke Canyon, 13; and Amistad, 12.

Corey Johnson of Cedar Park started the latest big-bass flurry shortly after noon March 21 with a 13.18-pound fish from Lake Austin. It was caught on a white jig in four to five feet of water. The fish was 26.5 inches long and 20 inches in girth. It is Toyota ShareLunker 533.

Just after 6:00 p.m. that same day Charles Whited of San Marcos hooked Toyota ShareLunker 534, a 13.59-pounder in Lake Austin with a Senko in eight feet of water. Whited caught his fish in a Texas Tournament Zone tournament. The fish was 26.125 inches long and 20 inches in girth.

Stacy Brookings of Midland was fishing O.H. Ivie with a spinner bait when a 13.22-pound bass ate it in eight feet of water. The fish, now Toyota ShareLunker 535, was 26.5 inches long and 20 inches in girth.

DNA testing at the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department laboratory at the A.E. Wood State Fish Hatchery in San Marcos showed Toyota ShareLunker 534 to be an intergrade, a mixture of Florida and northern largemouth bass. It was returned to Lake Austin March 23. Test results on the other two fish are not yet available.

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 the ShareLunker hotline at (903) 681-0550 or paging (888) 784-0600 and leaving a phone number including area code. Fish will be picked up by TPWD personnel within 12 hours.

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 http://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 http://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.

(March 20 Update)
 Falcon, Fork Produce Toyota ShareLunkers
ATHENS—Perennial big-bass lakes Falcon and Fork each produced a Toyota ShareLunker over the weekend.

Falcon started the ball rolling March 16 with a 14.39-pounder, the biggest fish entered into the program so far this season. Gary Wingate of Amarillo caught the fish in 12 feet of water using a plastic worm. The fish was 26.5 inches long and 20.75 inches in girth. It was weighed at Robert’s Fish ‘n Tackle in Zapata.

Wingate’s catch boosted him into the front-runner spot for Angler of the Year. 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.

Lake Fork chimed in Sunday with a 13.1-pounder caught in a JC Outdoors individual tournament. Michael Justus of Garland was fishing alone when the big bass took his finesse worm on a dropshot rig in six to seven feet of water.

This weekend’s fish are the eighth and ninth entries of the season.

“It was a battle,” Justus said. “I got the net after her five times before I finally netted her. Then I realized how big she was. It was awesome. It’s something I’ll cherish forever, that’s for sure.”

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 the ShareLunker hotline at (903) 681-0550 or paging (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 http://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.

(March 6 Update)
 Lake Ray Roberts Produces Toyota ShareLunker
News Release News Images
Media Contact: Larry Hodge, 903-676-2277, larry.hodge@tpwd.state.tx.us

ATHENS—Big bass are where you find them, and Stan Lawing of Poetry, Texas, proved that while fishing in a Bass Champs tournament on Lake Ray Roberts March 3.

Lawing had reeled his spinner bait almost all the way back to the boat when a 13.06-pound bass took it. That fish is now Toyota ShareLunker 530.

Lawing reported the fish bit about 1:30 p.m. in 2.5 feet of near-60-degree water. He won big bass and placed third in the tournament. Half his bag weight was the one fish.

When measured at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center, the fish was 25 inches long and 21 inches in girth.

Four ShareLunkers have come from Lake Ray Roberts in the past, the last in 2005. Two were caught in 2000 and one in 1999.

“She short-struck me on about six feet of line and made one pull toward the trolling motor,” Lawing said. “My partner got the net in the water and she swam straight into the net. It was very, very quick. It was just an incredible day. Bass Champs did an incredible job taking care of her and keeping her in good shape.”

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 http://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

(February 28 Update)
 Trophy Bass Management Symposium March 24 at Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center
Media Contact: Dr. Billy Higginbotham, (903) 834-6191 or b-higginbotham@tamu.edu; or Dr. Michael Masser, ( 979) 845-7370 or m-masser@tamu.edu

ATHENS – Private bass pond managers will get a behind-the scenes look at how Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) inland fisheries biologists monitor fish populations and care for trophy bass at a statewide symposium set for March 23—24, 2012, at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center (TFFC) in Athens.

“There are more than a million private impoundments in the state, many of which could be used for increased recreation through bass fishing with better management,” said Dr. Billy Higginbotham, Texas AgriLife Extension wildlife and fisheries specialist. “As many landowners have learned, you just don’t stock a pond or lake with largemouth bass and automatically get trophy-size fish.”

