With the second longest coastline in the US you can understand how Florida has some of the best fishing in the States. Not to mention 7,500 freshwater lakes, ponds and reservoirs and 12,000 miles of rivers and streams for fishing. To be fair we need to look at both freshwater and saltwater records when comparing trophy-sized fish in Florida. Here are the 10 biggest trophy fish ever caught in Florida.
#5 Striped Bass: 42.24 pounds
When it comes to striped bass (stripers) the Apalachicola and St. Johns rivers in the panhandle are the recommend spot. Sure enough, the largest striper on record in Florida was pulled from the Apalachicola River on December 14, 1993, by Alphonso Barnes. When you think of bass fishing you may think primarily of black bass like largemouth and smallmouth bass but striped, yellow and white bass all make for a challenging catch (and good eating!). Some striped bass are landlocked living entirely in freshwater while others make their way down to the Gulf and can be saltwater as well. The biggest freshwater striper in Florida was 42.24 pounds!
#4 Channel Catfish: 44.50 pounds
Next is our catfish sweep with the next three biggest trophy fish being the three most common catfish in the US. Channel, flathead and blue catfish are recognized as excellent eating fish and can be fished in lakes and rivers. The biggest channel catfish ever caught in Florida weighed 44.50 pounds and was caught by Joe Purvis on Lake Bluff. This is a longstanding record dating back to May 19, 1985.
#3 Blue Catfish: 69.5 pounds
Typically blue catfish are bigger than flatheads, but there was an unusually large flathead caught in Florida just barely beating the record 69.5 pound blue cat (that’s about the size of a golden retriever!). Blue catfish have a blueish tint and the characteristic whisker-like barbels coming out from the sides of their face. Blue cats prefer faster, more clear water than channel cats so might be easier to see, but not necessarily easier to catch!
#2 Flathead Catfish: 69.9 pounds
Flathead catfish like slow-moving streams or rivers and can often be found around fallen trees or collections of debris. They are a little darker in color than blue and channel cats and their tail is not forked like the other catfish. The biggest flathead, which beat out the blue, was 69.9 pounds (see how close it was!). It was caught by Lavon Nowling quite recently on August 26, 2020. The Yellow River is another river that flows into Florida from Georgia in the panhandle on its way to the Gulf.
#1 Alligator Gar: 123 pounds
Breaking the hundred pound mark is the giant alligator gar. These are the largest of the gar fish and are long and “skinny” with some reaching 8 feet long…longer than your average 7 foot long sofa. The alligator gar is the largest freshwater fish ever caught in Florida so it has a reputation to uphold with a weight of 123 pounds. Zachary Phillips holds the record from catching this fish on the Choctawhatchee River back on July 8, 1995.
#5 Bluefin Tuna: 826.50 pounds
If you thought a 100+ pound alligator gar was impressive wait until you see the sea monsters on our saltwater list. Big ocean=big fish! You can charter a boat to be taken out for some of the best deep sea fishing experiences. Once you get a hang of it you can certainly go out on your own to try to find the next trophy fish.
Bluefin tuna are highly sought after fish used for sushi and sashimi, especially in Asia. Keeping tabs on commercial fishing of bluefins is important to keep this apex predator in its role in the ecosystem. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission is on top of monitoring the fishing industry, both private and commercial in the state. The biggest bluefin tuna caught in Florida was 826.50 pounds and caught in the Gulf of Mexico by Rick Whitley. This one was caught on May 8, 2017, about 5 years ago.
#4 Mako Shark: 911.65 pounds
The next four out of five biggest trophy fish ever caught in Florida are all sharks! Another longstanding record dates back to April 9, 1962 when Audrey Cohen caught a 911.65 pound mako shark off the shores of Palm Beach. Mako sharks are some of the fastest fish with the shortfin mako being the one fastest fish in the world. They can reach speeds of 45 miles per hour! That sounds like a challenging fishing target to me!
#3 Blue Marlin: 1,048.88 pounds
Now we hit the thousand pounders! Blue marlins look like swordfish with a long pointed snout and large sail along their back. They are a beautiful silvery blue and are also one of the fastest fish in the sea. The biggest blue marlin ever caught in Florida was 1,048.88 pounds! The record breaker was caught on July 14, 2001 off the shores of Panama City by Conrad E. Hawkins. He was participating in the Bay Point International Billfish Tournament and clearly came in first for his trophy-sized blue marlin!
#2 Hammerhead Shark: 1,063.75 pounds
Hammerhead sharks are rightfully named based on the crazy hammer-shaped heads with their eyes on either end of the head. Truly a bizarre looking fish. They can also get to be 20 feet long! Purposefully fishing for sharks is not for everyone but if you do land a hammerhead you know you are in for a fight. The biggest hammerhead shark ever caught in Florida was 1,063.75 pounds caught in the Boca Grande Pass on May 5, 2009 by Captain Bucky Dennis. He certainly did have to fight for his catch reporting that he struggled with the mighty shark for nearly 2 ½ hours before finally landing it.
#1 Tiger Shark: 1,069.06 pounds
Tiger sharks are one of the most aggressive sharks alive today! Along with great whites and bull sharks they are responsible for many attacks on humans. They are also ruthless predators and aggressively attack their prey, rarely letting anything get away. So you certainly need to be a skilled angler before attempting to bring in a tiger shark.
The biggest trophy fish ever caught in Florida is a tiger shark that weighed 1,069.06 pounds. On June 20, 1981, Richard Braggs caught the sea-monster-of-a-shark off of Pensacola, FL. Pensacola is on the Panhandle of Florida all the way to the west, almost to Alabama. Pensacola is considered the “Red Snapper capital of the world, but there are also amazing deep sea fishing as well. Clearly good-sized tiger sharks pass through from time to time. Maybe this 41-year-old record is due to be broken!
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- Catch A Florida Memory, Available here: https://catchafloridamemory.com/programs/records/
- Big Catch Florida, Available here: https://www.bigcatchflorida.com/state-record.aspx
- IGFA, Available here: https://igfa.org/igfa-world-records-search/?search_type=SpeciesID&search_term_1=91