- The Paddlefish enjoys a revered status in Missouri both for its edible qualities and the potential to harvest its eggs for caviar.
- Blue catfish can exceed 100 pounds and reach lengths of 5 feet, but most are in the 20 to 30-pound bracket and are under 2 feet long.
- The largest trophy fish caught in Missouri was a 140-pound, 10-ounce paddlefish caught by Jim Dain on March 18, 2022, on the Lake of the Ozarks.
In the scenic waters of Missouri, a handful of anglers have stumbled upon something quite remarkable — encounters with fish of astonishing proportions. These are not your average catches. The massive fish in this article are the behemoths of the deep, silently weaving through the waters, awaiting the skillful angler to claim the ultimate prize.
Are you ready to learn about the awe-inspiring accounts of those who have met these giants head-on? Join us as we dive into Missouri waters to discover the biggest fish ever caught in the state!
1. Paddlefish – 140 Pounds, 10 Ounces
In Missouri’s waters, the highly sought-after paddlefish, recognized as the state’s official aquatic creature, enjoys a revered status both for its edible qualities and the potential to harvest its eggs for caviar.
A unique shark-like physique characterizes the paddlefish. Its body has a gray hue and features a distinctive flat, elongated snout resembling a spatula. This snout accounts for nearly a third of its entire body length. Their resemblance to sharks goes beyond mere appearance; they share a similar skeletal structure as well. Both sharks and paddlefish have no bones. Instead, they have cartilage.
These gentle giants have the potential to stretch up to an impressive length of 87 inches, which equates to a little over 7 feet. Although they have reached unbelievable sizes of 200 pounds, they generally tip the scales at a moderate 40 pounds.
Paddlefish have a preference for feeding on plankton, a type of microscopic flora and fauna. Demonstrating remarkable adaptability, paddlefish can thrive in various water habitats, predominantly marking their presence in the expansive Mississippi River basin. Noteworthy locations hosting these beings include the Lake of the Ozarks, the Harry S. Truman Reservoir, and Table Rock Lake.
Weighing in at a staggering 140 pounds and 10 ounces, this paddlefish not only became the heaviest of its kind in the state but also set a new benchmark as the largest fish to be caught in Missouri.
2. Blue Catfish – 130 Pounds
The blue catfish is one of the largest catfish, a species originally hailing from the Missouri and Mississippi rivers.
Distinguished by a level dorsal fin and a notably bifurcated tail, these fish present a brilliant silvery-blue exterior and a white underside. A distinctive trait is their smooth, scaleless skin. Around their mouths, one can observe eight dark, whisker-like projections, lending them a somewhat mystic appearance.
Blue catfish can exceed 100 pounds, but finding individuals in the 20- to 30-pound bracket is more common. And while most adult specimens are under 2 feet long, some sea monsters grow an impressive 5 feet.
These bottom-foragers are native to the Mississippi, Missouri, and Osage rivers within Missouri. They have a diverse diet, indulging in a menu that includes worms, crustaceans, mussels, insects, frogs, and smaller fish species, sometimes even their own kind.
Angler Greg Bernal from Florissant, MO, made history by catching an enormous blue catfish from the Missouri River on July 20, 2010. This massive fish tipped the scales at an impressive 130 pounds and was once recognized as a world record holder, securing its special spot in Missouri’s fishing history.
3. Bighead Carp – 125 Pounds, 5 Ounces
The bighead carp, an unwelcome intruder in Missouri’s waters, presents a significant threat to the indigenous aquatic life.
This particular species has a hefty structure and a disproportionately expansive head. The bighead carp’s mouth turns upwards. Another interesting aspect of this fish is its relatively low eyes which are towards the front of its head.
These fish have the potential to reach lengths exceeding 4 feet. They generally tip the scales at around 40 pounds. But some exceptional specimens have been known to surpass the 80-pound mark.
Their dietary preferences lean towards zooplankton, and occasionally, they feed algae. They are known to swim in groups, predominantly inhabiting expansive rivers as well as the initial stretches of the smaller rivers feeding into them.
Shifting our focus to fishing records in Missouri, we note an extraordinary event on July 24, 2021. In the waters of Lake Perry, angler Matthew Neuling from Perryville managed to hook a massive specimen weighing an astounding 125 pounds and 5 ounces. This immediately became one of the largest fish caught in Missouri history. This catch shattered the previous record held since October 9, 2004, when Kyle A. Schneider from Ballwin caught an 80-pounder in Lake of the Ozarks.
