Texas Fishing News (2014)

(Aug 17 Update)
 Biologists Studying Arroyo Colorado Tidal Stream
News Release
Media Contact: Steve Lightfoot, 512-389-4701, steve.lightfoot@tpwd.texas.gov
Aug. 4, 2014

AUSTIN – Earlier this year, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department coastal fisheries biologists began a two-year study of Arroyo Colorado, a tidal stream connected to lower Laguna Madre. Biologists received a grant to measure the quality of aquatic life in this ecologically important area.

This effort is part of a larger coast-wide assessment of tidal streams that has been under way for the better part of a decade.

“Specifically, we are working in conjunction with the existing Arroyo Colorado Watershed Partnership, as they update their watershed plan, with the goal of ultimately improving water quality for the Arroyo Colorado and Lower Laguna Madre,” said Janet Nelson, TPWD coastal biologist.

Tidal streams are components of estuaries, a better-known term for areas where freshwater from rivers and saltwater from bays converge. Because they provide a special kind of habitat, tidal streams are vital nursery grounds for many types of fish and shellfish.

“Tidal streams are complex ecosystems,” said Nelson. “We need to know more about threats to them that could undermine biodiversity in general and our sport and commercial fisheries in particular. We have been studying tidal streams in Texas for over ten years, and we now have a better understanding of what drives changes in these systems.”

Nelson said tidal stream salinity varies seasonally with rainfall, and this drives changes in fish populations. During times of abundant rainfall, freshwater fish such as gar, carp, and blue catfish are very abundant in the tidal stream, whereas during a drought many marine species, such as red fish, spotted sea trout, and pinfish can be found in these same areas. Other factors that affect habitat and water quality include hydrology (water movement), freshwater inflow, subsidence, land use and wastewater discharges.

Biologists will sample organisms (like fish, crabs, and shrimp) and water quality in the Arroyo Colorado during the spring, summer and fall. Habitat in the Arroyo and on its banks will be recorded at the beginning of this study. The land use for the surrounding area will also be analyzed. When the fieldwork is completed in November 2015, TPWD biologists will analyze the data and report on the ecological health of the Arroyo Colorado.

Other agencies participating in the study include the Lower Colorado River Authority and Texas A&M University at Corpus Christi.

(Aug 10 Update)
 Hunting, Fishing Licenses on sale Aug. 15
News Release
Media Contact: Steve Lightfoot, 512-389-4701, steve.lightfoot@tpwd.texas.gov

AUSTIN — New licenses for the 2014-15 hunting and fishing seasons go on sale Friday, August 15. The current year Texas hunting and fishing licenses (except year-to-date fishing licenses) will expire Aug. 31.

Every year, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department issues about 2.5 million hunting and fishing licenses through the agency’s 28 field offices, more than 50 state parks and at over 1,700 retailers across the state. Licenses may also be purchased online through the TPWD website at www.tpwd.state.tx.us/buy or by phone at 1-800-895-4248. Call center hours are Monday through Friday, 8 p.m. to 5 p.m. and there is a required $5 convenience fee for each phone or online transaction. The online transaction system is available 24/7. For online and phone orders, a physical license will be mailed within three business days. During that time period, a transaction receipt will be provided via email that will be sufficient proof of hunting license that can be used for dove hunting, though it will not be allowed for the take of fish or wildlife that require a tag.

Hunting and fishing regulations for the new season can be found in the 2014-2015 Outdoor Annual, available at license retailers August 15 and online at www.txoutdoorannual.com. Starting this fall, it’ll be easier than ever for hunters and anglers to take the Outdoor Annual with them in the field or on the water via a new app available by the end of August for free download on iPhone and Android platforms.

(Aug 3 Update)
 RestoreTheTexasCoast.org is Unveiled
Website serves as information portal for state’s Deepwater Horizon recovery efforts
News Release
Media Contact: Tom Harvey, 512-389-4453, tom.harvey@tpwd.texas.gov

The State of Texas has unveiled restorethetexascoast.org, a dedicated online resource for Deepwater Horizon oil spill recovery efforts.

Restorethetexascoast.org features links and background information on the three funding sources available, RESTORE (Resources & Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities and Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast States), NFWF/GEBP (Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund) and NRDA (Natural Resource Damage Assessment). The site also includes details associated with the state’s efforts to implement the RESTORE Act in Texas. Use of these funds will facilitate efforts to sustain a coordinated and integrated approach to appropriately respond to various coastal needs, both environmentally and economically.

With passage of the federal RESTORE Act, funds will be made available to the five Gulf States, including Texas, from civil and administrative penalties assessed against responsible parties associated with the one of the largest environmental disasters in U.S. history.

“Texas’s biological and economic resources are vital to both the health of the Gulf and our nation. Texas will utilize RESTORE Act funds on coastal restoration and economic revitalization, which will provide benefits not only in Texas, but across the Gulf Coast region and beyond,” says Texas Commission on Environmental Quality Commissioner and Chair of the Texas RESTORE Act Advisory Board, Toby Baker.

Plans are also underway for Commissioner Baker to hold four listening sessions later this year (in Corpus Christi, Galveston, South Padre Island and Beaumont), where participants can provide information on projects they want funded.

“Although the spill was unquestionably terribly unfortunate, the funding stemming from it now represents a critical opportunity to invest in the well-being and future of the Texas coast,” said Carter Smith, executive director of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, one of the trustee agencies overseeing the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Natural Resource Damage Assessment. “We are committed to identifying the best possible coastal projects for funding, and this website will help people stay informed and involved.”

“As a coastal fisherman myself, I’m excited to see this website go live," said Texas General Land Office Chief Clerk and Deputy Land Commissioner, Larry Laine,. "Restorethetexascoast.org will be a quick, easy way for anyone to propose a coastal project for funding from Texas’s Deepwater Horizon money. These projects will be a big step in restoring the Gulf and its system of bays and estuaries and in restoring the economy of the coastal communities."

(July 13 Update)
 Gulf of Mexico Shrimp Season to Open July 15
News Release
Media Contact: Mike Cox, 512-389-8046, mike.cox@tpwd.texas.gov

AUSTIN — The Gulf of Mexico commercial shrimp season for both state and federal waters will open 30 minutes after sunset Tuesday, July 15. 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 6 Update)
 Fish Habitat at Brushy Creek Reservoir Enhanced with Aquatic Vegetation Plantings
Media Contact: Marcos De Jesús, (512) 353-0072; Marcos.DeJesus@tpwd.texas.gov

ATHENS—Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) partnered with Austin Fly Fishers (AFF) and the City of Cedar Park Parks and Recreation Department to conduct native aquatic vegetation plantings at Brushy Creek Reservoir on June 21.

AFF, a charter club of the International Federation of Fly Fishers and pending Friends of Reservoirs chapter, gathered 22 volunteers to join TPWD Inland Fisheries management staff to plant 144 colonizing plants to help establish fish habitat, as recommended in the lake’s management plan. Four species of plants were used in this effort: American water-willow, arrowhead, square-stem spikerush and flat-stem spikerush. TPWD district fisheries supervisor Marcos De Jesús said “These individual plants will serve as colonizers. Under proper conditions, they may expand into lush stands that will provide excellent fish habitat, help stabilize sediment and improve water quality.”

Brushy Creek Reservoir, in Cedar Park, is one of five small urban impoundments in the greater Austin area that is intensively managed to provide diverse, high-quality fishing opportunities close to where people live.

“We need to make fishing relevant in cities for future generations, and TPWD is committed to this challenge,” said De Jesús. “The Neighborhood Fishin’ Program has already had a positive impact in urban areas, but lakes like Brushy Creek will provide a new level of fishing experiences for anglers seeking more fishing opportunities close to home.”

TPWD is seeking local partners to help intensively manage lakes such as Brushy Creek and make them sustainable fisheries. Organizations like AFF have made significant economic and hands-on contributions to help develop quality fisheries in the Austin Area. Future work with AFF will focus on Lake Kyle, a 12-acre impoundment in the City of Kyle.

Jim Gray, AFF President, said “Part of the Austin Fly Fishers’ mission is conservation through projects that benefit our members and the community. Our partnership with Texas Parks and Wildlife allows us to have an even greater impact by combining our resources on projects where the benefits are significant and long lasting. We see our efforts with the Brushy Creek Reservoir plantings and the improvements at Kyle Lake as examples of good stewardship that can be replicated on other water bodies.”

Any person or group wanting to participate in these types of reservoir habitat restoration projects on local lakes is encouraged to become a member of Friends of Reservoirs. See www.waterhabitatlife.org for details or contact your local district fisheries management office.

For more information on TPWD fishing programs, visit www.tpwd.state.tx.us/fishboat/fish/.

(June 29 Update)
 Statewide Boat-draining Rule Takes Effect July 1
Media Contact: Ken Kurzawski, (512) 389-4591, ken.kurzawski@tpwd.texas.gov

ATHENS – Beginning July 1, boaters must drain all water from their boat and on-board receptacles before leaving or approaching a body of fresh water anywhere in Texas.

The new Texas Parks and Wildlife Department regulation is designed to help combat the further spread of zebra mussels and other invasive species. It applies to all types and sizes of boats whether powered or not: personal watercraft, sailboats, kayaks/canoes, or any other vessel used on public waters.

The regulation requires the draining of livewells, bilges, motors, and any other receptacles or water-intake systems coming into contact with public waters.

