Sea Monsters! The 10 Biggest Trophy Fish Ever Caught in Alaska

Written by Cindy Rasmussen
Updated: April 7, 2023
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As the state with the most lakes you can imagine there is some excellent fishing in Alaska. There are also thousands of miles of coastline for offshore fishing. Don’t forget that despite the cooler, sometimes frigid temperatures, many anglers fish year-round, being adept at ice fishing as well. If you think some of the biggest fish in the US are lurking in the coolest waters in the country you are right. Here are the 10 biggest trophy fish ever caught in Alaska.

10) Arctic Char/Dolly Varden: 27 pounds 6 ounces

arctic char

With lengths of approximately 38 inches, Arctic char are large, heavy fish in Alaska

©FedBul/Shutterstock.com

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Arctic char and Dolly Varden are in the Salmonid family and live in the arctic and subarctic lakes in SE Alaska. They can also be found in the chillier northern lakes in the state. While they don’t get as big as king salmon they can reach lengths of 38 inches and average 15 pounds.

The biggest Dolly Varden ever caught in Alaska was a 27 pound 6 ounce char caught by Mike Curtiss on the Wulik River. The Wulik is a stream that flows from the De Long Mountains in northwestern Alaska. Both arctic char and Dolly Vardens can be found in the Wulik and Kivalina Rivers and the Chukchi Sea which is their spawning grounds. Curtiss reeled in this record breaker back in 2002, making it a 20 year record and holding.

9) Chum Salmon: 32 pounds

Largest Salmon - Chum Salmon

One of the most common salmon in Alaska is the chum salmon which can weigh up to 32 pounds

©The Old Major/Shutterstock.com

Chum salmon are some of the most common salmon in Alaska and can be found throughout the state. Similar to other Pacific fish they spend most of their lives in the Pacific ocean and then return to their original lakes, rivers or streams to spawn before dying. An average chum salmon is around 24-28 inches long and weighs about 10-13 pounds. The record breaker in the state was nearly twice that size! In 1985, Fredrick Thynes caught a massive chum salmon that weighed in at 32 pounds! Thynes was fishing at Caamano Point, which is between the Behm Canal and Clarence Strait SE of Juneau, AK.

8) Northern Pike: 38 pounds 8 ounces

Pike are torpedo-shaped fish with rows of sharp teeth

©bekirevren/Shutterstock.com

The northern pike (sometimes just called “pike”) are found throughout the state and are a popular ice fishing catch. Pike are long and torpedo-shaped with many tiny sharp teeth. They can get to be 4 feet long and weigh up to 40 pounds. The record breaker in Alaska was close to that 40 pound mark. Jack Wagener was fishing on the Innoko River, which is a tributary of the larger Yukon River when he landed a massive pike weighing 38 pounds 8 ounces. His record dates back to 1991 and still stands today. 

7) Rockfish: 39 pounds 1 ounce

Single Canary rockfish - fish from the northeast region of Pacific Ocean in a zoological aquarium

The largest rockfish in Alaska weighed an impressive 39 pounds, 1 ounce

©ArtMediaFactory/Shutterstock.com

Rockfish can be found in the Gulf of Alaska and are brightly colored fish, orangish to orange-red with yellow eyes. The yelloweye rockfish is the biggest rockfish and can reach lengths of 3 feet. The biggest rockfish ever caught in Alaska was caught off the coast of Sitka, AK. This is about 90 miles SW of Juneau. Henry Lieberman reeled in a 39 pound 1 ounce rockfish back in 2013, breaking the previous record of 38.68 pounds from 2001. Interestingly, this catch was actually a world record-breaking catch as well, however, it didn’t hold the world record very long. Three weeks after Lieberman got the title of world’s largest rockfish, another rockfish was caught a few ounces bigger to knock him out of the spot. His record still stands as the biggest in Alaska.

6) Rainbow/Steelhead Trout: 42 pounds 3 ounces

What Do Trout Eat - Rainbow Trout Bursting from Surface

Trout are large, popular fish in Alaska

©FedBul/Shutterstock.com

Alaska is known for amazing salmon fishing, as we have seen, but it is also known for its epic trout. Our next trophy fish are rainbow and steelhead trout tipping the scales. The rainbow/steelhead category includes both rainbow trout, that live entirely in freshwater rivers and streams, and steelhead trout that migrate to the ocean to spend much of their lives before returning to their birthplace to spawn at the end of their life cycle.

The biggest steelhead trout ever caught in Alaska was 42 pounds 3 ounces caught off of Bell Island by David White. Bell Island is also SE of the Juneau area. White’s record is a longstanding record dating back to 1970.

