Texas Chases Record Bass
For 70 years, Georgia has held the world record for largemouth, but this autum Texas is tooling up to catch up with an aggressive hatchery program that involves, yes, fish from private waters.
Introducing Operation World Record.
Texas Parks and Wildlife biologist Phil Durocher, director of the Inland Fisheries Division, says the new program launches in October 2000 with the stated goal that is nothing if not bold -- bringing the world record to the Lone Star State.
The recognized world all-tackle mark for Largemouth has stood at an incredible 22 pounds, 4 ounces since the 1930s, when the late George Perry brought in the fish from an un-named pond. Georgia may be the Peach State, but there's nothing fuzzy about the objective here: "Our goal," Durocher said, "is to break that world record."
Even with a fish from one of Texas's estimated 900,000 private ponds? Unlike many states that still provide stocker fingerlings for new or renovated ponds, Texas halted the management of all private impoundments in the mid-1980s.
Today, in an attempt to skirt the public vs. private controversy, the TP&W recognizes record-size fish from private ponds, but only in their own separate category. Kenneth Morris of San Angelo, for instance, holds the state private-water mark for bass with a 15-pound, 8-ounce monster caught several years ago in a 40-acre lake in Mills County northwest of Waco.
In Operation World Record, believed to be the first of its kind involving so much angler involvement, the TP&W will be trying to quantify how many bass over eight pounds are caught, and where those catches originated.
Durocher, in an exclusive interview, told POND BOSS that more aggressively courting private pond owners is just part of the innovative new initiative that takes the state's ShareLunker program to "the next level."
(Editor's note: From December - April every year, the department asks anglers to donate their 13-pound sow largemouth, from both public and private waters, to the hatchery so the fish might spawn in captivity.) Operation World Record will differ from other programs by:
- Expanding the dates on the period in which the TP&W accepts donations to the ShareLunker program. Currently, the program opens in December and runs into April. The new time window has not been announced.
- Quantifying and evaluating the number of bass caught that weigh eight pounds or better. The agency wants to track what waters, public and private, are producing how many giant largemouth.
- Awarding merchandise prizes to anglers who participate.
- Using the modern hatchery facilities at the Athens Fisheries Center to selectively breed the second-generation offspring in captivity, then use that offspring to stock Texas reservoirs.
The state public-waters record currently stands at 18.18 pounds, set in the early-1990s at Lake Fork by Barry St. Clair, now a fisheries technician with the TP&WD. "I don't care where the fish comes from - public or private -- just so long as it's one of our (Texas) fish," Durocher said. "We want to establish selective breeding so we can utilize the traits of the bigger fish. "That takes time and that takes space, which we've never had until the Athens facilities came on line."
Department leaders shy away from predicting when the world record, or even if the state mark, will fall.
"Our first job is to produce more Lunker babies," Durocher said. "As we take the Lunkers and get the best of their offspring, we can use those fish as out brood stock. That's when we come closer to reaching our full potential."
Reprinted with permission from Pond Boss Magazine