Live fish, including personally caught live bait, cannot be transported from the water body where the fish were caught in or aboard a vessel in water from the water body where the fish were caught. Personally caught live bait can be used in the water body where it was caught.

Anglers are allowed to transport and use commercially purchased live bait if they have a receipt that identifies the source of the bait. Any live bait purchased from a location on or adjacent to a public water body that is transported in water from that water body can only be used as bait on that same water body.

Anglers participating in a fishing tournament confined to one water body may transport live fish in water from that single water body to an identified off-site weigh-in location, but all water must be drained and properly disposed of before leaving that location. Anglers are required to possess documentation provided by tournament organizers that identify them as participants in the tournament.

Movement from one access point to another on the same lake during the same day does not require draining, and there is an exception for governmental activities and emergencies. Marine sanitary systems are not covered by these regulations.

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and a coalition of partners are working to slow the spread of zebra mussels by reminding boaters to Clean, Drain and Dry their vessels before traveling from one lake to another. The partners in this effort include: North Texas Municipal Water District, Tarrant Regional Water District, City of Dallas Water Utilities Department, Trinity River Authority, San Jacinto River Authority, Sabine River Authority, Brazos River Authority, Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority, Lower Colorado River Authority, Upper Trinity Regional Water District, Canadian River Municipal Water Authority, City of Grapevine, Water Oriented Recreation District of Comal County, and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

More information is online at www.texasinvasives.org/zebramussels.

(June 15 Update)
 Nominations Sought for Texas Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame
New deadline for submission of nominations is November 1
News Release
Media Contact: Larry Hodge, 903-676-2277, larry.hodge@tpwd.texas.gov

ATHENS, Texas — Individuals or organizations that have made a lasting contribution to freshwater fishing in Texas may be nominated through November 1 for induction into the Texas Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame.

The nominee must be a Texan or Texas organization. Individuals may be either living or deceased. Selection will be made by an independent committee; induction will take place during the annual Hall of Fame banquet at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center (TFFC) in Athens.

Videos about prior inductees may be viewed in the Texas Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame at TFFC; some are also available on YouTube. Brief biographical sketches and links to videos may be found at.

Nomination forms and instructions are available on the TFFC web site at www.tpwd.state.tx.us/freshwaterfishinghalloffame or by calling (903) 670-2255.

(June 8 Update)
 Fishing for Fun at a Texas State Park
Media Contact: Rob McCorkle, TPWD, (830) 866-3533 or robert.mccorkle@tpwd.state.tx.us Stephanie Salinas, TPWD, (512) 389-8756 or stephanie.salinas@tpwd.texas.gov

AUSTIN – With the weather warming up, many families can head to a local state park and reel in some fun summer memories.

More than 70 Texas state parks with fishable waters make finding a place to fish in Texas easier than ever. Any angler can fish inside of a state park without a fishing license. Parks offer various places to fish, including fresh or saltwater fishing from shore, pier or boat.

If you’re new to fishing or want to introduce your children to a new way to enjoy the outdoors, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department offers fishing lessons through its Go Fish! program. This free workshop teaches the basics of angling and offers an overview of the different types of fishing equipment available. For upcoming Go Fish! events, visit the program’s calendar page.

TPWD brings fishing close to home by stocking channel catfish in local parks and ponds through its Neighborhood Fishin’ program throughout the summer. During winter months, rainbow trout are stocked in select freshwater lake and rivers where colder waters can sustain them. TPWD partners with local governments in 10 Texas cities to stock game fish about every two weeks in small neighborhood lakes. To learn more about the Neighborhood Fishin’ program and where to go fish, visit: www.neighborhoodfishin.org. Remember, if you’re 17 or older, you need a Texas fishing license to fish in lakes and ponds outside of Texas state parks.

Some state parks offer a “test drive” for fishing by offering loaner equipment. Find one of 30 state parks and other sites nearby that loan rods, reels and fishing tackle for visitors to use for free for up to seven days. To locate a park that loans equipment, visit the Tackle Loaner program page. http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/learning/angler_education/tackloan.phtmlThroughout the year, two fishing-centric TPWD facilities – Sea Center Texas in Lake Jackson and the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens – celebrate fishing and support Texas fisheries. Both fishing centers host occasional catch-and-release fishing events, and offer year-round tours of their nature centers, hatcheries and wetlands areas.

For a complete list of summer fishing derbies and events, workshops and other fishing-related activities, visit: www.texasstateparks.org/fishing.

To view a Video News Release about how to get started fishing, visit: http://youtu.be/CBIornYLod0
For a high resolution download of the video news release on the TPWD site, click on the link: http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/files/video

Access news images, videos, regional content, social media posts, radio episodes, public service announcements and an Outdoor Activity of the Month topic calendar at: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/c9dl81fs13v64hw/AAA7grf2Ys4XcMT6XwEZJRWqa

(June 1 Update)
 Texas Nature Challenge Connects Families With the Outdoors
Participating State Parks Offer Settings to Get Back to Nature
Media Contact: Leslie Kessner, Texas A&M Forest Service, 979-458-6600 or lkessner@tfs.tamu.edu; Jennifer Bristol, Texas Children in Nature, 512-389-8149 or Jennifer.bristol@tpwd.texas.gov

AUSTIN— The Texas Nature Challenge connects kids and families with fun outdoor adventures to make memories that will last a lifetime.

The challenge features family activities at nature centers, museums, gardens, or local and state parks designed to encourage families to explore and learn something unique to that location.

“I enjoyed going to new places with my family that I didn’t know existed around the coastal bend,” says Adina Gonzales, one of the youth participants in the 2013 Coastal Bend Challenge. “I love spending time with my kids outdoors and this gave us something to look forward to each week,” added Adina’s father, Rick.

Families may participate by visiting the designated sites, and then create a nature journal, scrapbook or blog to record their experiences and have a chance to win prizes.

“Children today are spending more than 7 hours a day with media. Activities like the Texas Nature Challenge create opportunities for families to engage with their kids or grandkids to have fun, healthy things to do together outside,” says Jennifer Bristol, Coordinator for Texas Children in Nature.

Participating state parks include: Pedernales Falls, Inks Lake, McKinney Falls, Goose Island, Mustang Island, McKinney Falls, Buescher and Bastrop.

“So head outside, learn new things and discover new places,” says Bristol.

Register your family or team and download challenges at http://naturechallenge.tamu.edu. The Texas Nature Challenge is hosted by the Texas A&M Forest Service.

(May 25 Update)
 Zebra Mussel Rules Now Expanded Statewide
Media Contact: Rob McCorkle, 830-928-2239, robert.mccorkle@tpwd.texas.gov or Brian Van Zee, 254-867-7974, brian.vanzee@tpwd.texas.gov

AUSTIN – The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission has approved a new regulation requiring that all boats operating on public fresh water anywhere in Texas be drained before leaving or approaching a lake or river to help combat the further spread of zebra mussels and other invasive species.

The rapidly reproducing mussels, originally from Eurasia, can have a serious economic, environmental and recreational impact on Texas reservoirs. Zebra mussels can clog public-water intake pipes, harm boats and motors left in infested waters by covering boat hulls, block water-cooling systems, annoy lake property owners by completely covering anything left under water, and make water recreation hazardous because of their sharp edges.

With the destructive invasive species having spread to Lake Belton, conservation officials and water-supply agencies are very concerned that zebra mussels could expand their range throughout the state, including Lake Travis and the other Highland Lakes.

“Zebra mussels have been moving steadily deeper into Texas since they were first found in Lake Texoma in 2009,” says Brian Van Zee, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Inland Fisheries Division regional director who has spearheaded the agency’s response to zebra mussels in Texas. “Now that they are in Lake Belton, the Highland Lakes are in the cross hairs as are many of the public waters in Central Texas.”

David Cowan, Lower Colorado Authority senior water quality coordinator, says the LCRA routinely monitors the Highland Lakes.

“So far we haven’t seen any evidence of zebra mussels,” Cowan said. “We will continue working closely with Texas Parks and Wildlife in urging the public to help us keep zebra mussels out of the Highland Lakes. The mussels not only are a nuisance, but they could pose serious operational problems for the dams, water intake structures and the general health of the lakes.”

While the new measure won’t take effect until July 1, TPWD urges all boaters to begin the preventative practice immediately since microscopic larvae (called veligers) hiding in your boat can travel to another water body and cause a new zebra mussel infestation.

Currently in effect in 47 North and Central Texas counties, the new rule requires persons leaving or approaching public water to drain all water from their vessels and on-board receptacles. This applies to all types and sizes of boats whether powered or not, personal watercraft, sailboats, kayaks/canoes, or any other vessel used on public waters.

“The way to comply with this requirement is simple,” Van Zee said. “All you have to do is clean, drain and dry your boat. This is critical, because in their initial state, zebra mussels are invisible to the naked eye.”

The soon-to-be statewide rule, which is similar to those in other states impacted by zebra mussels, is based on the fact that trailered boats tend to be the most likely way zebra mussels get from one water body to another. Since boaters in Texas travel throughout the state to engage in various forms of recreational activity, from skiing to fishing, the rule has been made statewide.

The regulation also requires the draining of live wells, bilges, motors, and any other receptacles or water-intake systems coming into contact with public waters.

Live fish, including personally caught live bait, cannot be transported in a vessel in water that comes from the water body where they were caught. Personally caught live bait can be used in the water body where it was caught.

Anglers are allowed to transport and use commercially purchased live bait provided persons in possession of the bait have a receipt that identifies the source of the bait. Any live bait purchased from a location on or adjacent to a public water body that is transported in water from that water body could only be used as bait on that same water body.

