Florida State Record Fish: The Complete Guide

Feb 19, 2024 | 11 minute read
Reading Time: 11 minutes

Whether you’re looking for diversity or an abundance of fish, there are very few places in the world that can match up to Florida. Out here, it’s all about setting new personal bests, which thousands of anglers do every year. The waters are full of trophy catches, and today, we’ll get you acquainted with the current Florida state record fish.

An aerial photo of a bridge and blue-emerald waters near Eglin Beach in Destin, Florida, with several boats visible in the water.

Since there are many different species prowling across the Sunshine State, we’ve selected the most popular ones to feature in this article. You’ll get to read about how big some of these fish are, as well as the backstory behind every record catch. So let’s dive into it!

Biggest Fish Caught in Florida by Species

Between its abundant lakes and world-class saltwater fishing, there’s a trophy to catch wherever you turn. The fish records support this, as there have been some truly impressive specimens anglers have caught in Florida’s waters.

We’ve lined them up in alphabetical order. This way, you can click on the fish you’d like to learn more about. In each section, you’ll get information on the current state record holder and how big the fish was.

Bass (Largemouth)

  • Florida state record: 17.27 lbs on a small lake in Polk County in 1986.

While there are many fish out there you can consider popular, there’s not a single one that anglers like to obsess over as much as Largemouth Bass. Their intelligence, elusive patterns, and aggressive nature make them the perfect game fish. This, in turn, makes fishing for Bass hard to resist.

An angler in a hat and sunglasses sitting on a boat, smiling widely for a photo while holding a big Largemouth Bass caught near Fellsmere, Florida, with waters and vegetation visible in the background.
Photo courtesy of Capt. Bill Goudy Jr.

Florida is blessed with incredible Bass fishing. Lake Kissimmee, Stick Marsh, Lake Toho, and Lake Okeechobee are some of the best Largemouth spots in the country, even though there are quite a few other worthy contenders. And in these waters, Bass grow to seriously impressive sizes.

The state record for Largemouth Bass in Florida dates back to 1986, when Billy O’Berry caught a 17.27 lb specimen fishing a small lake in Polk County near Orlando. The fish measured 30 inches in length and 22.5 inches in girth. Interestingly, while O’Berry’s record still stands officially, there’s a well-evidenced, albeit uncertified record of a 20.13 lb Largemouth from 1923.

If the 1923 record had been made official, it would’ve fallen only about 2 pounds short of the all-tackle Largemouth Bass record. That one stands at 22 pounds 4 ounces. It’s currently held jointly by George Perry who caught his lunker in 1932 and Manabu Kurita who equaled the record in 2009 fishing on Lake Biwa.

Bass (Butterfly Peacock)

  • Florida state record: 9.11 lbs in a Broward County pond in 2021.

While they certainly look fairly similar, Peacocks are not related to the other fish we call Bass in North America. In fact, they’re a type of Chiclid native to the Amazon and Orinoco basins. However, due to their striking looks, aggressiveness, and strength, they’ve become Florida’s favorite import.

A woman standing on a boat and holding a big Peacock Bass towards the camera, with the fish obscuring half her face, the Peacock was caught fishing in Miami-Dade canals, similar to where the Florida state record fish was caught.
Photo courtesy of Stay Fishy Inc.

If you, like many other anglers, are itching to fight these fish, you’ll catch them all over the south of the Sunshine State. There are many different waters they inhabit. However, most will agree that the best fishing takes place in the canals and ponds of Broward and Miami-Dade counties.

The former of the two was where Felipe Prieto broke the Florida state record Peacock Bass in 2021. He was fishing in a small pond when a 9.11 lb fish gobbled up his bait. The second he felt the fish pull, he could tell it was a big one and, after a quick but thrilling fight, he set the new record.

Meanwhile, the IGFA all-tackle record was landed in the native waters of Peacock Bass. More specifically, in Venezuela back in 2000. But while the specimen that stood at 12 pounds 9 ounces is still the largest official catch, Florida actually holds 13 out of 16 IGFA records for Peacock Bass.

Crappie (Black)

  • Florida state record: 3.83 lbs on Lake Talquin in 1992.

With a reputation as one of the tastiest freshwater fish, Crappie are a favorite target for many anglers out there. Besides the obvious food value, they’re immensely fun to catch, and they make for a fantastic target for novice anglers.

