I've seen the program, meet the people, loved the experience.
From Falcon Tackle.
November 3, 2011: Well it's that time of year again.. Time to dig out that turkey baster, make some deer sausage, chop some firewood, and talk about the 2011-2012 Sharelunker season.. Which is underway, by the way..
And although there have been no fish submitted so far this year, I am sure there will be. Last year the first fish was not submitted till December fifteenth, which is later than usual.. And back in 2008, there was not one turned in till January thirteenth.. In 2009, the first fish was turned in on the twenty eighth of September, actually a couple of days before the season actually opened.. So I reckon that one could be turned in any day..
With the closure of Falcons only holding station for Sharelunker, I am not sure what it is going to mean for Falcon's thirteen pound fish that get caught. At first I was all smiles about it.. Until I thought about it. Because on the surface one would think that if there is no holding station here, certainly no one would keep a giant waiting on a truck that would be at least five hours away. There would be a pretty good chance that the fish would die. At least that is what I think.
But odds are that some will still call for the truck.. We'll see..
If I knew, or even thought, that the Sharelunker program was growing bigger fish, or even growing fish faster, I would have a holding tank here at FLT. But neither of these two theories have been able to hold any water. As a matter of fact, the numbers of our very biggest fish have declined quite a bit since the inception of the Sharelunker program. I have documented this a few times in the past.
It seems that everyone, well, not everyone, thinks that the Sharelunker Program is responsible for the big fish we have in Texas. Nothing can be farther from the truth.
But while the meat and potatoes of the SL program have made no difference in the fishing in Texas, it has certainly been a great marketing strategy for getting fishermen to come and fish in Texas.
So much disinformation exists about the SL program that it has become a self perpetuating phenomenon. Congrats to TPWD on a great campaign.. But if you look at the facts, you will find that like most political campaigns, what gets promised rarely gets delivered.
And here is the one thing that really sticks in my craw.. Every time a fish is turned in to the SL program, a big media release is put out saying "Texas Produces Another Sharelunker!" And lots of people think that that fish was in the water because of the SL program.. Nothing can be farther from the truth.
That fish is simply a Texas grown bass, more than likely with a lot of Florida genetics. And its existence in the lake had NOTHING to do with the SL program.
And TPWD has done little to get the facts out there.. Only in the last year have they started telling us about how many of the fish are Floridas, how many die, and how many actually spawn. Actually you won't find any of this info in a press release. You'll have to find it on their website. BTW.. The last two years only four fish have spawned each year..
How can you be so sure about all of the above, you ask? Because the introduction of SL fingerlings into public waters in Texas lakes did not start occurring till 2006. That's twenty years after the first Sharelunker was turned in..
What happen to all the fry during all that time?? Makes you wonder, don't it.. I am sure a lot of people assumed that we had been catching them for years..
In any case, no lakegrows fish faster than Falcon, especially under the fine conditions we have had for the last six to eight years. And the fastest documented fish that has grown to thirteen pounds was eight years old. And I would say that that it is a bit unusual for fish to grow that fast..
So of the miniscule number of SL fingerlings that have been stocked in public waters, it will be at least three to five years before a true Sharelunker Sharelunker could even be possible.. Don't hold your breath..
So, yeah.. You can tell me that the SL program works.. It does, at getting people to come fish Texas.. But it has Squat to do with the big fish we are catching in Texas.. But you already knew that. You might not want to accept it.. But you know it is true..
Only the introduction of Florida genes, mild climate, and lakes that have the forage it takes to grow em, has produced the incredible fishing that Texas has today.. It's not magic.. Don't be afraid to look behind the curtain..
Here's a list of Major Lakes that have rec'd SL stockings.
Fork: 4,800 in 06. 2,897 in 08. 2,220 in 10. And 39,872 in 2011.
Amistad: 4,519 in 2006. 2,614 in 08. And 2,081 in 2010.
Falcon: 2,842 in 2008. 2,091 in 10. And 30,488 in 2011.
Ivie: 8,143 in 2010. 34,064 in 2011.
Sam Rayburn: 2,604 in 2008.
Toledo Bend: 4,592 in 2006. And 2,604 in 2008.
Caddo: 3,408 in 2009. 2,166 in 10. and 32,037 in 2011.
How bout Lake Naconichie?? In 2009 they got 173 adult fish, and 95,389 fingerlings.. That's not a typo..
There are a lot of other lakes where a tiny number of SL derived fry have been stocked, but that is probably just more for show and a news release than anything else. Because most lakes just can't produce bass that weigh thirteen pounds. I ain't saying it can't happen.. But it is just very unlikely..
Here's the link to TPWD's stockings page so you can check out your lake.
Keep in mind that if two percent (2%) of these fish survive to maturity it will be a wildly successful stocking. Of course nobody knows for sure what percentage of fingerlings survive when being stocked in the wild.. But you do have to start somewhere.. And every lake's predators differ.. But I can tell you that Bass think Baby Bass are tasty..
You may have read in the past that SL fish grow faster than "wild fish." Well that might be.. And I am sure they do.. As wild fish are not pure Floridas like their SL cousins.. That's why we brought Floridas to Texas in the first place.. They grow to be much bigger and grow faster..
And after some discussion, (with some from me and much in the fisheries department) TPWD is going to start an experiment that compares growth rates of SL fingerlings against Pure Florida fingerlings. So we will finally see an Apples to Apples test. But don't get in a hurry for the results.. The experiment hasn't started yet and it will run from four to six years.. We'll all have to wait on that data.. But I've got a hundie that says the growth rate differences between these two fish will be negligible..
I acquired all the info used in this post from the TPWD website, and from talking with folks from TPWD.
And as always I welcome your e-mails with your comments or questions.. I just love talking about Sharelunker..