The rules allow anglers participating in a fishing tournament confined to one water body to transport live fish in water from that single water body to an identified off-site weigh-in location, provided all water is drained and properly disposed of before leaving that location. Anglers are required to possess documentation provided by tournament organizers that would identify them as participants in the tournament.

Movement from one access point to another on the same lake during the same day does not require draining and there is an exception for governmental activities and emergencies. Marine sanitary systems are not covered by these regulations.

“The BRA supports the efforts of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and will continue to assist them in preventing the spread of mussels to our system reservoirs,” said Phil Ford, general manager and chief executive officer for the Brazos River Authority.

Zebra mussels became established in Texas in Lake Texoma in 2009. In 2012, they were found in Lake Ray Roberts and the Elm Fork of the Trinity River. Last year, zebra mussels spread to Lakes Bridgeport, Lavon, Lewisville, and Belton. From an environmental perspective, zebra mussels are filter feeders that 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 also threaten native mussel populations because they colonize on their shells and essentially suffocate them.

“Zebra mussel infestations may also be related to blooms of toxic blue-green algae,” Van Zee said. “In 2011, Lake Texoma was closed to swimming for a time because of an outbreak of blue-green algae. The bottom line about zebra mussels is that they are bad news for Texas and we need to do everything we can to stop their spread.”

TPWD and a coalition of partners are working to slow the spread of zebra mussels by reminding boaters to Clean, Drain and Dry their vessels before traveling from one lake to another. The partners in this effort include: North Texas Municipal Water District, Tarrant Regional Water District, City of Dallas Water Utilities Department, Trinity River Authority, San Jacinto River Authority, Sabine River Authority, Brazos River Authority, Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority, Lower Colorado River Authority, Upper Trinity Regional Water District, Canadian River Municipal Water Authority, City of Grapevine, Water Oriented Recreation District of Comal County, and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

More information, including where water draining regulations are currently in effect, is online at www.texasinvasives.org/zebramussels.

(May 18 Update)
 Toyota ShareLunker Season Ends Quietly
News Release
Media Contact: Larry Hodge, 903-676-2277, larry.hodge@tpwd.texas.gov

ATHENS—After getting off to a fast start with three entries in November and December, the Toyota ShareLunker season sputtered to an end April 30 with a total of only nine entries.

Low lake levels, unseasonably cold spring temperatures and windy conditions on many weekends combined to limit angler opportunities to catch big bass. But the fish were out there, and those who persevered will be rewarded with replicas of their catches and ShareLunker clothing at a banquet at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center on June 7.

Two catches were new lake records. Ken Leonard of New Braunfels set the new mark for Lady Bird Lake in downtown Austin with Toyota ShareLunker 556, a 13.0-pounder caught March 18. The first ShareLunker from that water body, it was returned to the lake March 22. Casey Laughlin of Rowlett caught the new Lake Palestine record, a 13.22-pounder, during a Media Bass tournament February 1. It was returned to the lake February 7.

Four of the nine entries were caught by out-of-state anglers, proving once again the tourism value of Texas trophy bass fishing. That value was underscored time and again by the 50 professional anglers at the Toyota Texas Bass Classic (TTBC) on Lake Fork in May. Every angler in the world championship of bass fishing commented on the quality of bass fishing on Lake Fork in particular and the entire state in general.

"Lake Fork is fishing better than any lake in Texas right now and probably the whole country,” said three-time TTBC champion Keith Combs. “This event proved that it is still the best lake in Texas. Lake Fork is unbelievable! You really never know what you’re going to catch. Every time I set the hook today, I thought it was going to be a 10-pounder. There aren’t many places we fish on the pro tours where that happens."

Lake Fork produced three of the nine entries into the Toyota ShareLunker program during the season just ended, including the 13.86-pounder that earned Tulsa, Oklahoma, angler Randall Claybourne Angler of the Year honors for biggest bass. Lake Fork also produced the first catch of the season, a 13.29-pounder reeled in by Stephen L. Proctor of Pryor, Oklahoma, on November 21 and returned to the lake December 3.

Lake Athens, adjacent to the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center, produced two entries, both of which were pure Florida largemouth bass and therefore eligible to be spawned to produce fingerlings for stocking back into lakes producing entries. Time and the results of DNA testing on future program entries will tell if any of those fry grow up to become ShareLunkers themselves.

One of the Lake Athens fish, Toyota ShareLunker 553, caught by Athens resident Frank Kirk, spawned three times, resulting in 117,425 fry. Kirk released the fish back into Lake Athens on May 5. The other, caught by Jason Hanson, was the second-largest entry of the season at 13.76 pounds. The fish was held for spawning but did not and was returned to the lake on May 12.

Claybourne’s fish, Toyota ShareLunker 552, was also pure Florida largemouth bass and spawned once, producing 26,015 fry. Claybourne released the fish back into Lake Fork on May 8.

A Toledo Bend Reservoir fish, 13.3-pound Toyota ShareLunker 557, caught by Lance Wakeland of Fenton, Missouri, indicated that more entries may be coming from that lake in the near future. After sporadically producing entries in 1996, 2004, 2006 and 2008, Toledo Bend has now produced entries for the last three years in a row. Number 557 was returned to the lake March 25.

Despite being covered up with boats and producing lots of big bass, Lake Austin managed to send only one fish to the Toyota ShareLunker program this season, a 13.19-pounder caught by Robert Whitehead of Austin. That fish, Toyota ShareLunker 555, died March 11.

Blake Eppinette of Downsville, Louisiana, caught 13.6-pound ShareLunker 550, a pure Florida largemouth bass, on December 27, 2013, from Lake Fork. It died two days later.

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.

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.

The number to call to report a ShareLunker catch 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.

Official ShareLunker weigh and holding stations have been established at a number of reservoirs; a list is at http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/spdest/visitorcenters/tffc/sharelunker/holding/.

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, will be posted on www.facebook.com/sharelunkerprogram. “Like” this page and you can receive notification and photos of catches as soon as they become available.

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.

(May 11 Update)
 TPWD Seeking Information from Hand-fishing Anglers
Media Contact: Kris Bodine, (830) 866-3356, ext. 213; kris.bodine@tpwd.texas.gov

ATHENS—Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) is seeking additional information to learn more about the practice of hand fishing for catfish in the state. Also known as noodling or grabbling, hand fishing was legalized in Texas in 2011.

“Because it is so new to our state, we are hoping to identify who hand-fishing anglers are and what their needs may be,” said Kris Bodine, a TPWD fisheries research biologist. “TPWD will be conducting a survey over the next 60 days to better understand the needs, opinions and characteristics of hand-fishing anglers in Texas.”

The survey should take five to 10 minutes to complete online at https://survey.tpwd.state.tx.us/TakeSurvey.aspx?SurveyID=8803304. Anglers may complete the survey any time between now and June 30.

The survey is voluntary, and no one has to answer any question they do not wish to answer. Responses to the survey will remain confidential.

Purpose of the survey is to improve catfish populations across the state as well as to ensure that the needs and opinions of hand-fishing anglers are included in future management plans.

(May 4 Update)
 Toyota Texas Bass Classic Brings Big Benefits to TPWD, Local Economy, Lake Fork Fishery
Media Contact: Dave Terre, Chief of Management and Research, TPWD Inland Fisheries

ATHENS—The Toyota Texas Bass Classic (TTBC) world championship bass tournament will return to Lake Fork May 9—11, 2014.

Designed to showcase one of the best trophy bass lakes in the world and the fisheries management that developed it, the TTBC has raised over $1.75 million for Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) fisheries programs. This year’s tournament is expected to bring in an additional $250,000 in funding for the department’s youth fishing and outreach programs.
The TTBC was conceived on Lake Fork during a fishing trip involving professional angler Kelly Jordan and then TPWD commissioners T. Dan Friedkin and Donato Ramos. The first two TTBC tournaments were held on Lake Fork in 2007 and 2008 before moving to Lake Conroe.

The TTBC is much more than just a fishing tournament. The partnership between TPWD and Toyota and the Toyota Texas Bass Classic is designed to support programs that encourage people, especially youth, to get outdoors and fish. An Outdoor Adventures Area will feature displays and outdoor activities that give attendees opportunities to experience fishing for catfish, archery, kayaking and more. Sampling is encouraged at the barbecue cook-off, and visitors can test-drive the latest ATVs and Toyota trucks. Country music concerts by top entertainers cap each day’s events.

The TTBC also gives financially supports TPWD’s Neighborhood Fishin’ Program, which regularly stocks fish into 16 urban-area lakes that allow people to fish close to home. The newest Neighborhood Fishin’ Lake is Woldert Pond in Tyler, just down the road from Lake Fork. Some 85,000 people a year fish in Neighborhood Fishin’ ponds, and about half those are youth or people new to fishing.

Another program supported by the Toyota Texas Bass Classic is the Texas division of the State-Fish Art Contest. Students in grades K-12 submit drawings of fish and compete for scholarships. Artwork from that contest appears on Toyota Texas Bass Classic tickets. Research shows that students who take part in this contest are more likely to become interested in fishing. More than 1,100 youths entered the Texas division of the State-Fish Art Contest just ended, more than any other state.