A boy in sunglasses standing on a boat smiling widely while holding a sizeable Crappie he caught, with waters and the shoreline visible behind him.
Photo courtesy of Jurrasic Park Fishing Charters.

After Bass, Crappie are arguably the second most popular freshwater fish in Florida. They’re present throughout the state’s lakes and ponds. The best action nowadays is typically on Lake Okeechobee, but Toho, Kissimmee, and Seminole are also solid bets.

When it comes to the state record Crappie, Ben Curry Sr. caught it fishing on Lake Talquin in North Florida. Ben landed the specimen in late January, making it likely that it was a pre-spawn fish. The slab Black Crappie weighed in at 3.83 pounds and, although the record dates back to 1992, it stands to this day.

But while Florida is yet to see a bigger Crappie than Ben’s, the world record was actually beaten in 2018. The current all-tackle record holder is Lionel Ferguson, who caught a 5 lb 7 oz Black Crappie fishing on Richeison Pond on a private farm in Tennessee.

Grouper (Goliath)

  • Florida state record: 680 lbs near Fernandina Beach in 1961 .

Embodying the first part of its name, Goliath Grouper is one of the most massive fish you’ll encounter in Florida. It’s the largest member of the Grouper family, capable of growing to weights exceeding 500 pounds. Fighting one is akin to trying to reel in a sunken truck off the sea bottom.

A shirtless man holding on to a hooked Goliath Grouper in shallow waters that he caught fishing in Summerland Key, Florida, with a boy and a woman standing behind the fish and posing for a photo.
Photo courtesy of Goliath Charters Summerland.

Goliath Grouper primarily lurk around reefs and other structure but they also frequently visit Florida’s inshore waters. They’re widespread throughout the state’s fishing grounds but the best action is usually in the Keys, off Jupiter, and in Southwest Florida.

In Florida, the largest Goliath Grouper ever caught stood at a whopping 680 pounds! If you’re struggling to picture it, combine the rough weights of your fridge, washing machine, and oven. Now imagine reeling them in.

Florida’s Goliath Grouper record dates all the way back to 1961 when Lynn Joyner reeled in the behemoth fishing off Fernandina Beach. He battled the fish for over an hour, ultimately setting both the Florida state and the current world record.

If you’re itching to battle one of these giants, there are plenty of charter captains offering Goliath Grouper fishing throughout Florida. It’s a unique experience seeing these sea beasts breach the water surface, and many times, you’ll even get to handline them. To get in on the action, check out the charters listed below.

Marlin (Blue)

  • Florida state record: 1,046 lbs offshore from Panama City in 2001.

As the largest among Florida’s Billfish, Blue Marlin combine all the characteristics of the ultimate game fish. They’re capable of reaching weights of over 1,000 pounds while retaining incredible speed, agility, and power. Because of the thrilling way they fight, most anglers agree that Marlin present one of the toughest challenges out there. In fact, even Hemingway wrote about them, most notably in the fishing classic The Old Man and the Sea.

A closeup photo of a hooked Blue Marlin's head and bill taken by the side of a boat before the fish is released.
Photo courtesy of Sweet William III.

In Florida, you can catch Blue Marlin from spring through fall. They inhabit the offshore waters both off the Gulf and Atlantic coasts of the state. Destin, Panama City Beach, the Florida Keys, as well as the Treasure Coast, are all fantastic starting spots.

As far as Florida’s state record Blue Marlin, it was landed precisely off one of the spots we mentioned – Panama City. In 2001, Conrad Hawkins was fishing in the Bay Point International Billfish Tournament when he managed to reel in a “Grander” Marlin that weighed 1,046 pounds. The amazing fish was 131 inches long and 78 inches in girth.

The world record for Atlantic Blue Marlin, however, belongs to an angler called Paolo Amorim from Brazil. In 1992, Paolo caught a massive Marlin fishing offshore from Vitoria. The fish that still holds the record measured a whopping 1,402 pounds and 2 ounces.

Redfish

  • Florida state record: 52.31 lbs in the Indian River Lagoon near Cocoa in 1996.

Graced with brawn, beauty, and a delicious taste, Redfish are a staple inshore species in Florida. The sight of their spotted tails breaching the water’s surface is something every angler hopes to witness. At that point, all you have to do is nail your cast and the battle is on.

