NACOGDOCHES COUNTY, Texas (KTRE) - Leap Day was already pretty special for Joe Castle even before he put in at Lake Nacogdoches.
“It was my birthday," Castle said with a grin.
Then, a wish came true.
“I set the hook. And for about the next five minutes, she pretty much had her way with me,” Castle said.
Castle caught a whopping 15.34 pound, 27.5-inch largemouth bass on a plastic worm and light tackle.
He was floored.
“It was a rush,” said the amateur angler. Castle enters smaller fishing tournaments occasionally. Upon being reminded of the Toyota ShareLunker program, Castle called them up.
“They’ll make you a replica and put you in a drawing for a bunch of stuff, and it would be a pretty neat deal,” said Castle, who admits the incentives are nice.
Castle took the big gal to an official holding trap courtesy of a lake resident. She stayed there just a few hours. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department biologists transported her to the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens.
Their biologists will attempt to spawn her to produce bigger and better bass to stock in Texas lakes.
“They’ll put her back into Lake Nacogdoches, so that was really a plus for me,” Castle said about his decision.
Biologists will conduct DNA tests to see if the fish is an offspring from fingerlings released in Lake Nacogdoches in 2008.
The Lake Nac boat ramp was busy with anglers hoping to someday tell a similar story. Randomly, Doug Hudson, another ShareLunker angler stepped up.
“In 1989, I caught a 13-pound, 3-ounce bass and turned it into the Lunker program,” Hudson recalled.
It was a decision Hudson never regretted, and he suspects Castle won’t either.
“As far as I’m concerned, it means our fishing is only going to get better and better," Hudson said. "And I’m happy about that.”
Castle says TPWD told him he will be called when his catch is ready to be released. He’ll have the honor of letting her go back in her home lake.
“And I’ll be fishing that same spot every year,” Castle said.