Growing big fish takes top management, which can be learned at “Bass Tech: The Technology to Manage for Success.” Participants may register online at http://agriliferegister.tamu.edu (enter the keyword “bass”) or by calling (979) 845-2604. There is a fee for attendance.

In addition to session presentations, attendees will be able to observe a TPWD fisheries management crew electrofish on Lake Athens and demonstrate how to obtain and record data necessary for managing a bass population.

Also included will be a behind-the-scenes tour of the Toyota ShareLunker holding facility at TFFC. The “Lunker Bunker” is where bass weighing 13 pounds or more are cared for and spawned as part of a selective breeding program. This tour will take place from 3—5 p.m. March 23.

Session presentations March 24 will include Basic Pond Ecology, Water Quality, Pond Fertilization, Do-It-Yourself Fish Population Assessment and Corrective Stockings, Better Bass Fishing Through Genetics, Trophy Bass Management, Identifying and Controlling Nuisance Wildlife, Aquatic Weed Identification and Control, and Aging Largemouth Bass Using Otoliths.
Instructors include wildlife and fisheries experts with AgriLife Extension, TPWD and American Sport Fish Hatchery, a southeastern U.S. stocking and pond maintenance service.

A similar symposium was held in 2008. “The main difference this year is that we’ve trimmed some topics based on participant evaluations,” Higginbotham said. “The one-day program means participants won’t have to go to the expense and trouble of spending the night if they don’t want to.”
Registration will be from 7-8 a.m. on March 24. The symposium will conclude at 5 p.m. A catered lunch and break refreshments are included in the registration fee.

In addition, each registrant will receive a CD of the proceedings, speaker notes and a copy of Higginbotham’s “Wildlife and Fish Management Calendar.”

Texas Department of Agriculture private pesticide applicator license holders can earn one continuing education unit in integrated pest management.

TFFC is four miles east of Athens and 75 miles southeast of Dallas. More information on the center can be found at http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/spdest/visitorcenters/tffc/.

(February 21 Update)
 Sizzling Lake Austin Turns in Third Toyota ShareLunker of the Season
Latest catch is a recapture of a fish caught in 2010 and returned to the lake
News Release News Images
Media Contact: Larry Hodge, 903-676-2277, larry.hodge@tpwd.state.tx.us

ATHENS—So far five fish have been entered into the Toyota ShareLunker program for the 2011-2012 season, and Lake Austin has produced three of them.

Wesley Hayden of Round Rock caught Toyota ShareLunker 527 from Lake Austin February 11. Landon Glass of Jarrell caught No. 528 from the lake February 14.

Brett Ketchum caught No. 526 from Lake Austin January 29, starting the three-fish streak.
Hayden was fishing in four feet of 57-degree water about 2 p.m. using a jig when he hooked the 13.22-pound fish. It was 26 inches long and 21.25 inches in girth.

Glass caught his 13.03-pound Toyota ShareLunker while fishing in 10 feet of 58-degree water with a Sixth Sense football jig. A scan of the fish revealed it is the same fish caught February 27, 2010, by Carl Adkins of Austin, at which time it became Toyota ShareLunker 481. At that time the fish weighed 13.1 pounds. DNA testing at the time revealed the fish to be pure Florida largemouth.

The explosion of big fish from Lake Austin has its roots in years past. “I believe a combination of our Florida bass stocking program and good habitat have led to great production over the years,” said Marcos DeJesus, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s fisheries biologist in charge of managing the lake’s fishery. “There were probably a couple of good year classes several years ago, and some of those individuals are now breaking that ShareLunker barrier.”

Every fish entered into the Toyota ShareLunker program has a passive integrated transponder (PIT) tag injected into its body cavity for tracking and can be identified if recaught. One fish from Lake Alan Henry was caught and entered into the program three years in a row.

Both Lake Austin fish were picked up by a Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Inland Fisheries staff member from the A.E. Wood Fish Hatchery in San Marcos. Since the Glass fish is pure Florida largemouth, it will be taken to the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center (TFFC) in Athens for the duration of the spawning period. DNA testing showed ShareLunker 527 to be an intergrade. Intergrades, mixtures of Florida and northern largemouth, are returned to the lake where caught as soon as possible.

