Sea Monsters! The 10 Biggest Trophy Fish Ever Caught in South Carolina

Written by Cindy Rasmussen
Published: October 4, 2022
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South Carolina has both freshwater fishing and saltwater fishing with miles of rivers, beautiful lakes and a long coastline for surf fishing, pier fishing, or taking a charter out for some deep-sea adventures. The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources has a fishing record program that tracks the biggest catches for freshwater and saltwater fish. Two of the state records also holds the world record as the biggest catch for its species. Here are the 10 biggest trophy fish ever caught in South Carolina!

The 5 Biggest Freshwater Trophy Fish Ever Caught in South Carolina

5. Channel Catfish – 58 Pounds

Channel catfish
Channel catfish are one of three types of catfish you can find in South Carolina.

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Catfish are some of the biggest freshwater fish present in South Carolina’s waters. Here you can find channel, flathead, and blue catfish in the rivers, around dams, and in many of the lakes. The biggest channel catfish ever caught in South Carolina is also the biggest channel cat ever caught in the world! Back in 1964, W.H. Whaley pulled a 58 pound channel catfish from Lake Moultrie and the record still stands today. The International Game Fish Association (IGFA) verified that Whaley’s catch was the biggest and has it recorded as the world record. A proud record for the state of South Carolina!

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4. Carp – 58 Pounds

Fisherman holding a carp
The record-holding biggest carp in South Carolina is the same size as the record-holding biggest channel catfish.

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A carp with the same weight as the biggest channel catfish is the biggest carp ever caught in South Carolina. A 58-pound carp was caught by Kenneth O’Shealy in 2000 on Lake Murray. Carp are heavy-bodied fish that can get to be more than 70 lbs. The world record carp was caught in Lac de St. Cassien, France in 1987 and weighed 75 pounds! Some of the carp that can be found in South Carolina include common carp, grass carp, and Asian carp (which are an invasive species and wreak havoc on the fish populations and damage the water quality).

3. Striped Bass – 63 Pounds

Striped Bass
Striped bass come from the same family as smallmouth bass and largemouth bass.

©iStock.com/slowmotiongli

Bass fishing is popular, but the term “bass” can refer to a variety of fish species. Striped bass are in the temperate bass family, while bass like largemouth and smallmouth bass are in the black bass family. Sea bass are another common type of bass, but they are a saltwater fish (and can get quite large, to the tune of 500 pounds!).

The biggest striped bass ever caught in South Carolina was a 63-pound striper caught by Terry McConnell. McConnell is from Eastanolle, Georgia, but caught this record breaker in Lake Russell. The lake is on the border with Georgia, but credit is given to South Carolina with this mighty catch being reeled in on the South Carolina side.  

2. Flathead Catfish – 84 Pounds 9.6 Ounces

Flathead Catfish
Flathead catfish are the second largest type of catfish in South Carolina.

©slowmotiongli/Shutterstock.com

Another catfish on our list is the flathead catfish, which is typically larger than channel catfish but smaller than blue catfish. The biggest one in South Carolina was fished from the Cooper River by Paul Daniels on February 11, 2018. Paul and his wife Janet were fishing for blue catfish, something they could fry up for lunch, when they landed this enormous flathead instead. The record catch weighed 84 pounds 9.6 ounces!

1. Blue Catfish – 113.8 Pounds

Blue Catfish
Blue catfish are the largest type of catfish in South Carolina.

©M Huston/Shutterstock.com

Breaking the 100 pound mark is a good-sized blue catfish weighing in at 113.8 pounds. For reference, a giant bag of dog food might come in at 50 pounds. This fish was more than twice that at over 113 pounds! The blue cat was caught on the same lake as the record-breaking channel cat, Lake Moultrie, which is the third largest lake in South Carolina. Paula D. Haney reeled this one in 2017 while fishing with her husband Steve. She said she has been fishing that lake for 15 years and this catch was by far the biggest she has ever caught of any kind. A very memorable day for this woman from Liberty, South Carolina!

The 5 Biggest Saltwater Trophy Fish Ever Caught in South Carolina

5. Bull Shark – 477 Pounds 12 Ounces

Bull shark swimming in ocean
Bull sharks are common around the coast because they can live in freshwater, saltwater, and brackish habitats.

