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

Written by Cindy Rasmussen
Updated: July 31, 2023
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Whether you want to fish in some of the bigger lakes in Texas, like Lake Texoma and the Sam Reyborn or you prefer fishing off the coast in the Gulf, there is plenty of excellent fishing in the state. From freshwater bass, crappie and catfish to saltwater tuna, marlin and sharks, you can find a variety of fish to challenge your skills. Let’s take a look at the 10 biggest trophy fish ever caught in Texas (one is a massive world record too!).

Freshwater Records

5) Smallmouth Buffalo: 82.22 pounds

When it comes to buffalo fish you can find three main species in Texas including smallmouth, bigmouth, and black buffalo. All are in the sucker fish family but look quite similar as carp. The biggest smallmouth buffalo ever caught in Texas was pulled from Lake Athens on June 13, 1993, by Randy Collins. Lake Athens is a smaller lake about 80 miles SE of Dallas, but it produces some good-sized fish. Besides the 82.22-pounder Randy caught with a traditional rod and reel another smallmouth buffalo record was made on Lake Athens by angler Tom Sherman. In the bow fishing category, Sherman got an 81.30-pound smallmouth to break the record on January 31, 2017.

Bufalo fish

Smallmouth Buffalo are in the sucker fish family.

©Trong Nguyen/Shutterstock.com

4) Bighead Carp: 90 pounds

The three species of carp that Texas keeps records for are bighead carp, grass carp and common carp. The biggest bighead carp ever caught in the state was a 90-pound bighead caught by Timothy Connor on Kirby Lake. Connor used cut carp as bait to snag this beauty on July 22, 2000. Kirby Lake, which is located just south of Abilene about 185 miles west of Dallas, is actually smaller than Lake Athens, but clearly still has some big fish.

Bighead carp have tiny scales similar to trout and a protruding lower jaw.

©Rostislav Stefanek/Shutterstock.com

3) Flathead Catfish: 98.50 pounds

Catfishing in Texas is very popular with anglers finding good sized channel catfish, flatheads and blue cats. When we say “good sized” we are talking about 100 pound catfish! The biggest flathead ever caught in Texas was nearly 100 pounds weighing in at 98.50 pounds. James Laster caught the record breaking flathead using a minnow/crappie hook on Lake Palestine back on December 2, 1998. Lake Palestine hosts largemouth bass tournaments but also has excellent fishing for white bass, hybrid striped bass and catfish.

The biggest channel catfish didn’t quite make our list but is worthy of a shout out. One of the female anglers on the Texas State Record list is Mrs. Joe Cockrell. You can tell this is an older record due to how they recorded her name, but nevertheless her record stands today dating back to March 7, 1965. Her channel cat weighed in at 36.50 pounds and was 38 inches long. Mrs. Cockrell reeled in while fishing on the Pedernales River which is a tributary of the Colorado River. Channel catfish are usually smaller than flatheads and blue cats, but for a channel catfish anything over 20 pounds is a good catch!

Flathead Catfish

Flathead catfish have broad, flat heads and barbels around their mouths.

©slowmotiongli/Shutterstock.com

2) Blue Catfish: 121.50 pounds

Here is a catch that breaks the hundred-pound mark. A 121.50-pound blue catfish was reeled in by Cody Mullenix on January 16, 2004, to break the all-time catfish record. Mullenix used shad for bait, a common favorite of blue cats while fishing on Lake Texoma. Texoma is a popular recreational lake on the border of Oklahoma, north of Dallas. On the Oklahoma side of the lake, the biggest blue catfish ever caught weighed a tad smaller at 98 pounds. Billy Nabors nabbed that one the same year as Mullenix later in the year on November 11, 2004. A good year for blue cats!

blue catfish vs channel catfish

Blue catfish are silvery blue with white bellies.

©M Huston/Shutterstock.com

1) Alligator Gar: 279 pounds

The biggest freshwater fish ever caught in Texas blows all the other records away. This is the one that is also a world record catch. Dating back to December 2, 1951, Bill Valverde’s record-breaking alligator gar weighed 279 pounds! Valverde was an avid fisherman and a respected city council member in the community. He grew up in the Rio Grande Valley so it is only fitting that he caught his record-breaking gar in the Rio Grande. A photo of Valverde standing next to the massive alligator gar shows that it is longer than he is tall with an official length of 7 feet 9 inches! Quite a fishing legacy for the Valverde family.

Gar teeth

Alligator gar are torpedo-shaped fish with long snouts. They can weigh up to 350 pounds.

©Jennifer White Maxwell/Shutterstock.com

Saltwater Records

5) Largetooth Sawfish: 736 pounds

Largetooth sawfish have shark-like bodies with a long chain-saw like snout with teeth along the edges. Although they look like sharks they are actually in the ray family. The fifth biggest saltwater fish ever caught in Texas was a largetooth sawfish. This is a unique record because largetooth sawfish are no longer found in US waters. This record dates way back to January 1, 1939 when Gus Pangarakis is credited with catching a 736-pound largetooth in the Gulf of Mexico. Largetooth sawfish are now considered critically endangered by the IUCN and have not been recorded in US waters in more than 50 years.

A largetooth sawfish relaxing on the bottom of a body of water

Largetooth sawfish are considered to be critically endangered.