The partnership between TTBC and TPWD exemplify TPWD’s core messages. Everything is connected. Everyone does play a part. But when you have a big bass on the end of your line, life isn’t just better outside, it’s AWESOME! Nowhere in Texas is that more likely to happen than on Lake Fork, and the reasons are the partnership between TPWD and the Sabine River Authority (SRA), geography, and TPWD’s management of the lake.

Lake Fork’s outstanding bass fishery was made possible by a number of factors. Fork is located in a watershed that provides important nutrients to the lake, and TPWD and the SRA cooperated to build on that base. Much of the timber was left standing in the lake, and Florida largemouth bass were stocked into farm ponds in the reservoir basin prior to impoundment. Progressively restrictive harvest regulations have protected fish of breeding size. In recent years, TPWD has partnered with SRA and the Lake Fork Sportsman’s Association to enhance fish habitat.

Lake Fork has produced 256 of the 557 entries into the Toyota ShareLunker program, an angler recognition and selective breeding program that uses angler-donated 13-pound or bigger largemouth bass to produce fingerlings for stocking into Texas public waters. Fork produced 33 of the 50 biggest bass ever caught in Texas, including the current state record of 18.18 pounds.

Conservation is at the heart of TPWD fisheries management, and the TTBC tournament format furthers that effort. Fish 16 to 24 inches long are weighed on the water and immediately released; anglers are allowed to bring one fish over 24 inches to the weigh-in. Fish brought to the weigh-in are cared for by TPWD biologists and returned to the lake.

The payoff for these efforts can be seen in the local economy. Lake Fork’s economic impact on Wood County is estimated at more than $23 million annually, and the 2008 TTBC brought 30,000 people to the area and generated nearly $2 million for the local economy.

“None of this can happen without public support,” said Dave Terre, TPWD’s Inland Fisheries Chief of Management and Research. “By attending the Toyota Texas Bass Classic, you are also supporting TPWD programs such as Neighborhood Fishin’ and the State-Fish Art Contest. In addition to helping make possible these programs that benefit your own family today, you will play a part in passing on the traditions of fishing and good management of our natural resources to future generations. They and we thank you.”

Information on the 2014 TTBC is posted at www.toyotatexasbassclassic.com as it becomes available. Videos of previous tournaments can be viewed on YouTube.

(April 27 Update)
 Public Comment Sought on Rules to Require Draining Water from Vessels on All Public Fresh Waters
Media Contact: Ken Kurzawski, 512-389-4591, ken.kurzawski@tpwd.texas.gov or Mike Cox, 512-389-8046, mike.cox@tpwd.texas.gov

AUSTIN – The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission has approved for public comment a proposal to require that all boats operating on all public fresh water in Texas be drained after use to help combat the further spread of zebra mussels.

Under the water draining regulations that are currently in effect in 47 counties in North and Central Texas (see below for a link to the list of counties), persons leaving or approaching public water in the affected counties are required to drain all water from their vessels and on-board receptacles. This applies to all types and sizes of boats whether powered or not, personal watercraft, sailboats, kayaks/canoes, or any other vessel used on public waters.

Many of the public waters in Texas are at risk of infestation by zebra mussels. Boats are the most likely source for most of the current infestations. Since boaters in Texas travel throughout the state to engage in that activity, the proposal under consideration would expand these regulations to all public fresh water in every county in Texas.

Applicable at all sites where boats can be launched, the regulation requires the draining of live wells, bilges, motors, and any other receptacles or water-intake systems coming into contact with public waters.

Live fish, including personally caught live bait, cannot be transported in a vessel in water that comes from the water body where they were caught. Personally caught live bait can be used in the water body where it was caught.

Anglers are allowed to transport and use commercially purchased live bait in water while fishing from a vessel provided persons in possession of the bait have a receipt that identifies the source of the bait. Any live bait purchased from a location on or adjacent to a public water body that is transported in water from that water body could only be used as bait on that same water body.
The rules allow anglers participating in a fishing tournament confined to one water body to transport live fish in water from that single water body to an identified off-site weigh-in location, provided all water is drained and properly disposed of before leaving that location. Anglers are required to possess documentation provided by tournament organizers that would identify them as participants in a tournament.

Movement from one access point to another on the same lake during the same day does not require draining and there is an exception for governmental activities and emergencies. Marine sanitary systems are not covered by these regulations.

Zebra mussels became established in Texas in Lake Texoma in 2009. In 2012, they were found in Lake Ray Roberts and the Elm Fork of the Trinity River. Last year, zebra mussels spread to Lakes Bridgeport, Lavon, Lewisville, and Belton. They can expand their range even farther by hitching a ride on trailered boats that have been immersed or moored in waters where they have established populations.

The rapidly reproducing mussels, originally from Eurasia, can have serious economic and recreational impact to Texas reservoirs. They can clog public-water intake pipes, harm boats and motors left in infested waters by covering boat hulls, clog water-cooling systems, annoy boat-dock owners by completely covering anything left under water, and make water recreation hazardous because of their sharp edges.

From an environmental perspective, zebra mussels are filter feeders, which means 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 also threaten native mussel populations because they will colonize on their shells and essentially suffocate them.

Comment on the proposed regulation may also be made in writing to Ken Kurzawski, TPWD Inland Fisheries, 4200 Smith School Rd., Austin, TX 78744, or by email at ken.kurzawski@tpwd.texas.gov. The public may comment on the proposed rules online beginning at 8 a.m. April 18 at http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/business/feedback/public_comment/.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission is expected to take action on the proposed change at its May 22 meeting in Austin.

For the list of counties were water draining regulations are currently in effect: http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/regulations/outdoor-annual/fishing/general-rules-regulations/possession-and-transport-of-exotic-aquatic-species.

(April 20 Update)
 It’s Fishin’ Time in Texas
Neighborhood Fishin’ Program Expands to Tyler
News Release
Media Contact: Larry Hodge, 903-676-2277, larry.hodge@tpwd.texas.gov

ATHENS—Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) has begun stocking channel catfish into Neighborhood Fishin’ Program lakes in urban areas across Texas. Stockings will take place every two weeks through the summer and fall except during August, when high water temperatures may limit fish survival.

New to the Neighborhood Fishin’ program this year is Woldert Park Pond in Tyler. The park is located at 501 West 32nd street; the pond is downhill from the Glass Recreation Center.
Neighborhood Fishin’ is a program of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD).

“Neighborhood Fishin’ aims to give Texas families a good place to fish close to where they live,” said Dave Terre, TPWD’s director of research and management for Inland Fisheries. “We estimate that more than 80,000 people a year participate in the program, and about half of those are children or adults who are new to fishing. Connecting kids to the outdoors through fishing makes them happier and healthier, and they do better in school. Outdoor lifestyles also strengthen families.”

Local sponsors play a key role in the Neighborhood Fishin’ program by providing funds to purchase additional fish beyond those made possible by statewide support from the Texas Bass Classic Foundation and the federal Sport Fish Restoration Program. Cities and counties where Neighborhood Fishin’ lakes are located purchase some fish in addition to providing facilities at the sites.

In Tarrant County, the Neighborhood Fishin’ lakes in Hurst’s Chisholm Park and Fort Worth’s Greenbriar Park benefit from the financial support of the Sportsmen’s Club of Fort Worth and the Nell V. Bailey Charitable Trust. Valero sponsors Miller’s Pond in San Antonio. Woldert Park Pond is sponsored by the East Texas Woods and Waters Foundation of Tyler.

“Having local partners such as these makes the program stronger and larger and allows us to bring more people into fishing,” Terre said. “We target metropolitan areas with populations of 100,000 or more, and we would welcome additional partners in any such area.”

Any organization interested in partnering with TPWD on the Neighborhood Fishin’ Program should contact Terre at (512) 389-4855.

Stocking is a key component of Neighborhood Fishin’, since it provides a constant supply of catchable, eating-size fish. “Our goal is to encourage families to bring their kids for a fun, outdoor fish-catching experience where they can harvest a few fish and take them home to eat,” said Terre. Channel catfish are stocked from April through October, and rainbow trout are stocked in winter months.

For more information on the Neighborhood Fishin’ program, including locations and directions, tackle loaner programs where available, instructional fishing videos, fishing regulations and program partners, visit www.neighborhoodfishin.org.

(April 13 Update)
 Toyota Texas Bass Classic Brings Texas Sized Entertainment to Lake Fork May 9-11, 2014
Limited tickets available at your local Toyota dealers, Academy Sports +Outdoors, Brookshire’s and www.ToyotaTexasBassClassic.com

QUITMAN—The Toyota Texas Bass Classic (TTBC) is returning to Lake Fork in a big way. The Sabine River Authority in Quitman will again host this world-class bass fishing tournament and outdoor country music festival. We are proud to announce our exceptional entertainment this year, featuring country super stars, Pat Green, Little Big Town, and Justin Moore.

“The anticipation and excitement for the Toyota Texas Bass Classic is off the charts this year. TTBC will be bringing premiere country music artists, as well as the world’s best anglers to Lake Fork. We hope to break records on and off the water” said Tournament Director Lenny Francoeur. “Not only do we have family friendly ticket prices, but the sale of tickets will help us in our ongoing effort to support the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.”

Single day, general admission tickets are available for $15 in advance (or $25 at the gate). That ticket includes parking and kids 17 and under get in free with a ticketed adult. Pat Green will be kicking off Friday’s country music concert and Little Big Town will take the stage on Saturday, May 10. Rounding out the event’s entertainment will be Justin Moore, Sunday, May 11. In addition to the headlining entertainment artists, the TTBC will also feature a variety of regional bands including Tyler and the Tribe, Southern Slang, Backroad Anthem, and Sister C. Tickets are available now at www.ToyotaTexasBassClassic.com, your local Toyota dealerships, Academy Sports + Outdoors, and Brookshire’s.

