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Sept. 22, 2003
Budweiser Sharelunker Program Looking for Big Bass
ATHENS, Texas — David Campbell loves to hear the phone ring at 2 a.m., as long as the caller is an angler wanting to donate a lunker bass to the Budweiser ShareLunker program.
From Oct. 1 through April 30, Campbell keeps a specially-equipped 'lunker truck' packed and ready to leave for anywhere in Texas on 15 minutes' notice to pick up a bass weighing 13 pounds or more. Fish of that size are always females, which are used for spawning with male pure-strain Florida bass at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens. Some of the resulting fingerlings are kept for genetic research or for use as future brooders and the rest are stocked in public waters in Texas.
Now in its 18th year, the Budweiser ShareLunker program has accepted more than 350 fish from 52 lakes and a number of private reservoirs. Campbell gives the program credit for helping to improve the quality of fisheries management in Texas, which results in better fishing statewide.
"When I went to work for TPWD in 1965, I was given a book that was regarded as the Bible on raising fish," he says. "Now I look at that book and have some good chuckles. We thought we knew absolutes, but knowledge has changed over the years, and it is our responsibility to change with it. I feel that the technology we have now just scratches the surface compared to what we will have two or three years from now."
Advances in genetic research now make it possible for TPWD to trace the ancestry of fish entered into the Budweiser ShareLunker program, and Campbell looks forward to the day when an entry can be identified as a descendant of an earlier Budweiser ShareLunker. "We can trace the ancestry of the males used in spawning all the way back to 1989," Campbell says. "One of the goals of the ShareLunker program all along has been to produce bigger fish. Genetic fingerprinting gives us a way to evaluate what we're doing."
According to Campbell, anglers are the key to the program's success. "I encourage people who've caught a bass weighing over 13 pounds to call as soon as possible, and to have an actual weight on the fish."
He has traveled halfway across the state in the middle of the night only
to find the fish did not qualify. Campbell's goal is to take possession of
the fish within 12 hours after it is caught in order to improve its chances
for survival. Tips for handling fish can be found on the TPWD Web site at (http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/fish/infish/
Anglers who wish to enter their catch in the program can page Campbell at (888) 784-0600 and leave their phone number, including area code, or call (903) 681-0550. Both numbers can be used at any hour, any day of the week. Campbell asks people not to call for information.
"I've had people call me at 2 a.m. to ask when squirrel season starts," he says. Out of state calls are also unwanted, as only fish caught in Texas can be entered in the program.
Anglers who enter a fish in the program can elect to donate it to TPWD or have it returned after the spawning period. Each person receives a fiberglass replica of their fish made by Lake Fork Taxidermy; a Budweiser ShareLunker cap, shirt and jacket; and two tickets to the annual awards banquet, which is at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in May. A lifetime fishing license is awarded to the Texas resident catching the largest fish.
The Budweiser ShareLunker program is sponsored by Anheuser Busch St. Louis through their sponsorship of the Parks & Wildlife Foundation of Texas, the official non-profit partner of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
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