Lake Austin will receive a portion of any Toyota ShareLunker fingerlings produced during the current season. Any lake that produces a ShareLunker receives a share of the season’s fingerlings, whether any of the fish from that lake are spawned or not. These fingerlings will be the offspring of pure Florida females paired with pure Florida males that are themselves the offspring of ShareLunkers.

“We feel that this selective breeding process results in the best possible genetics being returned to the lakes, increasing the chance of more trophy bass being produced in the future,” explained Allen Forshage, director of TFFC. “Although these big females have no doubt spawned in years before they were caught, they did not necessarily mate with a pure Florida male. Everything we know about genetics tells us that the parents with the best genes produce the highest quality offspring. This is the scientific basis of our selective breeding program.”

Forshage also noted that the main purpose of stocking ShareLunker fingerlings is not to produce trophy fish for anglers to catch. “The reason we stock these fish, and the reason we want to use only pure Florida bass in the selective breeding program, is that we know Florida bass grow bigger and faster than native northern largemouths, and by stocking pure Florida fingerlings from trophy fish, we will have a greater impact on the genetics of the overall largemouth population in the lake,” he said. “In addition, since fingerlings from different parents are mixed before being stocked, these stockings help to promote genetic diversity.”

TFFC also uses some of the ShareLunker offspring to produce broodfish for TPWD’s regular largemouth bass stocking program, which annually stocks millions of fish into Texas public waters. “In this way we are introducing ShareLunker genetics into the general largemouth bass population,” Forshage said.

Recent advances in DNA technology now allow TPWD to determine if a fish entered into the Toyota ShareLunker program is an offspring of a previous ShareLunker. This technology has been available only since 2005, and it takes seven to 10 years for a bass to reach 13 pounds and be eligible for the program. “We are looking forward to the day when we get the DNA test results from a ShareLunker and can say, ‘That is one of our fish,’” Forshage said.

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.

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.

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. If a Texas angler catches the largest entry of the season, that person also receives a lifetime fishing license valued at $1,000.

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 http://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.

(February 14 Update)
 Fly Fish Texas: Tie a Fly, Cast a Fly, Catch a Fish
Media Contact: Jim Booker, (903) 670-2266 or james.booker@tpwd.state.tx.us

ATHENS—Tie a fly. Cast a fly. Catch a fish.

That’s all there is to fly-fishing, and Fly Fish Texas is the place to learn it. The annual event takes place March 10 at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center.

Show hours are 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. All Fly Fish Texas activities are free with regular paid admission to the center.

Fly Fish Texas emphasizes hands-on learning and immediate application of newly acquired skills. Visitors can collect aquatic insects from the center’s streams, tie a fly to imitate one of those insects under the supervision of a skilled tier, learn to cast it from a casting instructor certified by the Federation of Fly Fishers, then use it to catch a rainbow trout, catfish or sunfish from one of TFFC’s stocked ponds or streams.

Throughout the day, experienced fly-tiers will be demonstrating and teaching fly-tying in the Anglers Pavilion on a one-on-one basis. In addition, group instruction in beginning fly-tying will be offered in the Hart-Morris Conservation Center. Both are offered on a walk-up basis.

Beginning casting instruction will take place all day in the Conservation Center parking lot, again on a walk-up basis. Other, scheduled sessions will teach single-hand and Spey rod casting.

Vendors will be displaying and selling fly-fishing gear, and seminars will brief visitors on where and how to fly-fish in Texas fresh and salt waters for a variety of species. The program will include presentations on fly-fishing locations such as the Llano River, Lakes Fork and Lewisville, the Texas Hill Country and tailwaters below dams. A session will also be offered on fly-fishing New Mexico.

While most activities at Fly Fish Texas are offered on a walk-up basis, others are scheduled. For a complete schedule of activities and seminars plus a video of the event, visit http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/tffc and click on the Fly Fish Texas link.

Food service will be available onsite, or attendees may bring a picnic.

Several sessions will be aimed at youths or those working with youths. Keith Miller of Waco, who has been catching a fish a day since April 1, 2011, will speak on his quest and also fish with participants. Steve Hall of Austin will speak on the national fly-fishing in schools program. Brad Newman of the Federation of Student Anglers will share insights into how to set up a school-based fishing club.

Event sponsors include Sabine River Authority, Holiday Inn Express Hotel and Suites—Athens, Dallas Fly Fishers, Temple Fork Outfitters, Red Hat Rentals, Best Western Royal Mountain Inn—Athens, Friends of TFFC, Cripple Creek BBQ, Wulf Outdoor Sports, Cabela’s, First State Bank, Super 8—Athens and Orvis—Dallas.