4. Flathead Catfish – 100 Pounds
The flathead catfish is another common catfish species that you can find in Missouri.
Sporting a color palette that ranges from pale yellow to a lighter shade of brown along their backs and flanks, these fish bear a distinctive mottled appearance with patterns of black and brown. A glimpse at their underbelly reveals a lighter shade, often cream or a paler hue of yellow. One cannot overlook their characteristic flattened head structure.
These massive bottom dwellers grow to insane sizes, reaching lengths between 3 and 4 feet. In terms of weight, they can surpass a whopping 100 pounds. However, fish of this size are very difficult to reel in, which makes them a formidable catch for any angler.
With a diet exclusively comprising other fish species such as shad, carp, sunfish, largemouth bass, and even fellow catfish, these creatures have a voracious appetite. You can commonly find them in many of Missouri’s large rivers, especially in the waters of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers.
On September 19, 2015, angler Matthew McConkey from Kansas City, MO, managed to reel in a giant flathead catfish from the Missouri River, which weighed an impressive 100 pounds. This catch broke the previous record set by Scott L. Brown from Odessa, MO, who had landed a 77-pound-8-ounce giant in Montrose Lake on April 28, 2003.
5. Black Buffalo – 76 Pounds
The black buffalo belongs to the distinctive group of freshwater fish prevalent in North America, characterized as a member of the sucker family, scientifically known as Catostomidae.
This species stands out with its dark hue and substantial body, accompanied by a distinctly curved, extended dorsal fin. A notable feature is its relatively small eyes that are positioned nearer to the nose tip than the end boundary of the gill cover. A distinguishing mark of this species is the considerably dark pigment found in their lower fins.
An adult black buffalo can measure up to around 20 inches in length, with weight reaching up to 50 pounds.
Diet-wise, these creatures primarily feast on an assortment comprising of small mollusks, microscopic plants, and insects, with a particular preference for eggs and various types of algae. Although these fish were once a frequent sight in the Missouri River, their presence has notably decreased since the implementation of channelization.
Recorded as the largest catch in Missouri, a black buffalo weighing 76 pounds was caught by angler Joshua H. Lee from Bernie, MO, at the Duck Creek Conservation Area, marking a significant event on April 21, 2019.
6. Grass Carp – 71 Pounds, 4 Ounces
Currently, grass carp are recognized as an invasive species in the waters of Missouri.
The grass carp distinguishes itself as one of the largest members of the minnow family. Sporting an elongated form adorned with noticeably large scales, it carries a scale-less head, setting it apart from others. Unlike the golden-toned common carp, these fish exhibit a silvery to olive complexion and are devoid of any whisker-like barbels.
In terms of physical attributes, a fully grown grass carp can stretch up to an impressive 4.6 feet and can tip the scales at a staggering 97 pounds.
Primarily sustaining themselves on water plants, these fish inhabit expansive river systems as well as both natural and man-made water reservoirs. While they are introduced in lakes and ponds as a biological control method for undesirable vegetation, their tendency to overgraze often results in a degraded environment, which can harm other fish in their environment.
Looking into the history of exceptional catches in Missouri, we come across a momentous event dated June 17, 1999. On this day, angler Donald H. Atterberry from Memphis, MO, managed to secure a massive catch in Lake Showme. This grass carp, weighing an astounding 71 pounds and 4 ounces, marked one of the most significant captures in the state’s fishing records.
7. Striped Bass – 65 Pounds, 2 Ounces
The striped bass is famous in commercial and leisure fishing activities in Missouri.
Physically, the striped bass presents a robust structure adorned with seven to eight unbroken horizontal lines gracing each flank, extending from the gill area down to their tail fin. The color palette of their dorsal side is quite versatile, ranging from hues of light green and olive to steel blue, black, or brown, beautifully contrasted by white or silver belly.
In terms of size, these creatures are typically seen achieving lengths of 2 to 3 feet as adults, with their weight hovering in the range of 10 to 30 pounds. A flexible diet allows them to feast on an array of small fish species along with various invertebrates, prominently including crabs and squid. Favoring cooler waters rich in oxygen, they tend to avoid regions with poor water quality.