A three-time Grammy nominee, Pat Green has become a cultural force across the country selling out venues from Nokia Theater in Times Square to the Houston Astrodome in Texas. Green’s explosive live shows have made him a fan favorite and a hot ticket, landing tours with the likes of Willie Nelson and Dave Matthews Band. Named “the Springsteen of the South West” in People Magazine, Green has sold over 2 million albums, released a collection of hits at country radio and has been praised in Esquire, Blender, Billboard and USA Today.

Critically acclaimed country group, Little Big Town — consisting of members Karen Fairchild, Phillip Sweet, Kimberly Schlapman and Jimi Westbrook — first entered the music scene over 13 years ago with hits such as “Boondocks,” “Bring It On Home,” “Good As Gone” and Grammy-nominated single “Little White Church.” The quartet’s fifth studio album Tornado was released on September 11, 2012 and debuted at the top of the Billboard Country Chart where it stayed in the #1 position for five consecutive weeks. The album recently received platinum certification with sales of over 1 million copies. Tornado, produced by Jay Joyce, includes 2x platinum-selling #1 hit single “Pontoon” and follow-up single and title-track “Tornado” which also peaked in the #1 position. The Grammy-nominated track, “Your Side of the Bed” and current single “Sober” are also featured on the album. Collectively, the group has earned over 25 award show nominations and has taken home the award for ACM Top New Vocal Group, CMA Single of the Year (“Pontoon”), CMA Vocal Group of the Year (2012 and 2013), ACM Vocal Group of the Year, ACM Video of the Year ("Tornado"), a Grammy Award for Best Country Group/Duo Performance (“Pontoon”) and an Emmy award (Outstanding Original Song-“Good Afternoon”). The foursome recently wrapped up their sold-out headlining tour and is also a tour with Keith Urban.

Little Big Town is currently working on a new album, which is expected for release later this year. The first single off of the new record entitled “Day Drinking” should hit country radio in late spring.

For a second consecutive time, Justin Moore debuted at #1 on the Billboard Country Albums Chart and #2 on the all-genre chart with OFF THE BEATEN PATH. The project has already produced Justin’s fourth #1, “Point At You,” and current Top 25-and-rising single “Lettin’ The Night Roll," which has sold over 120,000 downloads. Combined with his previous GOLD-certified albums – JUSTIN MOORE and OUTLAWS LIKE ME – Justin has sold over 5.3 million digital downloads. While his music has been featured on the ABC hit drama “NASHVILLE,” Hannity & Colmes and NFL Rewind, he has been profiled by publications such as The Washington Post, People Country, Billboard and USA Today. Justin is currently headlining the OFF THE BEATEN PATH TOUR with special guests Randy Houser and Josh Thompson. Beginning March 24, fans can vote daily at www.voteacm.com to help Justin bring home the ACM New Artist of the Year trophy during April 2 awards show, airing on CBS. Visit www.moorejustinmusic.com for tour dates and more.

The 2014 Toyota Texas Bass Classic will host a stellar 50-angler field, assembled from the top professional leagues, including the PAA Tournament Series, Bassmaster Elite Series and the Walmart FLW Tour, creating a true bass fishing world championship. The TTBC is an outdoor festival that includes exceptional entertainment and a variety of family and industry activities.

Current sponsors: Toyota, Bass Pro Shop, Leer Truck Caps, HOLT Cat, Ugly Stik, Republic Services, Tellespen, ATX Wheels, Geico, Yamaha, Academy Sports + Outdoors, Brookshire’s, TLC Radio, KMOO Radio, KYKX 105.7, 104.1 The Ranch, the Coca-Cola Company, & the Sabine River Authority

(April 6 Update)
 Athens Eggfest 2014 Set for April 12 at Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center
ATHENS—The fourth annual Athens Eggfest is scheduled for Saturday, April 12, at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center (TFFC).

The event will run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Cooking will end at 3 p.m. Tasting will continue until all the food is gone.

Regular admission to TFFC will be charged. Those who preregister will be allowed to taste for a $5 donation to the Friends of the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center.

Persons who do not preregister can still taste by making a $10 donation to the Friends of the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center at the event entrance.

Both cooks and tasters may preregister at http://athenseggfest.wordpress.com/. There is no fee to cook.

This year’s Eggfest will feature guest cook Tyron Smith, known to Dallas Cowboys fans as Number 77. The TFFC Eggfest can be thought of as an ultimate tailgate cookout. Dozens of Eggheads will fire up Big Green Eggs and bake, smoke, grill and serve everything from breakfast casseroles to pork bellies to wild game to blueberry muffins to pig candy. It will all be cooked on the iconic ceramic cookers, and samples will be available for tasting.

The theme for this year’s Athens Eggfest is “Grillin’ and Chillin’.” An Eggfest is not a cooking competition, it’s a tasting frenzy accompanied by cooking instruction. Food will be coming off the Eggs all day long, starting with breakfast-type items in the morning and progressing to heartier foods as the day goes on. While tasting, you can learn how to cook on a ceramic cooker yourself.
“The basic idea behind the Eggfest is to get people outdoors, and what better way to do that than by offering them delicious food,” said Allen Forshage, TFFC director. “And while they are here, we hope they will take time to fish in our ponds, walk our Wetlands Trail and learn about the role TFFC and TPWD play in keeping fishing great in Texas.”

Demo eggs used at this event will be available for purchase at the end of the day. Click on the link above to reserve a once-used ceramic cooker prior to the event.

The Athens Eggfest is sponsored by Morrison Supply, Paragon Distributing, Brookshire’s Food and Pharmacy, Friends of TFFC and First State Bank—Athens.

For more information on visiting TFFC, visit www.tpwd.texas.gov/tffc or call (903) 676-2277.

(March 30 Update)
 5-Fish Seatrout Bag Limit, Guadalupe River Trout Conservation Rules Adopted
News Release
Media Contact: Steve Lightfoot, 512-389-4701, steve.lightfoot@tpwd.texas.gov

AUSTIN — Expansion into the Texas coastal bend of special harvest regulations on spotted seatrout, and harvest modifications to the state’s only year-round freshwater trout fishery have been approved by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission.

As part of the 2014-15 Statewide Recreational and Commercial Fishing Proclamation, the Commission adopted rules to extend a 5-fish bag limit currently in effect in the Lower Laguna Madre up the coast through the Highway 457 bridge near Sargent with a five-year sunset date. The Commission modified the original proposal to set the possession limit on spotted seatrout for the area from the Lower Laguna Madre to the Highway 457 bridge twice the daily bag limit (10 fish in possession).

The Commission also approved a temporary 2-year closure of oyster harvest at a 54-acre oyster restoration site on Half-Moon Reef in Matagorda Bay, and a 2-year temporary closure of seven restoration sites in East Galveston Bay.

In other changes to saltwater fishing regulations, the Commission extended the two flounder per day bag limit restrictions currently in effect for the month of November into the first two weeks of December. During these first two weeks of December, however, harvest would be allowed by any legal means.

For freshwater, the Commission approved changes to the rainbow and brown trout fishery along a section of the Guadalupe River below Canyon Reservoir establishing a 12- to 18-inch slot length limit with a five-fish daily bag limit, harvest by artificial lures only, and only one trout over 18 inches could be retained. The new regulation zone would begin 800 yards downstream from the Canyon Dam release and extend downstream to the easternmost Highway 306 bridge crossing.

The Commission also granted authority for Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Executive Director to impose temporary prohibition of alligator gar fishing in specified areas to provide additional protection during spawning activity. Closures would be invoked in a selected area, limited to no more than 30 days, and occur only in areas having an active moderate flood event with water temperatures within an optimum range for alligator gar spawning.

In other freshwater fishing regulation changes, the Commission adopted the following:
Texas/Louisiana Border Waters (Toledo Bend Reservoir, Caddo Lake, and the Lower Sabine River in Newton and Orange Counties): regulations for blue and channel catfish changed to no minimum length limit and a 50-fish daily bag limit in any combination, of which no more than five blue or channel catfish 30 inches or longer could be retained.
Tradinghouse Creek Reservoir: the special limits for freshwater lakes where red drum have been stocked are removed and regulations revert to statewide length limits (20-inch minimum length limit, 28-inch maximum length limit, and harvest of up to two red drum 28 inches or longer per year with trophy drum tag). Bag limit remains at three.
Lake Kyle: regulations changed to catch and release (no harvest) of channel and blue catfish, largemouth bass, or any sunfish species.
Canyon Lake Project #6: Harvest regulation for channel and blue catfish changed to no minimum length limit and a five-fish daily bag and anglers restricted to only two poles.
North Concho River from O. C. Fisher Dam to Bell Street Dam and the South Concho River from Lone Wolf Dam to Bell Street Dam: Anglers restricted to using two poles.
Recreational anglers who fish with jug lines will be allowed to use floats of any color except orange. Commercial anglers will continue to be restricted to using orange-colored floats.

All changes take effect Sept. 1, 2014.


(March 23 Update)
 Colorado River Guadalupe Bass Is Multiple State, Potential World Records
Fish on display at Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens
News Release News Images
Media Contact: Larry Hodge, 903-676-2277, larry.hodge@tpwd.texas.gov

ATHENS—A 3.71-pound, 17-inch Guadalupe Bass caught from the Colorado River below Austin appears to qualify as a new state and world record in several categories.

