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Huntsville State Park

As part of Operation World Record, Lake Raven promises to become a lunker factory.

By Tom Behrens

There are some very special largemouth bass swimming around Lake Raven, which is located in Huntsville State Park. Some 20,000 small fry, from three to six inches long, were spread out over six Texas lakes including Raven. Each fish has a very small tag, about a millimeter in size, inserted into their skin that holds the secret to their special pedigree.

What makes these fish special is that they are part of Operation World Record, which evolved as a result of the Budweiser ShareLunker program. Now in its 20th year, the ShareLunker program has accepted more than 400 largemouth bass, 13 pounds or bigger, donated by anglers for use in spawning in an effort to increase the number and size of trophy largemouth bass caught in Texas. Recent advances in the ability to detect genetic differences among fish are expected to enable scientists to confirm their belief that big fish have genes that make it possible for them to grow bigger and that these genes can be passed on to their offspring.

Lake Raven has all the requirements needed to produce trophy-sized bass. It is a fairly shallow lake with a mean depth of six feet; maximum depth is 28 feet at the dam. It has 4.6 miles of shoreline, small enough to be easily sampled by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department fishery biologists, but large enough to provide a quality fishing experience for anglers. It has a history of producing large double-digit largemouth bass. The lake record is 13.48 pounds.

The habitat is conducive to bass growth. “The hydrilla is mostly gone,” says Jeff Henson, a TPWD biologist. “There are some native aquatics out there now. The only invasive species we have are alligator weed and water hyacinth.

“I would say it (fishing) is excellent considering the potential to catch large bass,” continues Henson. “Typically at Raven we catch 50-70 bass per hour from electrofishing, with fish to 21 inches. A 21-inch fish here is almost a six-pound bass; they are pretty chunky. There are lots of young fish, which is good because you always want to see young fish recruiting into the fishery, and a good number of nice quality-sized bass out past 14 inches. Plus, you have really good forage here, bluegill, redear sunfish — large redear sunfish. Eleven-inch redears are pretty common in this lake.”

The fish tagged in 2005 will be sampled by electrofishing in 2009. Differences in length and weight between the ShareLunker offspring and wild fish will provide insight into the effectiveness of TPWD’s Operation World Record largemouth bass selective breeding program. Meanwhile Raven is a catch-and-release-only lake for bass.

“Ultimately we will be able to take a DNA sample from a Budweiser ShareLunker and determine that fish’s parents,” says Allen Forshage, director of the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center.

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