(February 7 Update)
 New Texas Saltwater Fishing Book Now Available
Fishing along the Texas Gulf Coast is more popular now than ever. Additionally, saltwater anglers are advancing an increasingly technical style of fishing for speckled trout, redfish, flounder and snook in Texas inshore waters. With that in mind, long-time Texas outdoor writer and inshore fishing guide Danno Wise has condensed a lifetime of fishing tips and tricks into a neatly packaged 60-page book. Now available through Amazon.com as well as several tackle shops and other retail locations throughout Texas, Danno Wise's Tips for Fishing the Texas Coast is a must read for fishermen wanting to increase their knowledge and skill level. At the price of $7.50, Tips for Fishing the Texas Coast is a great value. Written in a direct, concise manner, Tips for Fishing the Texas Coast is both easy to read and easy to understand, resulting in immediate improvement in the success rate of fishermen who read it. To order online, visit:
http://www.amazon.com/dp/1469935244/ref=rdr_ext_tmb

Signed copies are available through Danno's website:

http://www.dannowise.com/danno_wise_fishing_book.htm



(February 7 Update)
 Artificial Reef Domes Placed in Galveston Bay
TPWD and Galveston Bay Foundation collaborative project benefits fish, oysters and more
Media Contact: Jennie Rohrer, (281) 534-0103, jennie.rohrer@tpwd.state.tx.us; Bill Rodney, (281) 534-0127, bill.rodney@tpwd.state.tx.us; Charlene Drake, (281)534-0149, charlene.drake@tpwd.state.tx.us

HOUSTON – Texas Parks and Wildlife Department recently enhanced one of its oyster restoration projects in East Galveston Bay with the addition of 59 concrete artificial reef domes donated by Galveston Bay Foundation.

The artificial reef domes were placed on a 1-acre patch of restored oyster reef in East Galveston Bay (approximate center point 29° 30’ 44”, -94° 39’ 54”). Each dome was individually placed on the site using a crane on a construction barge. Care was taken to ensure that the domes were not stacked on each other so that water depth over the site would be maintained at safe levels for small craft navigation. The domes will be used to attract fish and oyster larvae and will facilitate studies on oyster density and fish utilization.

The department’s artificial reef program has enjoyed tremendous success placing large reef domes in the Gulf over the past 15 years. Dale Shively, Artificial Reef Program Director, notes that there was a marked increase in the number of fish after the placement of the reef domes. Though smaller than the large artificial reef dome structures in the Gulf, the reef domes in Galveston Bay may also attract large game fish.

Reef domes have been used in several areas affected by natural disasters to encourage marine life to resettle. Likewise, this project is part of ongoing efforts to restore oyster reef habitats which were severely impacted by Hurricane Ike-induced sedimentation in September 2008. The 1-acre site is part of a larger 25-acre research reef where different oyster reef designs and materials will be evaluated for use in other parts of the bay and in other bay systems along the Texas coast.

TPWD has restored approximately 200 acres of oyster reef in Galveston Bay. These domes are an integral part of the department’s continuing research efforts on finding the best methods for oyster reef restoration and increasing and improving fish habitats.

For more information or to schedule a news media site visit, call Jennie Rohrer, (281) 534-0103, jennie.rohrer@tpwd.state.tx.us; Bill Rodney, (281) 534-0127, bill.rodney@tpwd.state.tx.us, or Charlene Drake, (281)534-0149, charlene.drake@tpwd.state.tx.us .

(January 31 Update)
 Angler Lands Toyota ShareLunker 526 from Lake Austin
News Release News Images
Media Contact: Larry Hodge, 903-676-2277, larry.hodge@tpwd.state.tx.us

ATHENS—Lake Austin gave up the third Toyota ShareLunker of the season to Austin angler Brett Ketchum January 29.

The 13.0-pound bass is the thirteenth ShareLunker to come from the urban lake. Ketchum caught the fish on a jerkbait in 10 feet of 56-degree water while fishing in an Austin Bass Club of the Deaf tournament. He won big bass and placed second overall.

“She was a very good fighter,” Ketchum said. “Once she jumped, I noticed she was big, but I kept fighting her, and when she got close and I saw her I thought, ‘Oh, it’s big!’ I was nervous because I saw only one treble hook in her, and I knew I could lose her in a second. But I stayed calm, let her fight until she was tired, then reeled her close to the boat. My partner Sammy Oates, Jr., netted her beautifully. He and my son Braden were shaking when I bought her in.”