Dr. Bryan Townsend of Austin was fly-fishing with guide Shea McClanahan on Saturday, February 1, when he landed the largest specimen of the state fish of Texas reported caught.

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) Inland Fisheries biologist Marcos De Jesus met the party at the river and assisted in transporting the fish to the Cabela’s in Buda, where it was weighed on a certified scale.

DNA testing confirmed the fish is pure Guadalupe bass.

Townsend elected to donate the fish to TPWD for display at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens. The fish can be seen in the dive tank in the theater.

“The Colorado River below Austin, from Longhorn Dam to La Grange, has been a special bass fishery for many years,” said De Jesus. “Productive waters and excellent habitat have helped support a healthy black bass population composed of largemouth bass and Guadalupe bass. Recently, with reduced pulses due to drought, aquatic vegetation exploded all over this river segment. Flood events in October flushed a lot of it downstream, making it easier to fish.”

De Jesus noted that many large Guadalupe and largemouth bass are caught by anglers every year from this stretch of river. Guadalupe bass in the two- to three-pound range are frequently reported and documented by fishing guides in their web pages. Reports of 50- to 100-fish trips are not uncommon.

“Spring and fall are good times to catch large numbers of fish,” De Jesus said. “TPWD has been working with local governments and private landowners to develop public river access in this stretch to allow paddlers to enjoy this resource. There are a number of public access points available, including the Bastrop paddling trail.”

For information on access points, visit www.tpwd.state.tx.us/fishboat/boat/paddlingtrails/.
Townsend’s fish qualifies as the new state and water body weight and water body and state fly-fishing records. It may qualify for International Game Fish Association (IGFA) world records as well.
World records are established by the International Game Fish Association (IGFA). Texas records are available at http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/fishboat/fish/programs/fishrecords/.

(March 16 Update)
 Public Hearing Set for Proposed 160 Acre Public Artificial Reef Site
Media Contact: Dale Shively, 512-389-4686 or dale.shively@tpwd.texas.gov

AUSTIN— The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is proposing to create a new 160 acre public artificial reef site south of the Galveston Jetties. The proposed site is six and a half miles from the shoreline in about 48 feet of water.

A public hearing to discuss the proposal is set for 7 p.m. on Wednesday, April 2 at the Galveston Yacht Basin, 715 North Holiday Dr., Galveston, TX, 77550. For directions, call 409-765-3000.

The public may also provide input online at www.tpwd.state.tx.us or by contacting Dale Shively at 512-389-4686 or Dale.shively@tpwd.texas.gov .

(March 9 Update)
 Toyota Texas Bass Classic Looking for Volunteers
Volunteer opportunities available at the Toyota Texas Bass Classic at Lake Fork
Media Contact: Annie Kooy, Marketing & Communications, (479) 715-6100 or Annie.Kooy@octagon.com; Lenny Francoeur, Tournament Director, (479) 715-6103 or Lenny.Francoeur@octagon.com; Rebecca Zajac, Coordinator, (734) 717-4884 or Rebecca.Zajac@octagon.com

QUITMAN—The Toyota Texas Bass Classic (TTBC) is seeking volunteers to help support the Texas sized outdoor music festival and world championship fishing event. The 8th annual TTBC is returning to Lake Fork, May 9-11, 2014. The event will host the world’s greatest anglers as well as chart topping country music performances. Fishing knowledge is not required and those who register now will receive an unforgettable experience.

Along with the memories, volunteers will receive exclusive tournament gear; including an official TTBC t-shirt, hat, lunch, volunteer badge (serves as general admission Friday, Saturday & Sunday) and a parking pass. Below you will find a list and brief description of the TTBC Committees.

ADMISSIONS/WILL CALL: Admissions volunteers will be responsible for supporting the admissions gate and assisting security to ensure that all spectators have the proper tickets for entry. Will Call volunteers will be responsible for staffing a ticket booth at the event entrance for ticket buyers to pick up previously purchased tickets.

MEDIA/PR: Assist Tournament and PAA staff with the general operations of the Media Center and promotion of the Tournament, assist with sponsor requests and angler appearances.

TOURNAMENT OFFICE: Assists Tournament Staff with answering the phones, greeting visitors, receiving and logging deliveries along with other administrative duties as requested by Tournament Staff.

TPWD OUTDOOR ADVENTURES AREA: Assist the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD) with various activities in the TP&W Outdoor Adventures Area.

VOLUNTEER SERVICES: Responsible for staffing the volunteer headquarters, handling uniform distribution and maintaining a comfortable working environment for the volunteers.
“Volunteering is a great way to get in on all the action at the Toyota Texas Bass Classic. There’s a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes to make an event of this size work, and the volunteers are a major part of making it a success,” said Lenny Francoeur, Tournament Director. “Volunteering also provides an excellent opportunity to connect within your community and join in on the support of the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department.”

About The Tournament: The Toyota Texas Bass Classic is a world-class bass fishing tournament, featuring the top 50 bass anglers in the world, along with a festival to include exceptional entertainment and a variety of family and industry activities. This three day event will take place May 9-11, 2014 at Lake Fork, Quitman, Texas.

Events / Entertainment: Extraordinary live music and events that will appeal to the whole family. This will include a variety of games and activities at the Texas Parks & Wildlife Outdoor Adventures Area, incredible food and a fishing industry expo featuring seminars and the latest in fishing equipment, gear and accessories. Merchandise will be available for purchase at the Tournament venue.

Charity: Proceeds benefit the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department. For more information on TPWD click here www.tpwd.state.tx.us

Current sponsors: Toyota, Bass Pro Shops, Leer Truck Caps, HOLT CAT, Ugly Stik, Republic Services, Tellespen, ATX Wheels, Geico, Yamaha, Academy Sports + Outdoors, Brookshire’s, TLC Radio, KYKX 105.7, 104.1 The Ranch & the Coca-Cola Company.

For additional information, visit www.toyotatexasbassclassic.com or call 1-866-907-0143.

For volunteer application, visit http://www.toyotatexasbassclassic.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/2014-TTBC-Volunteer-Application.pdf

Make sure to “Like” us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for tournament news, updates, contests, and more!

(March 2 Update)
 Lake Austin Joins ShareLunker Parade
News Release News Images
Media Contact: Larry Hodge, 903-676-2277, larry.hodge@tpwd.texas.gov

ATHENS—Lake Austin produced its twentieth Toyota ShareLunker February 21 when Robert Whitehead of Austin caught a 13.19-pound bass while fishing the upper end of the lake.
Whitehead was fishing in five feet of water when the fish took his plastic worm about 1:30 p.m. The fish was 27.28 inches long and 19.84 inches in girth.

Toyota ShareLunker 555 is the seventh program entry of the current season. Previous entries have come from Lakes Fork, Athens and Palestine. Whitehead’s catch moved Lake Austin into a tie for fourth place (with Falcon International Reservoir) on the list of lakes producing the most ShareLunkers. Lake Fork has produced 256, O.H. Ivie and Alan Henry 25 each, and Sam Rayburn 23. ShareLunkers have come from 21 private water bodies.

Catches of big bass typically begin to increase in February and peak in March as water temperatures warm and fish begin moving into shallow water to spawn. So far this season catches number one in November and two each in December, January and February. Abnormally cold temperatures in December appear to have pushed back the start of spawning activity. However, with seven entries at the present time and the month of March just ahead, the ShareLunker program seems on track to receive the 20 entries it’s averaged in the past.

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.

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.

The number to call to report a ShareLunker catch 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.

Official ShareLunker weigh and holding stations have been established at a number of reservoirs; a list is at http://tpwd.texas.gov/spdest/visitorcenters/tffc/sharelunker/holding/.

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://tpwd.texas.gov/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, will be posted on www.facebook.com/sharelunkerprogram. “Like” this page and you can receive notification and photos of catches as soon as they become available.

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.

(Feb 23 Update)
 TPWD Proposing Seatrout Bag Limit Change, Gar Conservation Rules
News Release
Media Contact: Steve Lightfoot, 512-389-4701, steve.lightfoot@tpwd.texas.gov

AUSTIN — The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is proposing fishing regulation changes that will affect both salt and freshwater anglers. Some of the most noteworthy include changes to harvest regulations for flounder and spotted seatrout, the rainbow trout fishery on the Guadalupe River below Canyon Lake dam, and additional restrictions on the harvest of alligator gar during critical periods of spawning.

TPWD staff presented proposed amendments to the 2014-15 Statewide Recreational and Commercial Fishing Proclamation to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission. The recommended changes include:

Salt Water
Oyster harvest: Temporary 2-year closure of a 54-acre oyster restoration site on Half-Moon reef in Matagorda Bay, and a 2-year temporary closure of seven restoration sites located in East Galveston Bay.
Flounder: Extension of the November 2-fish bag limit through the first 2 weeks of December, and during those two weeks harvest would be allowed by any legal means.
Spotted Seatrout: Extension of the 5-fish bag and possession limit up the coast through East Matagorda Bay with a five-year sunset date.

