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

man holding giant common carp
© Fabien Monteil/

Written by Taiwo Victor

Updated: April 30, 2023

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Summer is definitely the most popular fishing season in Michigan, thanks to its proximity to the Great Lakes. Fishing has been a popular activity for over 40,000 years around the world. While many people still embrace this age-old practice for sustenance and consider it a relaxing activity, other anglers compete for glory. Just recently, a state-record-breaking fish topped 53 lbs! Here are some sea monsters: 10 of the biggest trophy fish ever caught in Michigan.

Biggest Trophy Fish Caught in Michigan

1. American Eel – 7.44 lbs (Still fishing)

Female American eels are usually bigger and lighter in color than males.

©jack perks/

American eels can reach a length of 48 inches (4.0 ft) and a weight of 7.5 kg (17 lbs). Females are usually bigger and lighter in color than males, with smaller eyes and higher fins. Chad Markham caught the state record American eel in Lake St. Clair in 1990 using the still fishing method. The eel weighed 7.44 lbs. and measured 43 inches in length.

2. Black Buffalo – 54.3 lbs (Trolling)

Not all buffalo roam the grasslands, and a different kind of buffalo lives in large rivers and bountiful lakes. Black buffalo are uncommon in the Great Lakes region, and their origins are uncertain. The average length is 20-30 in (51-76 cm), with a maximum length of 48.5 in (123 cm). The average weight is believed to be 10–30 lb (4.5–13.6 kg). The latest Michigan state record for black buffalo was in 2020, caught using a trolling method in Grand River at Ottawa County. The fish weighed 54.3 lbs. and was 42.6 inches long.

3. Chinook Salmon – 47.86 lbs (Trolling)

Chinook Salmon jumping at fish ladder on the Bowmanville Creek, Ontario. In preparation for the spawning season, the Chinook suddenly changes color to an olive brown, red, or purple-hued body.

Chinook salmon are the largest Pacific salmon, weighing up to 100 pounds.

©Evan Linnell/

Due to their size, this family of behemoths is more suited to deep-sea fishing than inland-lake fishing. Chinook salmon are the largest Pacific salmon, weighing up to 100 pounds. However, on average, they weigh only around 30 lbs. They are long and hefty, with adult lengths ranging from 40 to 60 inches.

A giant Chinook salmon was captured in Lake Michigan on August 7, 2021, breaking the state record for the largest Chinook salmon fish ever caught. Luis R. Martinez was fishing off Big Sable Point in Mason County when he caught the Chinook salmon that weighed 47.86 pounds and measured 47.5 inches in length.

4. Common Carp – 61.5 lbs (Spear)

common carp

The average size of the common carp ranges from 15 to 32 inches long and 4 to 31 pounds.

©Rostislav Stefanek/

In Michigan, common carp can be found in the Great Lakes, large inland lakes and reservoirs, large and small rivers, swamps, canals, and drains. Depending on the water, the average size ranges from 15 to 32 inches long and 4 to 31 pounds. The state record for common carp was caught by Dale France using the spear method in 1974, weighing 61.5 lbs. and was found in Wolf Lake.

5. Flathead Catfish – 53.35 lbs (Baitcasting)

Flathead Catfish

Flathead catfish can weigh up to 123 pounds.


The flathead catfish can reach 155 cm (61 in) in length and weigh up to 56 kg (123 lb), ranking it the second-largest North American catfish. An angler from Hobart, Indiana, recently caught a new state-record flathead catfish while fishing with cut bait in Berrien County, Michigan: a flathead catfish weighing 53.35 pounds and measuring 48 inches long! Lloyd Tanner caught the record-breaker while fishing the St. Joe River, a tributary of Lake Michigan, in the early morning of May 29, 2022.

6. Longnose Gar – 18 lbs (Spin casting)

Longnose Gar, one of the oldest fish of our planet

Longnose gars typically grow to be 28 to 48 inches long.

©Galina Savina/

Gars are a primitive group of bony fish because they retain some primitive characteristics, such as a spiral valve intestine. Still, they are not primitive in the sense that they are not fully formed. Longnose gar typically grows to be 28 to 48 inches (71 to 122 cm) long, with a maximum length of 6 feet (1.8 m) and a weight of 55 lbs (25 kg). Michigan’s state record for this species boasts 18 lbs. Dennis Promo caught this fish in 1995 using spin casting in Williamsville Lake.

7. Muskellunge – 49.75 lbs (Baitcasting)

Musky or Muskellunge

Muskellunge can grow up to 50 inches long.


This enormous predator is a dangerous and valuable catch. Due to difficulties in attracting even a single strike, it was dubbed “the fish of 1,000 casts” and has grown in popularity with the introduction of multi-rod trolling techniques. They can grow to be 50 inches long in the Great Lakes. The Michigan state record muskellunge was caught in Thornapple Lake using baitcasting by John Keith Geml in the year 2000, measuring 49.75 lbs.

8. Redhorse – 12.89 lbs (Baitcasting)

We don’t know much about river Redhorse because they are difficult to identify and are frequently confused with more common species. Only the river redhorse possesses all of the following characteristics:

  • A bright red tail.
  • A pointed dorsal fin on the back.
  • Large bodies (adults are typically over 20 inches long).
  • 12-13 scales around the base of the tail.

Redhorse is occasionally shot with arrows, which is illegal in Michigan because they are a threatened species. Despite its dwindling population, the state record for the largest redhorse weighed 12.89 lbs. Mike Polega caught it in 1991 using baitcasting in the Muskegon River.

9. Walleye – 17.19 lbs (Baitcasting)

Walleye fish - catch and release.

The largest walleye ever recorded in Michigan weighed 17.19 pounds.


Walleye is a very popular species that grows to 30 inches or more, tastes fantastic, and is easy to catch using various techniques. Walleye can be caught from boats everywhere on the water all year, but they also make excellent ice fishing when firm, safe ice is available. The largest walleye ever recorded in Michigan weighed 17.19 pounds, and Ray Fadely captured it in Manistee County’s Pine River in 1951 using a live minnow as bait.

10. White Perch – 2 lbs (Baitcasting)

White perch

White perch usually weigh between one to two pounds.


The white perch is a tiny silvery, greenish-gray fish with a black, domed back. They can grow to 19 inches long when mature but are typically encountered at 7 to 10 inches long and weigh 8 ounces to 1 pound. Considering this size, seeing a 2-pound white perch in Bear Lake can be rather interesting. The fish was caught by Kyle Patrick Ryan using the baitcasting method in 2015.

Summary of the 10 Biggest Trophy Fish Ever Caught in Michigan

RankSpeciesWeightLocationMethod Used
1American Eel7.44 lbsLake St. ClairStill fishing
2Black Buffalo54.3 lbsGrand River, Ottawa CountyTrolling method
3Chinook Salmon47.86 lbsBig Sable Point, Mason County (Lake Michigan)Trolling method
4Common Carp61.5 lbsWolf LakeSpear method
5Flathead Catfish53.35 lbsSt. Joe RiverBaitcasting
6Longnose Gar18 lbsWilliamsville LakeSpin casting
7Muskellunge49.75 lbsThornapple LakeBaitcasting
8Redhorse12.89 lbsMuskegon RiverBaitcasting
9Walleye17.19 lbsManistee County’s Pine RiverBaitcasting
10White Perch2 lbsBear LakeBaitcasting
Table of the 10 Biggest Trophy Fish Ever Caught in Michigan

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About the Author

For six years, I have worked as a professional writer and editor for books, blogs, and websites, with a particular focus on animals, tech, and finance. When I'm not working, I enjoy playing video games with friends.

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