Jan. 16, 2008, 11:38PM
Willis teen lands ShareLunker bass
Goetzman’s 13-pounder is season’s first entry

By SHANNON TOMPKINS
Copyright 2008 Houston Chronicle

A 13.06-pound largemouth bass caught from Lake Conroe earlier this week is the first entry into the state’s 2007-08 ShareLunker program and earned its 15-year-old captor a top spot in Texas’ Junior Angler records.

Tyler Goetzman, a 15-year-old Willis resident, was fishing in a bass tournament this past Sunday when he hooked and landed the 24-inch, 13.06-pound largemouth.

Goetzman caught the bass on a Rat-L-Trap fished in about 6 feet of water, he told Texas Parks and Wildlife Department inland fisheries staffers who drove from the agency’s Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens to retrieve the live largemouth.

The big female bass was taken to the Freshwater Fisheries Center, where it will be housed and used in research and hatchery production aimed at improving the genetic quality of the state’s fisheries.

The TPWD ShareLunker program solicits anglers to donate to the project live, 13-pound-plus largemouths caught from Texas waters. The program operates October-April, when female largemouth bass are developing eggs for the spring nesting season.

When donated fish have served their purpose at the hatchery, the angler who landed the fish is allowed to release the big bass back into the water from which it was captured.

Since the ShareLunker program began in 1987, anglers have donated 442 13-pound-plus bass to the project.

Along with being the first angler to donate a bass to the 2007-08 ShareLunker program, Goetzman will jump to the head of the class in TPWD’s Junior Angler Records.

His 13.06-pounder will take the top largemouth spot in the records of fish caught by Texas anglers 16 and younger. His Lake Conroe fish will replace a 13.0-pound largemouth caught in 2005 from Lake Alan Henry by an 11-year-old Lubbock fisherman.

Lake Conroe has coughed up 12 ShareLunker entries, placing it fourth in the list of public waters with the largest number of program entries.

Lake Fork leads the list with 236 ShareLunkers, followed by Lake Alan Henry (25), Sam Rayburn (22) and Conroe.

Conroe’s best ShareLunker season was in 2005-06, when it produced three program entries, all of which weighed more than 14 pounds.

Conroe did not produce a ShareLunker during the 2006-07 season.

The current lake-record largemouth for Lake Conroe is a 14.91-pound fish caught in March 1997.

shannon.tompkins@chron.com