Fresh Water
Guadalupe River below Canyon Reservoir (Comal County): rainbow and brown trout regulations on a section of the river would be changed to a 12- to 18-inch slot length limit with a five-fish daily bag limit, harvest by artificial lures only, and only one trout over 18 inches could be retained. The new regulation zone would begin 800 yards downstream from the Canyon Dam release and extend downstream to the easternmost Highway 306 bridge crossing.
Texas/Louisiana Border Waters (Toledo Bend Reservoir, Caddo Lake, and the Lower Sabine River in Newton and Orange Counties): regulations for blue and channel catfish would be changed to no minimum length limit and a 50-fish daily bag limit in any combination, of which no more than five blue or channel catfish 30 inches or longer could be retained.
Tradinghouse Creek Reservoir (McLennan County): the special limits for freshwater lakes where red drum have been stocked would be removed and regulations would revert to statewide length limits (20-inch minimum length limit, 28-inch maximum length limit, and harvest of up to two red drum 28 inches or longer per year with trophy drum tag). Bag limit would remain at three.
Lake Kyle (Hays County): regulations would be changed to catch and release (no harvest) of channel and blue catfish, largemouth bass, or any sunfish species.
Canyon Lake Project #6 (Lubbock County): Changes implemented last year were not fully implemented. To correct this, the harvest regulation for channel and blue catfish would be changed to no minimum length limit and a five-fish daily bag and anglers would be restricted to only two poles.
North Concho River from O. C. Fisher Dam to Bell Street Dam and the South Concho River from Lone Wolf Dam to Bell Street Dam (Tom Green County): anglers would be restricted to using two poles.
Jug Line Floats: Recreational anglers who fish with jug lines will be allowed to use floats of any color except orange. Commercial anglers will continue to be restricted to using orange-colored floats.

In addition to the proposed changes noted above, the TPW Commission directed staff to include for public comment proposed changes to alligator gar harvest regulations. The changes would give the TPWD Executive Director the authority to temporarily prohibit taking or attempting to take alligator gar in any area where conditions such as water temperature and water levels would be conducive for spawning of alligator gar. Typically, alligator gar do not spawn every year. This change would add increased protection to spawning gar in certain areas when they are concentrated and most vulnerable to over-harvest. Closures would be invoked only during those limited times when and where the specified conditions are occurring, and the public would be notified as soon as the closure is invoked.

Proposed changes can be found in the Feb. 21 edition of the Texas Register and on the TPWD website.

Comments on the proposed rules may be submitted by phone or e-mail to Robert Macdonald (512) 389-4775; e-mail: robert.macdonald@tpwd.texas.gov, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, 4200 Smith School Road, Austin, Texas 78744. Comments may also be submitted through the department’s internet web site after February 21 and at the following upcoming public meetings scheduled around the state.

TPWD Public Hearing Schedule
All meetings set for 7 p.m.
 Alpine
March 10
Sul Ross, Range Animal Science Bldg, Rm 103, East Hwy 90
Sulphur Springs
March 10
Hopkins Co. Courthouse, 118 Church St.
New Braunfels
March 10
WORD Offices, 1928 FM 2673, Canyon Lake
Port Arthur
March 11
Holiday Inn, Neches Room, 2929 Jimmy Johnson Blvd.
Dickinson
March 11
Doyle Convention Center, Williams Goyens Room, 2010 5th Ave North, Texas City
Van Horn
March 12
El Capitan Hotel Conference Room, 100 East Broadway
Marshall
March 12
Marshall Lions Community Center, 1201 Louisiana St.
Zapata
March 12
Zapata County Technical and Advance Education Center, Rm 128, 605 N. US Hwy 83
Port Lavaca
March 12
Bauer Exhibit Building, 186 CR 101
San Antonio
March 13
Bass Pro@ 17907 IH-10 West
Rockport
March 13
Aransas County Courthouse, 301 N. Live Oak
Lubbock
March 17
Texas Agrilife Research and Extension Center, 1102 E. FM1294
Nacogdoches
March 17
Nacogdoches County Courthouse Annex, 203 West Main
Dallas-Fort Worth
March 17
Cabela's, 1 Cabelas Dr., Allen
Palestine
March 17
Ben E. Keith Building, 2019 W. Oak Street
Huntsville
March 19
Walker County Storm Shelter, 455 Highway 75 N
Port Isabel
March 19
Port Isabel Community Center, 213 Yturria
Amarillo
March 19
Texas AgriLife Extension Center, 6500 Amarillo Blvd West
Corpus Christi
March 20
Del Mar College Center for Economic Development, 3209 S. Staples St., Rm 106
Center
March 20
Fannie Brown Booth Library, Redditt Room, 619 Tenaha Street
Houston
March 20
Sheldon Lake State Park, 15315 Beaumont Hwy
Austin
March 20
Austin TPWD HQ Commission Hearing Room, 4200 Smith School Road

(Feb 16 Update)
 Fly Fish Texas March 8 at Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center

ATHENS—Learn to tie a fly, cast a fly and catch a fish all in one day during the annual Fly Fish Texas event at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center March 8.

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 beginning at noon. 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. Scheduled sessions will teach single- and double-hand Spey rod casting.
For a complete schedule of activities and seminars, visit www.tpwd.state.tx.us/tffc and click on the Fly Fish Texas link.

Vendors will be displaying and selling fly-fishing gear, and seminars will brief visitors on where and how to fly-fish in fresh and salt waters for a variety of species. The program will include presentations on fly-fishing the Llano River and Colorado’s backcountry canyons and high-meadow streams.

Other sessions will focus on caring for fly-fishing equipment, choosing a fly rod, fly-fishing for carp, tying flies for spring bass fishing, tying trout flies, tying flies to take advantage of fish senses and rigging for trout.

Kayaks and instruction on how to use them for fly-fishing will be available on the casting pond. Do-it-yourself fly-fishing for rainbow trout, sunfish and catfish will be available all day in TFFC’s ponds and streams. Bass and rainbow trout fishing will be available in the fly-fishing pond at the end of the Wetlands Trail.

Food service will be available onsite, or attendees may bring a picnic. TFFC’s regularly scheduled dive shows will take place in the dive theater at 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. and will be followed by tram tours of the hatchery.

Event sponsors include Sabine River Authority, Dallas Fly Fishers, Temple Fork Outfitters, Red Hat Rentals, Best Western Royal Mountain Inn—Athens, Friends of TFFC, Cripple Creek BBQ, Danny’s Smokehouse Bar-B-Que, First State Bank and Super 8—Athens.

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.

(Feb 9 Update)
 Dates for Annual Crab Trap Removal Set
Media Contact: Art Morris (361) 825-3356, crabtrap@tpwd.texas.gov

AUSTIN — Hoping to add to the pile of more than 33,449 derelict crab traps hauled from Texas bays since 2002, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department  officials are gearing up for the 14th annual Texas Abandoned Crab Trap Removal Program  Feb. 21 to March 2.

During this 10-day period, all Texas bays will be closed to crabbing with wire mesh crab traps.  Any traps left in the bay will be assumed abandoned and considered “litter” under state law. This allows volunteers to legally remove any crab traps they find.

Prior to the 77th Legislature authorizing the abandoned crab trap removal program, only the trap’s owner or a Texas game warden could legally remove a crab trap. State game wardens confiscate more than 2,500 illegal traps annually, yet many more remain to foul shrimpers’ nets, snag anglers’ lines, “ghost fish” and create an unsightly view of Texas shores.

Volunteers are needed to assist in the coast-wide effort to remove the numerous traps that have been lost or abandoned since last year’s cleanup.  To facilitate volunteer trap removal efforts this year, TPWD will provide trap drop-off sites at several locations in each major bay system along the coast from 8 a.m. to noon on Feb. 22, weather permitting.  Additionally at all sites, dumpsters or collection areas marked with banners will be available to receive traps for the duration of the closure.  Volunteers may focus their efforts on Feb. 22 or work at their own pace anytime during the closure, but traps cannot be removed prior to Feb. 21 or after March 2.

Last year, volunteers with the aid of numerous sponsors removed nearly 1,000 traps coast-wide.

"The success of this program is a reflection of the keen sense of stewardship anglers and other outdoor enthusiasts have for the marine resources of this great state,” said Art Morris, ACTRP program coordinator for TPWD. “Volunteers have removed more traps from Texas waters than any other Gulf state and the results show.”

Morris said the number of traps removed each year has steadily been decreasing, indicating the impact of the volunteer program.

The Coastal Conservation Association Texas, Coastal Bend Bays and Estuaries Program, NRG Energy and the Galveston Bay Foundation are providing continued support to the crab trap removal program. Numerous other organizations and companies also are volunteering their services.

To participate, volunteers may pick up free tarps, gloves, trap hooks and additional information at their local TPWD Coastal Fisheries field stations. TPWD requests that volunteers who remove traps record and submit information about the number of traps they collect as well as documenting any sightings of diamondback terrapins.