A man and a boy sitting on a charter fishing boat in Florida and smiling for a photo with a big Redfish lying across their laps with blue waters and clear skies in the background.
Photo courtesy of Reel Wicked Fishing Charters.

You’ll find Redfish in most coastal waters in Florida. On the East Coast, Mosquito Lagoon and the Indian River are prime spots. Or, if you want to fish the Gulf side instead, Tampa Bay, Apalachicola Bay, and Pensacola Beach are all solid choices.

Not surprisingly, considering the quality of fishing, Florida’s state record Redfish was caught in the Indian River Lagoon, near Cocoa. In 1996, George Hogan Jr. reeled in a 52.31 lb fish after an intense 20-minute battle. What’s more impressive is that he landed the fish on a 4 lb test, for which he still holds the men’s IGFA record. 

Incredibly, the biggest Redfish on record stood at almost double the weight of the beast George reeled in. The all-tackle record belongs to David Deuel who hooked and tamed a Redfish weighing 94 pounds and 2 ounces. He caught the world-beater fish from a beach in Avon, North Carolina.

Sheepshead

  • Florida state record: 15.13 lbs in Homosassa in 1981.

With their prison-suit stripes and human-like teeth built for crushing shells, Sheepshead are odd-looking fish. However, it’s precisely their shellfish diet that has made them such a prized catch. Anglers often call them the “Poor Man’s Lobster,” but this nickname is no insult, as Sheepshead are truly delicious.

A man in sunglasses and a baseball hat holding a sizeable Sheepshead towards the camera with waters and coastal mangrove forests typical of Florida behind him.
Photo courtesy of Southern Mayhem Fishing Charters.

Sheepshead are an inshore and nearshore species, so they’ll lurk close to Florida’s coast around bridges and docks, along with near various reefs and wrecks. If you’re looking for a place to start, St. Petersburg, Destin, Jacksonville, and the Keys are abundant with these tasty critters.

The Sheepshead state record for Florida dates back to 1981. The angler who set the record, Eugene Lechler caught a 15.13 lb fish near Homosassa. And despite the number of Sheepshead caught each year, the record has stood the test of time.

To add to that, the all-tackle IGFA record for Sheepshead was landed just a year later, in 1982. This, however, happened in St. Johns Bayou in Louisiana. There, Wayne Desselle caught a giant weighing 21 pounds and 4 ounces.

Snapper (Mangrove)

  • Florida state record: 17 lbs near Port Canaveral in 1992.

Mangrove Snapper, also known as Grey Snapper, is another beloved species that inhabits Florida’s coastal waters. They’re fun fish to catch, but it’s the divine taste that’s their biggest forte. They average between 1–2 pounds in weight, at which they’re also at their most delicious.

An angler sitting on a boat and posing with a trophy Mangrove Snapper he caught, with calm blue waters behind him, considering the fish's size, it is probably only a few pounds off from Florida's state record.
Photo courtesy of Top of the Morning Charters.

These fish derive their official name from the scenery they dwell in. In Florida, you’ll often spot them hiding in the lush coastal vegetation and the channels, inlets, and bays. However, for bigger ones, you’ll have to move further from the coast and hit the reefs and wrecks.

Compared to the average ones you’ll find inshore, Mangrove Snapper get significantly larger offshore. Florida’s state record Mangrove Snapper stands at 17 pounds. Steve Maddox, an angler fishing off Port Canaveral, caught the beefy specimen in 1992.

And while Florida’s record hasn’t been beaten for over 30 years, the world’s biggest Mangrove Snapper was caught in 2015. The record-breaking catch was landed offshore from Cocodrie in Louisiana. Angler Tim Champagne netted himself a massive 18.36 lb Mangrove Snapper, with the fish measuring just under 31 inches in length.

Snapper (Red)

  • Florida state record: 46.5 lbs offshore from Destin in 1985.

Sending thousands of anglers into a frenzy each summer, Red Snapper have a reputation as one of the tastiest fish in the ocean. Their meat has a firm texture and mild taste, lending itself to all different kinds of preparation. And since the opportunities to catch them have been subject to strict regulations, the scarceness alone has brought Red Snapper even more attention.

A focus shot of a big Red Snapper being held by a child on a marina dock in Destin, Florida, with both the boy and the background blurred, putting all the focus on the fish.
Photo courtesy of Nothin’ Matters.