Ketchum said he had always dreamed of catching a ShareLunker. “My time has come,” he said. “It was an amazing day.”

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 http://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

(January 24 Update)
 Toyota Texas Bass Classic Scheduled for September 28-30, 2012
World championship and music festival will return to Lake Conroe and the Lone Star Convention & Expo Center

CONROE—Dates for the highly-anticipated return of the Toyota Texas Bass Classic (TTBC), the world championship of professional bass fishing and country music festival, were announced today with all of the action set to begin Friday, Sept. 28. The three-day event (Sept. 28-30) will feature anglers from across all major tours and some of country music’s premier artists with event proceeds benefiting the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) and its youth outdoor programs.

“We are very excited to return to Conroe and bring together the best anglers in the world and offer amazing entertainment value each day,” said Tournament Director Lenny Francoeur. “The TTBC has become an annual community event that has generated over $1.2 million for the TPWD and the state of Texas and we are thrilled about what we’re putting together for this year.”

Daily tournament weigh-ins, outdoor expo and concerts will take place at the Lone Star Convention & Expo Center and the TTBC will offer a wide range of activities that families, outdoor enthusiasts and music fans will enjoy. The 2012 concert line-up will be announced this summer with previous year’s performers including Trace Adkins, Billy Currington, Pat Green and Blake Shelton.

Last year’s world championship was the closest finish in tournament history requiring a sudden death fish- off between eventual TTBC Champion Keith Combs and runner-up for the second straight year, Mike Iaconelli. This year’s tournament field will consist of 50 anglers assembled from the top professional leagues in the world, including the PAA Bass Pro Shops Tournament Series, Bassmaster Elite Series and the Walmart FLW Tour.

Anglers will compete on Lake Conroe over three days with the field being reduced to the top 10 who will compete in the final round on Sunday, Sept. 30. The tournament remains a non-entry fee event, with all 50 competing anglers taking home guaranteed prize money. In addition, the TTBC will continue its focus on conservation and adhere to strict catch, weigh and immediate release format that has earned the event national praise for its conservation efforts over the past five years.

“Now more than ever the conservation practices of the TTBC and the TPWD are playing a pivotal role in maintaining the precious natural resources throughout Texas,” said J.C. Fassino, President, Texas Bass Classic Foundation. “The progressive efforts and education programming the TTBC has helped to fund will only further aid us in protecting what we all value and enjoy.”

The Lone Star Convention & Expo Center is a state-of-the-art facility conveniently located minutes from Lake Conroe and The Woodlands and only 40 minutes north of Houston. The location offers easy access to event activities, local shops and restaurants. For more information visit http://www.thelonestar.org/.

The Toyota Texas Bass Classic tournament functions are operated by the Professional Anglers Association with technical assistance and support from Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Inland Fisheries Division. Title sponsor for the event is Toyota. For additional information, visit http://toyotatexasbassclassic.com/ or call 1-866-907-0143.

(January 17 Update)
 Central Texas Zebra Mussel forums scheduled for Jan. 18-19
News Release
Media Contact: Mike Cox, 512-389-8046, mike.cox@tpwd.state.tx.us

Three forms will be held Jan. 18 and 19 in Kingsland and Marble Falls and Burnet to address the threat of invasive mussels in the Highland Lakes. The purpose of these forums is to raise awareness of potential consequences associated with zebra and quagga mussels in the Colorado River system.

Speakers from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Lower Colorado River Authority, Texas Parks and Wildlife, and the Inks Lake Dam National Fish Hatchery will present at the forums.

“Zebra mussels are one of the most prolific and destructive invasive species found in the US,” said Brian Van Zee, TPWD Inland Fisheries Regional Director.

“They damage aquatic ecosystems, plug water intake systems used for industrial and municipal purposes and even impact water based recreation by fouling boat hulls, damaging boat engines and making beaches unusable. Each year millions of dollars are spent trying to monitor, control and manage zebra mussel infestations and once they become established they are nearly impossible to eradicate.”

The forum stresses that the only way to combat the spread of these invasive mussel species is prevention through education and outreach.