All other legal means of crabbing will not be affected during the closure period for wire crab traps. For more information, contact your local TPWD Coastal Fisheries office or Art Morris at the Corpus Christi field station, (361) 825-3356 or crabtrap@tpwd.texas.gov

Trap Drop-off Sites

Sabine Lake

Local TPWD coordinator Jerry Mambretti (409) 983-1104 (Ext. 222)

Pleasure Island Marina Boat Ramp

Galveston Bay

Local TPWD coordinator Bill Balboa (281) 534-0110

Jones Lake State Ramp (Fat Boys) — Facilitated by NRG Energy and the Galveston Bay Foundation
Seabrook SH 146 Bridge Public Boat Ramp
Fort Anahuac County Park Boat Ramp — Facilitated by Galveston Bay Foundation
Chocolate Bayou State Boat Ramp- FM 2004

Matagorda Bay

Local TPWD coordinator Leslie Hartman (361) 972-6253

Mitchell Cut Boat (ICWW) Ramp at Sargent
Matagorda Harbor at Matagorda
Railroad Park at Palacios

San Antonio Bay

Local TPWD coordinator Norman Boyd (361) 983-4425

Charlie’s Bait Stand
Port O’Connor TPWD Docks

Aransas Bay

Local TPWD coordinator Emma Clarkson (361) 729-5429

Goose Island State Park Boat Ramp
North Cove Harbor Boat Ramp

Corpus Christi Bay

Local TPWD coordinator Tom Wagner (361) 729-2328

Marinaville (Nueces Bay) Boat Ramp
Port Aransas Public Boat Ramp

Upper Laguna Madre

Local TPWD coordinator Faye Grubbs (361) 825-3353

Bluff’s Landing Marina
Kaufer Park Boat Ramp

Lower Laguna Madre

Local TPWD coordinator Mark Lingo (956) 350-4490

Adolfe Thomae County Park at Arroyo City
Port Mansfield Navigation District Ramp at Port Mansfield

(Jan 26 Update)
 Zebra Mussels Confirmed in Lake Lavon
Media Contact: Brian Van Zee, Texas Parks and Wildlife, (254) 867-7974, brian.vanzee@tpwd.texas.gov

ATHENS—Zebra mussels have now been confirmed by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) in Lake Lavon.

The presence of live zebra mussels or veligers, their larvae, has now been confirmed in six Texas water bodies: Lakes Texoma, Ray Roberts, Lewisville, Bridgeport, Belton, and Lavon.

A team of USGS scientists led by Dr. Christopher Churchill has been monitoring North Texas reservoirs and rivers for the presence of juvenile and adult zebra mussels as well as for the presence of zebra mussel DNA. Lake Lavon’s water samples recently tested positive for zebra mussel DNA and a veliger was also positively identified.

The USGS tests also detected zebra mussel DNA in lakes Grapevine, Fork and Tawakoni. This is the first detection of zebra mussel DNA in lakes Fork and Tawakoni. However, three consecutive surveys have detected zebra mussel DNA in Lake Grapevine making it highly suspect.

Dr. Robert McMahon, Professor Emeritus of Biology at the University of Texas at Arlington, says that while this news is of concern, he suspects that Lake Fork cannot sustain a zebra mussel population because of low levels of calcium, which the mussels use to construct their shells. He believes that Lake Tawakoni is likely more susceptible.

The finding of zebra mussel DNA in a lake does not necessarily mean that it is infested, but it may indicate that boaters are inadvertently moving zebra mussels or zebra mussel DNA from lake to lake. The USGS sample from Lake Fork was collected near the FM 17 boat ramp and the samples from Lake Tawakoni were collected near Lake Tawakoni State Park and South Shore Marina. The USGS will conduct a follow-up lake survey at Lake Lavon later this month and will resume routine sampling this spring at all areas that are currently monitored, which include lakes Texoma, Lavon, Ray Roberts, Ray Hubbard, Lewisville, Grapevine, Fork, Tawakoni and Palestine. The USGS also monitors several riverine areas including Sister Grove Creek, Elm Fork of the Trinity River, and Denton Creek.

Zebra mussels were first discovered on boats being transported from out of state to Lake Texoma in 2006. In 2009, Lake Texoma became the first lake in Texas to become infested. Zebra mussels can quickly cover boats and motors left in infested waters, clog public-water intake pipes and water-cooling systems, negatively impact aquatic ecosystems and can make water recreation hazardous because of their razor-sharp shells.

Boats are believed to be one of the main ways that zebra mussels move from one lake to another. The only way for boaters to ensure they’re not transporting zebra mussels is to always clean, drain and completely dry boats, trailers and gear after leaving a water body.

Texas Parks and Wildlife has instituted rules requiring persons leaving or approaching public water in 17 Northeast Texas counties to drain all water from their vessels and on-board receptacles. This applies to all types and sizes of boats whether powered or not, personal watercraft, sailboats or any other vessel used to travel on public waters. A proposal to extend the regulation to 30 additional counties in North and Central Texas will be considered by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission at its Thursday meeting. Information about the proposed change and a form for online public comment until 5 p.m. Tuesday may be found at http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/business/feedback/public_comment/proposals/201401_water_draining.phtml.
Under the current rules in the 17 counties, live fish cannot be transported in water that comes from the water body where they were caught and personally caught live bait can be used only in the water body where it was caught.

TPWD and a coalition of partners are working to slow the spread of zebra mussels by reminding boaters to Clean, Drain and Dry their vessels before traveling from one lake to another. The partners in this effort include: North Texas Municipal Water District, Tarrant Regional Water District, City of Dallas Water Utilities Department, Trinity River Authority, San Jacinto River Authority, Sabine River Authority, Brazos River Authority, City of Waco, Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority, Lower Colorado River Authority, Upper Trinity Regional Water District, Canadian River Municipal Water Authority, City of Grapevine, City of Houston, and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

For more information regarding zebra mussels, visit www.texasinvasives.org/zebramussels and http://nas.er.usgs.gov. Marinas or anyone wishing to receive a supply of informational brochures, wallet cards or posters about zebra mussels to distribute to boaters can submit a request for materials at http://www.texasinvasives.org/action/spreadword.php.

(Jan 19 Update)
 Lake Fork Does It Again: Third Toyota ShareLunker of Season
News Release – News Images
Media Contact: Larry Hodge, 903-676-2277, larry.hodge@tpwd.texas.gov

ATHENS—Lake Fork produced its third Toyota ShareLunker of the season Sunday night.

Randall E. Claybourne of Tulsa, Oklahoma, was fishing by himself in 15 feet of water in the east arm of the lake when the 13.86-pound bass took his jig-and-craw lure about 11:20 p.m.

The fish was 25 inches long and 21 inches in girth. It was held for pickup at Lake Fork Marina, an official Toyota ShareLunker Weigh and Holding Station.

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.

The number to call to report a ShareLunker catch 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.

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.

Official ShareLunker weigh and holding stations have been established at a number of reservoirs; a list is at http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/spdest/visitorcenters/tffc/sharelunker/holding/.

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, will be posted on www.facebook.com/sharelunkerprogram. “Like” this page and you can receive notification and photos of catches as soon as they become available.

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. Toyota also sponsors the Toyota Texas Bass Classic world championship of bass fishing, which will be held at Lake Fork in May 2014.

(Jan 12 Update)
 Texas State-Fish Art Contest Seeks Entries
Houston-based company to provide additional prizes

News Release News Images
Media Contact: Larry Hodge, 903-676-2277, larry.hodge@tpwd.texas.gov

ATHENS–The Texas State-Fish Art Contest, headquartered at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center (TFFC), reminds Texas teachers and students that the deadline for entries in the 2014 State-Fish Art Contest is March 31, 2014.

The contest is open to any student in public, private or home schools in grades K-12. Students must draw or paint any recognized state fish and write an essay about it. Complete contest details and entry forms can be found at www.tpwd.texas.gov/fishart.

New to the 2014 Texas State-Fish Art Contest will be prizes for the top 10 winners in each of the four grade categories courtesy of FishFlops®. Each of the top 40 Texas winners will receive official FishFlops® merchandise. FishFlops® were created by Galveston teenager Madison Nicole Robinson and are available at Nordstrom.

“We recognize the spirit of the Texas State-Fish Art Contest is to inspire young talented individuals to explore the limits of their creativity,” said Madison Nicole, creator of FishFlops®. “We hope our brand will inspire the winners to take their artistic skills to the next level.”

The Toyota Texas Bass Classic (TTBC) provides funds for prizes for first-, second- and third-place Texas winners in each of the four grade-level divisions. First place in grades 10–12 wins $1,000; second place $750; third place $500. Prizes in the K–3, 4–6 and 7–9 grade levels are $100 for first; $75 for second; $50 for third. Student art from the Texas contest is featured on TTBC tickets. The next TTBC will take place on Lake Fork in May 2014.

Additional support for the Texas contest is provided by the William E. Armentrout Foundation and Friends of the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center.

The Texas State-Fish Art Contest is part of Wildlife Forever’s State-Fish Art Contest. The TTBC also provides a travel allowance for Texas first-place winners to attend the national awards ceremony, which will be held August 15 and 16, 2014, in Columbia, South Carolina.

Wildlife Forever chooses one outstanding piece of artwork each year for the Art of Conservation Award, and a commemorative stamp featuring the artwork is produced for sale. Proceeds from sales of the stamp are used to fund conservation projects.

Educators who wish to have their students enter the contest can download the free “State-Fish Art Contest Lesson Plan” at www.statefishart.com. The interdisciplinary curriculum includes lessons and activities, a species identification section profiling each state fish, a glossary and student worksheets.

***

Located in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, Wildlife Forever is a non-profit multi-species conservation organization dedicated to conserving America’s wildlife heritage. Working at the grassroots level, Wildlife Forever has funded conservation projects in all 50 states, committing millions of dollars to “on-the-ground” efforts. Wildlife Forever supports habitat restoration and enhancement, land acquisition, research and management of fish and wildlife populations. www.wildlifeforever.org.

Houston-based FishFlops® was born in 2006 when Madison Nicole Robinson created the first designs for the line of footwear now known as FishFlops®. Together with her father, Dan, FishFlops® seeks to encourage responsible outdoor recreation, conservation of natural resources and development of the artistic talents of today’s youth. www.fishflops.com