On May 21, 2015, a remarkable event unfolded in Missouri’s angling history. Lawrence E. Dillman, a resident of Rockaway Beach, MO, made an extraordinary catch at Bull Shoals Lake. That day, the scales were pushed to a whopping 65 pounds and 2 ounces, marking the capture of the largest striped bass the state had ever seen.
8. Bigmouth Buffalo – 57 Pounds, 13 Ounces
The bigmouth buffalo is the largest fish in North America’s “sucker” family.
In terms of appearance, its back displays a bluish-green hue that transitions to copper-blue sides, ending with a subtly blue-tinged gray underbelly. The fish possesses a distinctly rounded body, complemented by a sizable head and prominent, sucker-like lips. What sets it apart from its buffalo fish relatives is a mouth that faces forward rather than downwards.
This species can potentially grow to an impressive size, with some individuals reaching close to 4 feet and weighing up to 70 lbs. Their feeding habits are mainly benthic, consuming a diet that includes small aquatic creatures like copepods and cladocerans, as well as underwater vegetation, tiny fish, and their eggs. They predominantly inhabit the Missouri River, particularly favoring prairie-stream tributaries in the northern region of Missouri.
The largest bigmouth buffalo ever reeled in within Missouri was an impressive catch by John Paul Morris from Springfield, MO. This historic event took place on January 21, 2017, in a private pond, where the fish weighed an astonishing 57 lbs. and 13 oz.
9. Carp – 55 Pounds, 1 Ounce
Characterized by small eyes and substantial lips, these fish exhibit a distinct appearance with a bifurcated tail and a unique dorsal fin equipped with sharply notched spines. Encased in hefty, large scales, their color can range from shades of olive green to metallic bronze or silver, complemented by a lighter belly.
Typically, these fish measure between 12 to 25 inches and weigh around 8 to 10 pounds, although some specimens exceed this size. Primarily herbivorous, carp feed on plant-based diets.
Their preferred habitats are calm waters or those with a gentle flow, mostly situated at lower elevations where aquatic vegetation is plentiful.
Making headlines in Missouri’s angling history, a remarkable catch was recorded on May 28, 2002. On this day, angler Tim Dernosek from Blue Springs, MO, managed to reel in a carp of huge size at Lake Lotawana, weighing in at an impressive 55 pounds and 1 ounce.
10. Muskellunge – 41 Pounds, 2 Ounces
Though not originally found in Missouri, muskellunge have been introduced to specific lakes since 1966, thriving in their new habitats.
These fish are recognizable for their elongated and slightly flattened bodies. Their silver base color is adorned with a unique pattern of irregular spots, contrasting with their sparsely spotted white bellies. A distinguishing feature is their fins, exhibiting shades of green or red-brown coupled with dark blotches.
Typically, these aquatic creatures reach sizes ranging from 30 to 36 inches, weighing about 5 to 10 pounds, though there have been records of even larger ones. Muskellunge has a varied diet, which predominantly includes fish but also extends to insects, small birds, amphibians, and even small mammals.
They primarily settle in freshwater environments like rivers and lakes.
Angler Gene Snelling, a resident of Camdenton, MO, caught the heaviest muskellunge in the state’s history at the Lake of the Ozarks On March 9, 1981. This monumental catch weighed a staggering 41 pounds and 2 ounces.
Summary of the 10 Biggest Trophy Fish Ever Caught in Missouri
|1||Paddlefish||140 lbs. 10 oz.||Lake of the Ozarks|
|2||Blue Catfish||130 lbs.||Missouri River|
|3||Bighead Carp||125 lbs. 5 oz.||Lake Perry|
|4||Flathead Catfish||100 lbs.||Missouri River|
|5||Black Buffalo||76 lbs.||Duck Creek Conservation Area|
|6||Grass Carp||71 lbs. 4 oz.||Lake Showme|
|7||Striped Bass||65 lbs. 2 oz.||Bull Shoals Lake|
|8||Bigmouth Buffalo||57 lbs. 13 oz.||Private Pond|
|9||Carp||55 lbs. 1 oz.||Lake Lotawana|
|10||Muskellunge||41 lbs. 2 oz.||Lake of the Ozarks|
The photo featured at the top of this post is © stammphoto/ via Getty Images
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