The schedule is as follows:

Wednesday, January 18, 1:30-4:00 — Herman Brown Free Library in Burnet
Wednesday, January 18, 5:30-8:00 — Marble Falls Public Library
Thursday, January 19, 9:30-Noon — Kingsland Branch Library

For more information on zebra and guagga mussels and other invasive species in Texas visit http://www.texasinvasives.org. For a complete agenda and links to detailed location information, visit the Texas Invasives events calendar at http://texasinvasives.org/pages/spotlight.php.

(January 10 Update)
 Boater Ed Now Required for Operators Born After Sept. 1, 1993
News Release
Media Contact: Mike Cox, 512-389-8046, mike.cox@tpwd.state.tx.us

AUSTIN – Anyone looking forward to operating a motor-powered vessel, sailboat or personal water craft on Texas public waters this year needs to have completed a state-approved boater education course if born after Sept. 1, 1993.

While the new law became effective last year, Texas Parks and Wildlife suggests starting off the new year with a boater education course to make sure you’re good to go when the water warms up and Texans begin heading to the state’s many lakes and streams for fishing or recreational boating. Prior to passage of the new law, only boat operators ages 13-17 had to take a boater education course.

The mandatory boater education law requires certification for anyone born after Sept. 1, 1993 who operates a vessel with a motor of more than 15 horsepower or a wind-blown vessel measuring more than 14 feet in length. While all boaters are encouraged to take boating safety education, those born before Sept. 1, 1993, are exempt from required certification.

Texas’ state-approved boater education courses are available as one-day classroom training or online.. The classroom course takes about six hours to complete and the online course has a three hour time commitment. Costs start at $20 for both courses. Information about boater education, including schedules of upcoming classroom courses, is available at http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/learning/boater_education/.

Potential new boaters looking for bargain instruction can get the required training from a TPWD boater education employee for $5 at the Jan. 19-22 Austin Boat Show at the Convention Center. Interested persons may call 512 389-8141 to register for the class.

Boaters falling under the boater education requirement will be required to carry a valid ID and documentation of having taken and passed a boater education course. Failure to meet the requirements is a Class C misdemeanor, and violators have 90 days to complete a boater education course to have the charges dismissed.

The 82nd Texas Legislature during its regular session also clarified the definition of a vessel to encompass such craft as standup paddle craft, kayaks and canoes. In Texas public waters everyone onboard a vessel that measures less than 26-feet in length must have a life jacket available and kids under 13 must wear one.

(January 3 Update)
 Season’s Second Toyota ShareLunker Comes from Falcon
Media Contact: Larry Hodge, (903) 670-2255, larry.hodge@tpwd.state.tx.us; Randy Brudnicki, (512) 389-8464, randy.brudnicki@tpwd.state.tx.us

ATHENS—When Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine publisher Randy Brudnicki planned a fishing trip to Falcon International Reservoir with his sons Jason and Dustin for the week after Christmas, he knew the time was right to catch a Toyota ShareLunker.

But the trio struggled for two days, catching only small bass mid-lake and near the dam. On Wednesday, December 28, the north wind shifted to the south, and that made all the difference. “I knew to look for places where the south wind would blow in to points,” Brudnicki said.

It was their last day to fish, and they wanted to get on the road early, so they put in at the county ramp in Zapata and began fishing around the city’s water intake structure. “After spending some time on the main point but only catching small fish, we moved upwind to a ledge,” Brudnicki said. “My son Jason, who lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, started throwing a Strike King 6XD crankbait, a Christmas present from his older brother, Dustin. The big girl hit right under the boat as he ended his retrieve. He set the hook and she pulled a little line. Dustin grabbed the net and in seconds the fish was in the boat.”

A few casts later Jason caught another big fish, and they decided to weigh them. The smaller fish went eight pounds, but the big fish bottomed out their scale. After borrowing a scale from another boat, they realized they had a ShareLunker and took it to Falcon Lake Tackle to be weighed on a certified scale. The official weight is 13.36 pounds. Length and girth were not available at the time of writing.

Keeping the big fish alive for the five hours it would take for a truck to arrive from the A.E. Wood Fish Hatchery in San Marcos now became their top priority. “We ran both recirculating and aeration pumps non-stop,” Brudnicki said. “The mid-50 degree water temperature helped a lot.” They finally turned the fish over to TPWD about 7 p.m.

The Toyota ShareLunker program will be profiled in the Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine’s Spring Fishing Guide due out in February. That guide will also feature a fishing forecast for 2012 and other relevant topics for Texas anglers. The guide will be available free at http://www.tpwmagazine.com.

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.

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 http://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 http://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.