Did you ever wonder what the biggest fish ever caught looked like? With all due respect to your imagination, we wouldn’t blame you for underestimating how impressive these beasts really were. Today, we’re looking at the 17 biggest fish ever caught.
For this list, we’ve only included fish that were officially approved as IGFA All-Tackle World Records. Over the years, there have been cases of people catching even bigger fish. These, however, were either caught by more than one person, or failed to meet other IGFA World Record requirements.
As you’d expect, most of these giants are from the Billfish and Shark families, but there are a few surprise entries, too.
You’ll notice that a lot of these records date back at least a few decades. Back in the day, catch and release was a rare sight, and fishing regulations weren’t nearly as strict. Still, each of the catches you’re about to see required incredible amounts of skill and dedication to pull off. They officially are the biggest fishing feats in history.
Without further ado, the 17 biggest fish ever caught are:
17. Goliath Grouper – 680 lb
Location: Fernandina Beach, FL
Date: May 20, 1961
Back in the day, Fernandina Beach was famous for its Goliath Grouper fishery. Up until 1990, anglers could harvest these critters, but with their population dwindling, regulators decided to ban their harvest. All in all, this record isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Angler Lynn Joyner caught this 680 lb Goliath using a Spanish Mackerel.
16. Bull Shark – 697 lb 12 oz
Location: Malindi, Kenya
Date: March 24, 2001
Angler Ronald de Jager successfully caught this record-breaking Bull Shark by trolling a live Yellowfin Tuna. The catch broke the previous 1994 record by 12 ounces.
15. Dusky Shark – 764 lb
Location: Longboat Key, FL
Date: May 28, 1982
In 1982, Warren Girle pulled in this world record on a Bonito off Longboat Key, Florida.
14. Thresher Shark – 767 lb
Location: Bay of Islands, New Zealand
Date: February 26, 1983
David Hannah caught this Thresher using Kahawai Salmon. Catching a Thresher of any size requires a great deal of skill, because these monsters are known for bashing the hook and bait with their tail before moving in for the kill. This is why Hannah’s record is even more impressive.
13. Bigeye Thresher Shark – 802 lb
Location: Tutukaka, New Zealand
Date: February 8, 1981
A couple of years before David Hannah, Dianne North reeled in an even bigger Thresher. She trolled a Kahawai to hook the fish and then fought the beast for three hours and 45 minutes. What’s interesting is that the two catches occurred just over 30 miles away from each other.
12. Pacific Bluefin Tuna – 907 lb 6 oz
Location: Three Kings Islands, New Zealand
Date: February 19, 2014
Angler Donna Pascoe battled this Bluefin for over four hours, and in some very tough weather conditions. For her impressive catch, Ms. Pascoe received the IGFA Best World Record award for 2014.
11. Swordfish – 1,182 lb
Location: Iquique, Chile
Date: July 7, 1953
After more than 60 years, Lou Marron’s historic record still stands. It’s a testament to how people once used nothing but angling to catch the ocean’s most fearsome creatures. Lou caught the 14′ Swordfish by trolling a live Bonito.
10. Shortfin Mako Shark – 1,221 lb
Location: Chatham, Massachusetts
Date: July 21, 2001
Luke Sweeney caught this fearsome Mako during the Oak Bluffs Monster Shark Tournament in 2001. Luke was actually aboard the smallest boat in the tournament, a 24′ World Cat, when he broke the record. The fight lasted three hours, but ultimately, the Mako made it to the scales for weigh-ins.
9. Great Hammerhead Shark – 1,280 lb
Location: Boca Grande
Date: May 23, 2006
Charter captain Bucky Dennis usually fishes for Snook and Tarpon. However, according to him, when Tarpon come to Boca Grande, so do the Hammerheads. Bucky caught this 14.5′ Shark using a stingray for bait. The Hammerhead hauled his 23′ boat almost 12 miles out into the Gulf.
8. Sixgill Shark – 1,298 lb
Location: Ascension Island, British Overseas Territories
Date: November 21, 2002
Although you can find them worldwide, Sixgilled Sharks just aren’t fish you see everyday. Angler Clemens Rump caught this shark off the remote Ascension Island, in the middle of the Atlantic.
7. Pacific Blue Marlin – 1,376 lb
Location: Kaaiwi Point, Kona, Hawaii
Date: May 31, 1982
Trolling a kita lute, angler Jay de Beaubien managed to catch this Pacific Blue Marlin in under an hour! Jay’s record nearly fell in 2015, when an angler caught a 1,368 lb Blue Marlin off the very same Hawaiian coast.
6. Atlantic Blue Marlin – 1,402 lb 2 oz
Location: Vitoria, Brazil
Date: February 29, 1992
Fishing off Vitoria, Brazil angler Paulo Amorim caught this grander trolling a Molecraft lure.
5. Atlantic Bluefin Tuna – 1,496 lb
Location: Aulds Cove, Nova Scotia, Canada
Date: October 26, 1979
Nova Scotia is famous for its Bluefin Tuna fishery. Bluefins are much more strictly regulated these days, but regardless, Ken Fraser’s 1979 record still seems almost unbeatable.
4. Black Marlin – 1,560 lb
Location: Cabo Blanco, Peru
Date: August 4, 1953
Angling legend Alfred C. Glassell Jr. caught this enormous Black Marlin way back in 1953, making it one of the longest-standing IGFA World Records to date. This Marlin, along with a number of other fish Glassell caught, comprise a permanent exhibit in the Houston Museum of Natural Science.
3. Greenland Shark – 1,708 lb 9 oz
Location: Trondheimsfjord, Norway.
Date: October 17, 1987
Using a herring as bait, Norwegian angler Terje Nordvedt caught one of the biggest Sharks ever. This was one of the rare times people could see the longest living vertebrae on dry land. These sharks often live longer than 400 years!
2. Tiger Shark –1,785 lb 11 oz
Location: Ulladulla, Australia
Date: March 28, 2004
This record is a little controversial. When Kevin J. Clapson weighed his enormous Tiger shark in 2004, he thought he broke a 40-year-old record. However, since his catch was only 11 ounces heavier than Walter Maxwell’s catch from 1964, the ruling was that the record was tied.
1. White Shark – 2,664 lb
Location: Ceduna, Australia
Date: April 21, 1959
Alfred Dean’s 1959 record is by far the biggest fish ever caught and approved by the IGFA. Great White Sharks are a protected species almost everywhere these days, so it seems that Dean’s record is here to stay.
All of the catches on this list represent incredible feats by some of the best anglers on earth. With today’s conservation-oriented regulations, most of these won’t be broken any time soon. But that’s a not a bad thing – we’ll have more of these incredible creatures roaming the oceans for years to come. Besides, we’ll always have lists like this one to remind us of how impressive these beasts really are.
Your turn. Which of the catches on our list is the most impressive in your mind? Which of these records do you think anglers will break first? Let us know in the comments below.