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Now onto some of the biggest saltwater fish. South Carolina keeps records on a wide range of saltwater fish including tuna, marlin, swordfish, and sharks. There are three sharks that made our top five list including a bull shark that weighed 477 pounds12 ounces. This giant bull shark was caught by C. R. Faust on the Stono Inlet, back in 1985. Bull sharks are one of the sharks most often encountered along the shoreline as they prefer hunting the coastline for fish, stingrays, and smaller sharks. The Stono Inlet is just south of Charlotte where the Stono River and Kiawah River meet and feed into the ocean. Bull sharks are one of the few sharks that can adapt to this brackish water with a mix of freshwater and saltwater.

4. Swordfish – 500 Pounds

Swordfish jumping from water
With a hydrodynamic rapier for a nose and over 1,000 pounds of fin-pumping muscle, the swordfish can reach speeds of over 60 miles per hour —making it one of the fastest fish on Earth.

©iStock.com/bbevren

For some deep-sea fishing you can take a charter out to find some of the best locations in South Carolina for marlin, tuna, and swordfish. The biggest swordfish on record in South Carolina was 500 pounds! It was caught off the coast of Georgetown in 1978 by B. H. Peace III. Swordfish are sometimes referred to as broadbills as their sword is flat compared to the rounded sword of the marlins.

Recently, in August 2022, a group of fishermen landed a 490-pound swordfish while fishing off of Beaufort, South Carolina. It took the crew three and a half hours to finally get the giant catch into the boat. This group of friends has been fishing together for seven years and this was by far the largest swordfish they ever caught!

3. Hammerhead Shark – 588 Pounds 3 Ounces

hammerhead shark
Hammerhead sharks can grow over 1,000 pounds!

©Sophie Hart/Shutterstock.com

Another shark on our list is a massive hammerhead caught by B. Bass in 1989 off the coast of Charleston. Hammerheads are quite the unique looking shark with eyes on either side of their enormous hammer-shaped heads. The shark that Bass caught weighed in at 588 pounds 3 ounces, but some hammerheads can reach more than 1,000 pounds. Despite the unusual location of their eyes, hammerheads actually have excellent eyesight. Some of the common bait used to lure hammerheads in includes bluefish, mackerel, and squid.

2. Blue Marlin – 881 Pounds 13 Ounces

Blue marlin fish
Marlins are among the fastest marine swimmers, reaching ~110 km/h (68 mph) in short bursts.

©iStock.com/LUNAMARINA

Blue Marlins have a sword on the front of their face similar to swordfish. They also have a sail along their backs like sailfish. They are a beautiful deep blue on their upper bodies and white on their bellies. One of the challenges in catching blue marlin is their speed! Marlins are one of the fastest fish in the sea.

The largest blue marlin ever caught in South Carolina was 881 pounds 13 ounces, caught by W.C. Taylor off the coast of Charleston. Taylor is from Spartanburg, which is in northwestern South Carolina. Taylor’s trip to the ocean for some deep-sea fishing certainly paid off on June 3, 2005. He was competing in the Charleston Harbor Boater’s World Marine Centers Billfish Tournament. This was clearly the tournament’s winning blue marlin!

1. Tiger Shark – 1,780 Pounds

tiger shark
The tiger shark gets its name from the vertical lines that run along the side of its body.

©iStock.com/Divepic

Now for the biggest of all catches in the state… it is also the biggest tiger shark in the world! The biggest trophy fish ever caught in South Carolina was a 1,780 pound tiger shark! Can you imagine the excitement back in 1964 when Walter Maxwell showed up at the Cherry Grove Pier with this massive shark? The Cherry Grove Pier is on the far northeastern edge of South Carolina. It is almost 20 miles up the coast from Myrtle Beach.

Maxwell’s world record held for 40 years until it was tied on March 28, 2004 when Kevin James Clapson caught a tiger shark weighing almost the exact same weight, his was just 5 pounds more at 1,785 lbs. According to the IGFA rules, fish this size need to have a bigger weight difference to be considered a new record, so the catch is recorded as a tie. Clapson caught his record-tying shark off the coast of Ulladulla, Australia, which is about 3 hours south of Sydney.

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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. The International Game Fish Association, Available here: https://igfa.org/igfa-world-records-search/?search_type=CommonNameSummary&search_term_1=Catfish%2C+channel
  2. South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, Available here: https://www.dnr.sc.gov/fish/freshrecs/records.html
  3. South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, Available here: https://www.dnr.sc.gov/fish/saltrecs/records.html
  4. Sport Fishing Magazine, Available here: https://www.sportfishingmag.com/news/nearly-500-pound-swordfish-is-caught-off-south-carolina/