5) Lake Trout: 47 pounds

Lake Trout

Mostly found in lakes, the largest lake trout in Alaska weighed 47 pounds

©iStock.com/VvoeVale

Lake trout, as their name implies, are generally found in larger bodies of water like lakes. With a vast number of lakes throughout Alaska populations of self-contained trout are thriving. In a small lake east of Denali State Park, the biggest lake trout was caught in 1970. Daniel Thorsness was credited with the catch of this 47 pound lake trout which he pulled in off of Clarence Lake. While some anglers with fish their local lakes and streams others will charter bush planes to fly into some of the most remote fishing areas in Alaska. Clarence Lake is definitely one of those remote fishing spots.

4) Lingcod: 81 pounds 6 ounces

Lingcod

Lingcod live along the west coast of North America and can weigh more than 81 pounds

©Joe Belanger/Shutterstock.com

In the lower 48 you hear about bass fishing, catfishing, and catching a trophy-sized salmon, but you are probably not familiar with lingcod. Lingcod are not a type of cod, instead, they are greenlings. They are known to be aggressive eaters so they may go hard after your bait! Lingcods live along the west coast of North America including along the Aleutian Islands in Alaska.

The biggest lingcod ever caught in Alaska was an 81 pound 6 ounce lingcod caught by Charles Curny off of Monty Island. He made this record-breaking catch back in 2002. Imagine an 80+ pound fish and the effort it must have taken to reel it in, net it, and haul it into the boat.

3) Sheefish: 83 pounds

Sheefish

Sheefish often travel more than 1,000 miles, moving between fresh and saltwater

©Dn Br/Shutterstock.com

Another fish you may be unfamiliar with is the sheefish. The sheefish is a long, slender, silvery fish in the whitefish subfamily. They tend to move quite a bit, traveling between fresh and salt water, sometimes traveling more than 1,000 miles in a year. They can get to be 42 inches long and weigh 30 pounds but some get quite a bit larger.

The biggest sheefish ever caught in Alaska was an 83 pounder caught on the Pah River. Lawrence E. Hudnall bagged the sheefish in 1986 while fishing on the Pah, which is south of the Kobuk National Preserve in west-central Alaska.

2) King Salmon: 97 pounds 4 ounces

Steelehad vs Salmon - King Salmon

King salmon are the largest of the salmons and in Alaska they can reach almost 100 pounds!

©Dec Hogan/Shutterstock.com

Now for one of the Alaska specialties…salmon. The biggest salmon species is the king salmon, also called Chinook Salmon, with massive kings being caught in Alaska waters. Since March 25th, 1963 the Chinook Salmon has been Alaska’s official state fish. They live in the ocean but return to their freshwater birthplace for spawning when their bellies turn bright red.

The biggest king salmon ever caught in Alaska was almost 100 pounds! In 1985, Lester Anderson reeled in a 97 pound 4 ouncer, pulled from the Kenai River. The lower part of the Kenai is known for its excellent salmon fishing where you can hire a guide or book a charter. Let the experts take you to the best fishing holes so maybe you can break the next king salmon record.

1) Halibut: 459 pounds

Fisherman in yellow slicker carries a large halibut on his shoulder

Halibut are massive fish and are easily the largest in Alaska

©Alexey Savchuk/Shutterstock.com

Now there is quite a jump in poundage from a 97 pound king salmon to a 459 pound halibut! The biggest trophy fish ever caught in Alaska was a 459 pound halibut caught by Jack Traggis in the Unalaska Bay. You are certainly not scooping up a 459 pound in a net and hauling it into your boat. For fish this size, anglers will reel their catch into the side of the boat and use an onboard crane to land the fish in the boat. For reference, a baby elephant weighs around 200 pounds at birth, this fish was twice that and then some. This was a massive catch!

Summary of the 10 Biggest Trophy Fish Ever Caught in Alaska

Here’s a recap of the 10 Alaskan monster fish that made cut as the biggest ever to bring home trophies.

RankFishWeight
1Halibut459 pounds
2King Salmon97 pounds 4 ounces
3Shee Fish83 pounds
4Lingcod81 pounds 6 ounces
5Lake Trout47 pounds
6Rainbow/Steelhead Trout42 pounds 3 ounces
7Rockfish39 pounds 1 ounce
8Northern Pike38 pounds 8 ounces
9Chum Salmon32 pounds
10Arctic Char/Dolly Varden27 pounds 6 ounces

The photo featured at the top of this post is © FedBul/Shutterstock.com


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About the Author

I'm a Wildlife Conservation Author and Journalist, raising awareness about conservation by teaching others about the amazing animals we share the planet with. I graduated from the University of Minnesota-Morris with a degree in Elementary Education and I am a former teacher. When I am not writing I love going to my kids' soccer games, watching movies, taking on DIY projects and running with our giant Labradoodle "Tango".

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Sources
  1. Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Available here: https://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=FishingSportFishAK.TrophyFishProgram
  2. Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Available here: https://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=chinook.main
  3. Angling Unlimited, Available here: https://anglingunlimited.com/world-record-rockfish/#:~:text=On%20Friday%2C%20June%2021%2C%202013,state%20record%20of%2038.68%20pounds.