Discover the Largest Bighead Carp Ever Caught in Mississippi

Written by Rebecca Mathews
Published: March 31, 2023
© Katoosha/Shutterstock.com
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Bighead carp (Hypophthalmichthys nobilis) are non-native fish that reach behemoth sizes. They have spread along the Mississippi river basin and into adjoining waterways with surprising ease, but who has snagged the largest so far? Let’s discover the largest bighead carp ever caught in Mississippi and exactly where this river monster was hooked.

Bighead Carp Average Size

Male bighead carp are generally smaller than females but can reach 3-4 feet in length and weigh up to 40 lbs on average. In good conditions, with lots of available food, anglers have hooked 100 lbs plus bighead carp, so they are capable of epic proportions.

Largest Bighead Carp Ever Caught in Mississippi

Here are the largest bighead carp ever caught in Mississippi:

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Trophy Record: Shane Turnage from Coldwater hooked an 89 lbs 13 oz bighead carp in Horn Lake on March 30, 2011.

Rod and Reel Record: Angler Ron Maxwell snagged a 67 lbs 12 oz bighead carp from Sardis Lower Lake on April 3, 2007.

Fly Fishing: No record yet!

Mississippi certainly has some monster-sized bighead carp lurking in its waters!

Largest Bighead Carp Ever Caught

The largest bigheads ever caught in Mississippi are minnows compared to the world’s largest ever caught bighead. On July 24, 2021, Matt Neuling shot a 125 lbs 5 oz bighead carp with a bow at Lake Perry, Missouri. Initially, Neuling thought he’d hit a smaller grass carp but quickly realized he was onto something much bigger. This river monster was so huge he needed help to reel it in.

Mississippi’s Biggest Fish Records

Let’s take a look at some of the largest fish ever caught in Mississippi’s waters.

  • Angler Tony Christian hooked a massive 72 lbs 7 oz grass carp at Pickwick Lake in May 2005.
  • R. Belk and R. Rippy caught an alligator gar weighing 234 lbs from the Yazoo River in 2011.
  • Eugene Cronley hooked a 131 lbs blue catfish from the Mississippi river (Natchez) in 2022.
  • John Smith snagged a 30.63 lbs freshwater drum from Eagle Lake in 2016

For a small state, Mississippi consistently produces massive fish.

Species Overview: Bighead Carp

Bighead carp sit in the Cyprinidae family. They’re native to East Asia and were first brought to Arkansas in 1973 by a private fish farmer in an attempt to control algae growth in sewage treatment lagoons and aquaculture ponds. Because bighead carp can withstand a wide range of conditions, they soon escaped into the Mississippi river and spread along its river basins. 23 U.S. states are now home to invasive bighead carp.

Appearance

Bighead carp are large fish with deep torpedo-shaped bodies and, as the name suggests, a large scaleless head. Their eyes are very low and forward facing on dark gray and cream bodies. Bigheads often have irregular black blotches on their sides. A dorsal fin stretches along their back, and anal fins sit near their tail.

Bighead carp are large fish with deep torpedo-shaped bodies and, as the name suggests, a large scaleless head.

©Katoosha/Shutterstock.com

Diet

Bigheads are filter feeders that consume zooplankton, detritus, algae, and small invertebrates like mollusks and crustaceans. Small fish and fish eggs are eaten too. Because they don’t have a “true” stomach, they need to feed almost continuously, which puts lots of pressure on the environment. They’re more than capable of outcompeting native species for food resources. Bighead carp use their gill rakers to strain particles from water. This means they consume anything that’s filtered into their mouths.

Invasive Status

Bighead carp aren’t U.S. native fish, they were introduced from Asia, so they are considered an invasive species. Because they consume so much plankton and algae they drastically reduce the amount available for native species, and this has led to native species decline.

They are abundant in Mississippi, neighboring states, the Mississippi river, and its basins. Their large size, hardy nature, and ability to live in brackish water make them difficult to control.

Several large flooding events have allowed them to spread even further in the wild, migrating through river systems. Bigheads are also capable of interbreeding with other carp species, and females lay eggs in flowing water, so they are able to colonize new areas using river currents.

The U.S. government added bighead carp to the federal injurious wildlife list in March 2022, where it joins other Asian carp species, such as grass carp and silver carp. The injurious list means it’s illegal to import or transport live bighead carp unless by permit, and it has to be for zoological, educational, medical, or scientific purposes.

