The Largest Bighead Carp Ever Caught in Wisconsin Was the Size of Springer Spaniel

Written by Micky Moran
Updated: November 13, 2023
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Anyone with a true passion for fishing knows that Wisconsin offers some of the best opportunities in the country. With lakes, rivers, streams, and other major bodies of water, you don’t need to do much to find a spot to set up your reel and wait for a big. Among the 15,000 lakes are 160 different fish species, so any adventure on the water brings surprises.

The record-setting catches of Wisconsin range from small alewives under an ounce to lake sturgeons that weigh more than the average human. However, the bighead carp is one of the state’s biggest fish on record. In fact, according to the local records with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, it was bigger than the size of a springer spaniel. How big was it? Are bighead carp normally that large? Let’s take a look at this massive fish.

What is a Bighead Carp?

Bighead carp are an invasive species in nearly every country they live in except China because they reduce the population of bigmouth

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buffalo

.

©Rostislav Stefanek/Shutterstock.com

Bighead carp are freshwater fish, though they aren’t originally from Wisconsin. Instead, they natively live in China. They are among the many Asian carp that local authorities introduced to 70 other countries, and they continue to be highly exploited for commercial sales. As an invasive species, they compete against fish like the bigmouth buffalo for survival.

While the common carp is an omnivore, bighead carp rely on algae for their nutrients. Their diet is why the United States welcomed their importation, improving water quality for treatment plants and other commercial facilities. It made itself at home when a few bighead carp escaped to the Mississippi River. They continue to make Wisconsin (among other states) their home.

The name of this fish describes their scaleless head, which appears even larger with low-set eyes on the sides of its body. Most of these fish have a silver-gray coloring to them.

How Big is the Average Bighead Carp?

Bighead carp

Most bighead fish are only a few feet long and weigh less than a bushel of apples.

©Vitalii Borkovsky/Shutterstock.com

The average adult bighead carp is about 2 feet long, though the maximum size is almost 5 feet long. On average, they weigh 40 pounds as an adult. Some records show that a few lucky anglers caught carp beyond this size.

Since these fish require a large river to have enough room to grow and thrive, they develop at an incredible speed. Their fast growth means they reach their full adult length and weight much sooner than other species. It is part of the reason that bighead carp are important to aquaculture. China’s production of bighead carp surpassed 3 million tons in 2013, and it continues to grow today.

What’s the Largest Bighead Carp Ever Caught in Wisconsin?

River, Wisconsin, Cliff, Rock - Object, Beauty

The biggest fish ever caught in the state came from the Wisconsin River in 2022.

©baluzek/ via Getty Images

Wisconsinites hold their fair share of impressive fishing records, but the record for the largest bighead carp was set in April 2022. The carp weighed 67 pounds, 3.2 ounces. The angler caught it in the Wisconsin River, though none of the local records indicate exactly who it was.

This bighead carp is bigger than the springer spaniel, which normally weighs about 50 pounds. This hunting dog has quite a tall build, but it doesn’t come close to the weight of this incredible catch.

What’s the Largest Bighead Carp Ever Caught in the World?

The world record for catching a bighead carp is almost twice the statewide record.

© Invasive Carp Regional Coordinating Committee / CC0 – License

While catching a 67-pound fish set an incredible record in Wisconsin, it isn’t the largest bighead carp ever caught. This record for the largest bighead ever caught goes to Matt Neuling of Missouri. He caught a 125-pound, 5-ounce bighead cap in July 2021 at Lake Perry, making the local news.

Neuling originally thought he caught a grass carp with a much smaller body. With similar coloring, the mistake is easy to make from the surface. He caught it by bow fishing, breaking the last record of almost 105 pounds.

Are Bighead Carp Easy to Catch?

Bowfishing is one of the most popular ways to catch bighead carp because they often fight back too hard to secure with a fishing line.

©USFWS Mountain-Prairie / CC0 – License

Bighead carp require a bit of skill to catch. If you are lucky enough to capture a big one, bringing it in with a rod and reel won’t be the way to go. Since they go after algae, hooking doesn’t appeal to their filter-feeding methods. One of the most common ways to catch a bighead carp is by snagging with a treble hook, but this method is illegal in Wisconsin.

Another way to catch bighead carp is bow fishing. Their diet keeps them close to the surface for feeling, but they remain relatively calm when moving boats go by. Bowfishing enthusiasts often remark that their proximity to the surface makes them easy to target and catch without worrying about the same started behavior of other carp species.

Other Record-Breaking Fish Caught in Wisconsin

sturgeon in aquarium

The largest fish ever caught in Wisconsin was a lake

sturgeon

that weighed over 100 pounds.

©Geermy/Shutterstock.com

Along with the bighead carp, many anglers set their records within Wisconsin’s borders. Some of the largest fish ever caught in Wisconsin include:

  • A lake sturgeon that weighed 170 pounds, 10 ounces.
  • A buffalo bigmouth that weighed 76 pounds, 8 ounces.
  • A common carp that weighed 57 pounds, 2 ounces.
  • A flathead catfish that weighed 74 pounds, 5.1 ounces.
  • A muskellunge that weighed 69 pounds, 11 ounces.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Katoosha/Shutterstock.com


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About the Author

Micky Moran is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering mammals, travel, marine life, and geography. He has been writing and researching animals and nature for over 5 years. A resident of Arizona, he enjoys spending time with family, going on adventures across the United States with his wife and kids by his side.

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