More than 150 fish species are included Fisherman’s View‘s list of the largest specimens ever caught. Some of these records have remained untouched for decades ― so if you’re looking to do a little fishing and make some history, be sure to put these species on your to-catch list. We’ve included some expert tips to help you snag the largest specimens possible ― but of course, we can’t guarantee record-breaking results.
Record: 98 pounds, 12 ounces (caught by Alphonse Bielevich on June 8, 1969)
Where They’re Found: Eastern U.S./Canada Seaboard, Bay of Biscay, North Sea, Baltic Sea, Arctic Ocean
Expert Advice: While Atlantic cod can be found both inshore and offshore, Chris Lewis of Oh My Cod recommends fishing by boat in “rocky reefs with uplifting rock pinnacles and dense beds of kelp”. He suggests using a 50-pound class, heavy-action rod that measures anywhere from five to eight feet in length and is equipped with a heavy reel. When it comes to bait, he urges fishermen to forego worms and instead use larger specimens, such as whole squid or ― his preferred method ― clams and/or mussels affixed to a 10-ounce Swedish jig.
Record: 14 pounds, 8 ounces (caught by Dr. W.J. Cook in July 1916)
Where They’re Found: Eastern North America, particularly the Appalachian Range, Great Lakes-St. Lawrence system, and Mississippi River drainage areas
Expert Tips: According to Bass Pro Shops, “one of the most fun and productive” methods of catching brookies is to use a fly rod. Brook trout are not very finnicky, and have been known to chomp down on flies of varying sizes and styles. However, in the interest of snagging the bigg’uns, fishermen should forego nymphs in favor of weighted flies in order to attract the generally larger brookies that like to hang out at lower depths. The fly size should gradually decrease over the course of the summer; during the months of August and September, dry flies are optimal; hoppers tend to work best. During the autumn season (when larger brookies are most aggressive), flashy streamers such as Mylar Tinsel or marabou get the job done.
Record: 58 pounds (caught by W.B. Whaley on July 7, 1964)
Where They’re Found: The Neartic zone, which extends from the Great Lakes Basin and Lake Nigipon of lower Canada, through the northern and eastern United States, to upper Mexico.
Expert Tips: Steve Douglas of DiscoverCatfishing.com notes that not only are channel catfish the most abundant catfish species in the U.S., but that they will also consume just about anything that gets tossed in their direction. However, cut bait is optimal “if you’re after the big ones”. The species of bait does not matter as much as the size. Douglas recommends cutting the bait into square chunks; the size of the bait should correlate to the size of catfish you’re hoping to catch, and one square inch of bait per six pounds of fish is a good formula to follow. However, he also encourages fishermen to think beyond cut bait and experiment with other types of bait, such as chicken livers or shrimp.
Record: 22 pounds, 4 ounces (caught by George Perry on June 2, 1932)
Where They’re Found: Throughout the United States, particularly the Southeast
Expert Advice: TheOnlineFisherman.com characterizes largemouth bass “as one of the toughest, most challenging of all freshwater species”. They’re more likely to appear during the warmer parts of summer (springtime is when they typically lay their eggs and stay away from the surface of the water), and can usually be found near “structures” like logjams and rock piles. When it comes to bait, live wigglers and shiners are best. One final tip: be extra quiet when fishing for largemouth bass, as they are quite sensitive to human noises (even by fish standards).
Record: 67 pounds, 8 ounces (caught by Cal Johnson on July 24, 1949)
Where They’re Found: Primarily in the Great Lakes region of Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin, and lower Canada
Expert Advice: “These giants have just one attitude,” wrote Ted Takasaki and Scott Richardson of MuskieCentral.com, “nasty.” These members of the pike family are first-rate thrashers, and as such require the right equipment. The authors recommend a medium-heavy casting rod that measures 7 to 7.5 feet; a baitcaster reel with line that weighs between 20 and 25 pounds; single-strand wire leader (between 80- and 100-pound test); and ball-bearing snap swivels. Crankbait (such as Bagley’s DBO 6 or Depth Raiders) should be cast into rocky areas and slowly retrieved, while bucktails work best in weed-infested areas. If casting doesn’t work, try trolling; Takasaki and Richardson suggest jerkbait in this scenario.