Bighead Carp: Range and Habitat

Their range extends in these directions:

  • Mississippi River from Louisiana to Minnesota
  • Missouri River to South Dakota
  • Ohio River to Ohio
  • The entire Illinois river basin

Experts are concerned that soon bighead carp will enter the Great Lakes and damage commercial fishery economies there.

These resourceful fish spend most of their time near the river bottom filtering algae and plankton or near the surface sucking down debris and insects. Their favorite spots include sheltered underwater habitats such as submerged logs, bridge supports, rocks, and along bank sides.

Can I Eat Bighead Carp?

Yes, all Asian carp species are edible. Their meat is white, flaky, and firm with no muddy flavor. The best way to cook bighead carp includes grilling, steaming, and baking with lemon or fruity marinades.

A problem folks have with bighead carp is the intramuscular bones that run throughout the fish’s body. However, they are large and easy to remove, so don’t prove too much bother.

The best way to cook bighead carp includes grilling, steaming, and baking with lemon or fruity marinades.

©Vitalii Borkovsky/Shutterstock.com

How to Catch Bighead Carp

Because they’re bottom feeders, bighead carp are harder to catch than predatory fish. If you want to catch the largest bighead carp in Mississippi, here are some top tips from experienced anglers.

Tackle

Bigheads reach epic proportions. The biggest ever caught in Mississippi was 89 lbs, so a sturdy rod and reel are needed. Anglers suggest a seven-rod with at least 15 lbs braided line and a friend to help haul in the biggest river monsters!

Bait

Because they eat algae and detritus, pretty much any bait is suitable for bighead carp. Try bread, maize earthworms, fish chunks, potatoes, bananas, or shrimp.

Technique

Float, suspend or snag lines near weeds beds and wait.

Bighead carp are favorites for bow fishers. They don’t jump and present a target like silver carp, but they will glide along the surface filtering insects or floating bait like maize.

Where to Catch Bighead Carp in Mississippi

Mississippi is a small state with a lot of big fishing! The record bighead carp were caught in Sardis Lower Lake and Horn Lake.

Sardis Lower Lake is a reservoir in northern Mississippi, an hour from Memphis. It’s popular for boating, picnics, and angling.

Horn Lake is near Lynchburg, DeSoto County. It’s a popular spot for all types of anglers, from carp enthusiasts to catfishers.

Natchez State Park is filled with fish, including bighead carp. Night fishing is allowed here, as is bow fishing.

Enid Lake is mostly located mostly in Yalobusha County. It’s huge and peaceful enough to lure that bighead from the murky depths without someone’s dog jumping in to snaffle the bread.  

The Mississippi Department for Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks (MDWFP) controls other top fishing lakes in Mississippi. Only rod and reel or pole fishing are allowed on these lakes during the day, but bow and arrow fishing is permitted at night.

And, of course, there’s the Mississippi River itself with 119 different fish species. It’s more challenging and better suited to experienced anglers due to its backwaters, tailwaters, and running sloughs, but river guides are on hand to help out.

Where ever you choose to fish for bighead carp, make sure you have a license and follow all the rules. Any lawbreaking and a potential record bighead carp catch won’t stand.

Pin Oak Lake at Natchez Trace State Park is filled with fish, including bighead carp.

©Melinda Fawver/Shutterstock.com

Mississippi’s Largest Ever Bighead Carp

Let’s remind ourselves of the largest bighead carp ever caught in Mississippi. Shane Turnage hooked his 89.13 lbs trophy bighead in 2011. He snagged that river monster in Horn Lake.

The largest bighead catfish caught in Mississippi using a rod and reel was hauled in by Ron Maxwell in 2007. His catch weighed 67.12 lbs.

Bighead carp average 40 lbs, but over 100 pounders are hidden in the depths of the Mississippi river, its river basins, and adjoining river systems, so there’s everything to fish for.

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The Featured Image

Bighead,Carp,(hypophthalmichthys,Nobilis)
Bighead carp (Hypophthalmichthys nobilis)
© Katoosha/Shutterstock.com

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About the Author

Rebecca is a professional researcher from England's south coast with special interests in the environment, particularly archaeology and plant species. She spends a lot of time rehabilitating injured wildlife and visiting Greek islands to enjoy the company of cats.

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