©iStock.com/rmbarricarte

4) Bluefin Tuna: 876 pounds

In contrast to a record from 1939, the bluefin record was very recently broken on April 13, 2021. Due to regulations trying to protect the bluefin tuna population, anglers can not purposefully try to catch bluefins. Certain permits can be obtained to record one if accidentally caught and that is how Troy Lancaster was able to register his record catch. He was out fishing with friends for marlins when he accidentally snagged a bluefin tuna. According to the news report, 50-year-old Lancaster fought to bring the tuna in for nine hours! He knew he had a big one but was pleasantly surprised to find out his broke the record with a weight of 876 pounds. The tuna was caught off the shores of Port Aransas, where Lancaster is from.

Bluefin tuna Thunnus thynnus saltwater fish in Mediterranean

It’s illegal for anglers to target bluefin tuna.

©lunamarina/Shutterstock.com

3) Blue Marlin 972.70 pounds

Marlins are some of the fastest fish in the sea. They also put up a good fight if you can land one on your line. The biggest blue marlin ever caught in Texas was caught by Richard Richardson Jr. on July 11, 2014. Richardson was fishing in the Gulf when he got a massive blue marlin on his line. When it was officially weighed it was nearly 1,000 pounds at 972.70 pounds. More surprising is how long blue marlins can get! This catch was 132.25 inches which is 11 feet long!

If you are considering catching the next biggest marlin be sure to research the regulations on billfishing. The Billfish Conservation Act prohibits the sale of billfish like blue marlins, black marlin, sailfish, longbill spearfish, shortbill spearfish, white marlin, and striped marlin. Due to overfishing and commercial fishing, these fish species now need to be protected to be sure that future populations can be maintained.

Mounted Blue Marlin

This mounted blue marlin displays the fish’s cobalt blue and silver coloration and its spear-like upper jaw.

©Hayk_Shalunts/Shutterstock.com

2) Great Hammerhead shark: 1,033 pounds

Sawfish have a very unique look but so do hammerheads. With a hammer-shaped head with eyes on the ends, these sharks stand out from the crowd. They can also get to be quite large with some reaching 20 feet long. The biggest great hammerhead ever caught in Texas was a 1,033-pounder caught in the Gulf by Timothy W. McClellen. McClellen reeled in this thousand-pound shark on July 9, 2017. An 11-foot marlin doesn’t seem that impressive when you compare it to the 173.25-inch hammerhead which is 14.45 feet long!

Biggest Shark: Great Hammerhead

Hammerhead shark

eyes are positioned at the ends of their hammer-shaped head, giving them 360-degree vision.

©frantisekhojdysz/Shutterstock.com

1) Tiger Shark: 1,129 pounds

The biggest trophy fish ever caught in Texas was a tiger shark. Tiger sharks are considered one of the three most aggressive sharks towards humans with a record of several fatal shark attacks. They can get to be more than 1,500 lbs with the world record tiger shark weighing 1,785 pounds.

The biggest tiger shark in Texas weighed 1,129 pounds and was caught by Chap Cain III on May 24, 1992. Cain was out fishing in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Texas when he was able to snag and reel in this impressive catch. The tiger shark measured 162 inches which is 13 ½ feet. For reference, a typical queen size bed is about 6 ½ feet long, a typical bedroom is around 12 feet long…this shark certainly wouldn’t fit in a bed, but would also be too big for a typical bedroom! Now that is a trophy fish worth bragging about!

Tiger shark swimming on reef.

Tiger sharks can reach up to 2,000 pounds (one ton).

©le bouil baptiste/Shutterstock.com

Summary of the Biggest Trophy Fish Ever Caught in Texas

RankFishTypeSize
#1Alligator GarFreshwater279 lbs
#2Blue CatfishFreshwater121.50 lbs
#3Flathead CatfishFreshwater29 lbs 6 oz
#4Bighead CarpFreshwater90 lbs
#5Smallmouth BuffaloFreshwater82.22 lbs
#1Tiger SharkSaltwater1,129 lbs
#2Hammerhead SharkSaltwater1,033 lbs
#3Blue MarlinSaltwater972.70 lbs
#4Bluefin TunaSaltwater876 lbs
#5Largetooth SawfishSaltwater736 lbs

The photo featured at the top of this post is © frantisekhojdysz/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. Texas Parks & Wildlife, Available here: https://tpwd.texas.gov/fishboat/fish/action/waterecords.php?WB_code=0031
  2. Texas Parks & Wildlife, Available here: https://tpwd.texas.gov/fishboat/fish/action/staterecords.php?env=FW&age_group=all&list=0&browse=Submit
  3. Texas Parks & Wildlife, Available here: https://tpwd.texas.gov/fishboat/fish/action/staterecords.php?env=SW&age_group=all&list=0&browse=Submit
  4. Houston Chronicle, Available here: https://www.houstonchronicle.com/sports/outdoors/article/Tale-of-record-catch-tops-any-Texas-fish-story-13539791.php#photo-16782939
  5. The International Game Fish Association, Available here: https://igfa.org/igfa-world-records-search/?search_type=CommonNameSummary&search_term_1=Gar%2C+alligator
  6. IUCN Redlist, Available here: https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/43508845/43508869