Largest Turtle Ever? Man Snags a Mammoth 200-Pound Beast

Biggest Turtle
© Rahadian Pratama from Getty Images and RAUL RODRIGUEZ from Getty Images/ via

Written by Nixza Gonzalez

Published: May 7, 2024

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Imagine casually catching an incredibly large, rare, and vulnerable turtle, only to also reel in a record-winning fish soon after. This is exactly what happened to Art Weston, a Kentucky angler and state and world record fisherman. Weston and professional fishing guide Captain Kirk Kirkland set out to Sam Rayburn Lake in hopes of landing another record. After multiple fights with alligator gar beasts, they caught a surprising find, a 200-pound alligator snapping turtle. Even before it surfaced, the fishermen knew it was a turtle by its aggressive fighting style.

Still, they had no idea just how big it could be. To release the alligator snapping turtle back into the water, they removed the hook from its thick foot carefully. 

Art Weston’s Recent Record

Weston holds multiple state and international fishing records. Just a day after running into the 200-pound turtle, he landed another. Weston reeled in a 188-pound alligator gar on a four-pound line. The fight lasted about an hour before they reeled it in. The previous record was 117 pounds.

Huge Alligator Gar Close Up

An alligator gar can weigh 300 pounds or more.

©Morrissey Design Studio/

Are Alligator Snapping Turtles Rare?

Sometimes alligator snapping turtles are stolen from the wild to be pets.

© Stock

Unfortunately, alligator snapping turtles are listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. You are more likely to see one in a zoo than in the wild. Alligator snapping turtles suffer from a lot of threats. Some of the threats they face include over harvesting for meat, use as exotic pets and habitat destruction. In some states, like Kentucky and Indiana they are endangered. In others, like Florida, they are protected, but not labeled as vulnerable or endangered. 

Although their populations are decreasing, they are also considered invasive species when released in non-native waters. Alligator snapping turtles have few predators.

Where Do Alligator Snapping Turtles Live?

Alligator snapping turtles are native to parts of the United States. They mainly live in freshwater in the eastern United States. Some places you may find them include Florida, Kentucky, Kansas, Louisiana, Tennessee, Texas, and Iowa. 

What Do Alligator Snapping Turtles Eat?

Alligator snapping turtles eat snakes, fish, mice, and small turtles.


Alligator snapping turtles are almost entirely carnivorous. They are also opportunistic feeders. These turtles are not picky and will eat nearly anything they catch. They both hunt for food and scavenge on dead animals. An alligator snapping turtle may eat:

  • snakes
  • fish
  • muskrats
  • mice
  • small alligators
  • insects
  • amphibians
  • carrion
  • birds
  • crayfish

How Big Do Alligator Snapping Turtles Get?

Alligator snapping turtles are not small. These massive reptiles grow to impressive lengths and weights. They are known for their large and blocky heads, long and thick shells, and sharp claws. These reptiles can get as long as 32 inches. While there have been unverified reports of 300 to 400-pound alligator snapping turtles, they likely only reach around 200 pounds.

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About the Author

Nixza Gonzalez is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering topics like travel, geography, plants, and marine animals. She has over six years of experience as a content writer and holds an Associate of Arts Degree. A resident of Florida, Nixza loves spending time outdoors exploring state parks and tending to her container garden.

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