Like the rest of the fish from their family, Red Snapper enjoy life best around reefs and structures. You can find them as little as a couple of miles from the coast but the best fishing and the biggest specimens usually lurk further out. Red Snapper are widespread in Florida, but Pensacola, Destin, and Tampa boast the best fishing. Or, hit the Volusia County‘s waters on the East Coast.

So what’s the biggest Red Snapper caught in Florida? The state record belongs to Lane Nichols III who reeled in a 46.5 lb “sow” Red Snapper in 1985. He was fishing offshore from Destin when he landed the monster catch, setting a so far unbeatable record. One Florida angler did come close recently, but his potential record unfortunately ended up as a Michelin-star meal for a Shark.

If you’re wondering about the world record for Red Snapper, it was landed fishing the Gulf of Mexico out of Louisiana. Back in 1996, Capt. Henry “Doc” Kennedy caught a monster 50 lb, 4 oz Red Snapper to set the record. What’s even more amazing is that he had two monster fish hooked at the same time and, according to the legend, the bigger one got away.

Snook

  • Florida state record: 45.75 lbs in Sebastian in 2015.

Much like Redfish, Snook are a keystone game fish in Florida. They’re aggressive, famous for their hard strikes and acrobatics. And just to make them even more appealing, Snook are absolutely great table fare.

A woman in sunglasses sitting against the side of the boat, smiling and posing for a photo with a huge Snook caught near Sebastian Inlet, Florida, in the same waters where the state record fish was landed.
Photo courtesy of Coastal Charter Company.

Snook usually inhabit the same waters as Redfish. This means you’ll find these wonderful fish inshore, near inlets, docks, mangroves, and bridges. Hotspots include Sebastian Inlet, Jupiter, Fort Pierce, and Captiva.

Among these, Sebastian Inlet typically yields the biggest Snook in Florida. And, indeed, it’s where the state record fish was caught. In late August 2015, Heather Lynn Connors reeled in a 45.75 lb Snook. And while the record still stands, anglers catch monster Snook in the same waters yearly.

As for the world record for Snook, it was set in Costa Rica in 1978. The current biggest catch, measuring 53 pounds and 10 ounces, was landed near Parismina on the east coast of the country, by Gilbert Ponzi. Mind you, there have been even bigger Snook caught, but not the exact species you’ll find in Florida.

Florida State Record Fish: An Overview

If you’re more interested in just seeing the numbers – no worries, we’ve got you. Here’s a table lining out all the species we’ve mentioned in the article and their records.

Species Pounds Length (in) Girth (in) Place Year
Bass (Largemouth) 17.27 30 22.5 Polk County 1986
Bass (Peacock) 9.11 23.3 N/A Broward County 2021
Crappie (Black) 3.83 N/A N/A Lake Talquin 1992
Grouper (Goliath) 680 85.5 77 Fernandina Beach 1961
Marlin (Blue) 1046 131 78 Panama City 2001
Redfish 52.31 N/A N/A Cocoa 1996
Sheepshead 15.13 N/A N/A Homosassa 1981
Snapper (Mangrove) 17 N/A N/A Port Canaveral 1992
Snapper (Red) 46.5 N/A N/A Destin 1985
Snook 45.75 N/A N/A Sebastian Inlet 2015

Florida: A World-Class Fishery

A photo of the swamp waters of the Everglades, Florida, with vegetation seemingly growing out of the shallow waters and scenic clouds in the sky.

Any angler worth their salt already knows Florida is a heaven on earth when it comes to fishing. From Bass-filled lakes to pristine flats, and an ocean of game fish, there’s something to enjoy for every type of angler. And rarely – just rarely – it turns out that there’s a record-breaking catch at the end of someone’s line. Could that be you? Hit the waters and try your luck!

To find out more about fish records and other states’ giants, visit our Fish Records: The Complete Guide blog.

What Florida state record fish were you most surprised with? Did you enjoy our rundown? Let us know in the comments below!

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From a young age, Marko has been a nature buff. His first contact with fishing came through his dad who’d take him to the Danube River. It’s where Marko got his basic angling education, landed his first catch (an Ide), and learned how to cook a mean fish stew. Marko also enjoys hiking, running, traveling, and writing about it all.

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