These saltwater records have stood for ages.
A little while back, we told you about eight freshwater fishing records that stood for decades, or in the case of the brown trout, more than a century. We started doing some research and it turns out this phenomenon isn’t limited to just freshwater. There are plenty of saltwater records that’ve stood for a ridiculously long time, too.
Just like our first list, we’re going strictly with fish that are all-tackle records on the International Game Fish Association’s lists for simplicity. We know there are more record books and a variety of other records, but we’d have to write a book on saltwater fishing records to cover them all.
So here are 16 saltwater fishing records that have stood the test of time.
It was just a few years after the end of World War II when Carl Stewart landed a 221-pound pacific sailfish off Santa Cruz Island back on Februrary 2, 1947. Stewart used a mullet as bait to catch the 129-inch fish. While there have been plenty of sailfish line records broken in the years since, it’s still surprising how long the all-tackle record stood unchallenged.
On May 7, 1953, Lou Marron landed a 1,182-pound broadbill swordfish off the coast of Chile that was the first and is still the only swordfish to go over the now-magical 1,000-pound mark in saltwater fishing history. We’re sure saltwater fishing anglers will keep trying, but if no one has come up with another game fish this big in 65 years, we’re starting to wonder if it’ll ever happen.
Simply put, this game fish record is unbreakable for the foreseeable future. The only way to get an accurate weight on a fish this size is to kill it, and Goliaths have been a protected species in Florida since 1990. There was some discussion to re-opening a season this year, but Florida officials ultimately decided against it. This means Lynn Joyner’s 680-pound monster from 1961 is safe at the top of the IGFA charts for now.
People all over the world fish for the ever-popular cobia, both commercially and recreationally. But, the International Game Fish Association world record is 33 years old and counting. Peter Goulding caught the record off the coast of Australia using a mullet for bait.
His huge, 135-pound, 9-ounce cobia has been a surprisingly hard mark to beat. Cobia fishermen have broken some line records, as well as the speargun record, a few times in the years since. But, the all-tackle cobia record continues to remain elusive.
It’s not like bluefish are an uncommon species. These game fish are found and fished for all over the world. Yet, no one has managed to land one bigger than James Hussey’s 31-pound, 12-ounce world record from the Atlantic off Hatteras, North Carolina in 1972. Granted, bluefish don’t often get over 20 pounds, but you’d think someone would beat this record by now, even if by accident.. This one really has us scratching our heads as this world record is now 46 years old and counting!
Perhaps the most sought-after of the many various marlin world records, Alfred Glassell Jr.’s 1,560-pound black marlin has stood as the all-tackle record and 130-pound-line-class record since 1954. Glassell is an inductee of IGFA’s legendary fishing Hall of Fame, mainly because he set this record no less than three times! He caught the first marlin over the 1,000-pound mark and then had to win back his record after someone bested it only days later. In 1953, he put the record out of reach for the foreseeable future with this monstrous marlin, which he caught using a mackerel off the coast of Peru. Glassell died in 2008, but he left one heck of a saltwater fishing legacy behind!
Bigeye Pacific Tuna
Dr. Russel Lee’s 1957 435-pound bigeye Pacific tuna catch has somehow managed to hold off all contenders for the past 61 years. There have been some concerns that commercial markets are overfishing this species, which might help explain a lack of larger tuna. But we’re still surprised a record for a popular saltwater fishing sportfish like this has managed to hold on for so long, especially when many other all-tackle and line-class tuna records have fallen.
Great White Shark
Alfred Dean’s massive, 2,664-pound, world-record great white shark may be in the saltwater record books forever for the same reason as the Goliath grouper. Great whites are protected pretty much everywhere from the African coasts to America, New Zealand and Australian waters. And unlike the grouper, there’s no real talk of ever lifting those protections. There are certainly bigger documented whites out there than this 16-footer caught off the South Australian coast in 1959. But a catch like this would probably spark a controversial “Cecil the Lion” type of incident today, especially because he controversially caught the massive shark using porpoise as bait! This shark also has the unique distinction of being the largest fish ever recorded of ANY species in the IGFA’s record books, all-tackle or otherwise.
We can all agree 35 years seems like a long time for any saltwater fishing record to stand. D.L. Hannah caught the 9-foot thresher shark record that weighed 767 pounds, 3 ounces off Bay of Islands in New Zealand in 1983. Thresher sharks are popular among anglers all around the New Zealand, African and Baja California coastlines. But one reason why the record has stood for so long may be overfishing by commercial industries.
The freaky-looking sheepshead with the human-like teeth is most commonly found around Florida, but the current IGFA world record, which sits at 21 pounds, 4 ounces, hails from Louisiana waters in 1982. It belongs to Wayne Desselle, who used a river shrimp as bait. Much like the white sea bass and bonefish, the world record really was an exceptional specimen. Sheepshead don’t generally get much bigger than 10 pounds, so it isn’t too surprising the world record is 36 years old now.
It’s been 58 years and Abe Sackheim’s 114-pound catch is still the biggest roosterfish ever recorded in saltwater records. Caught out of Pacific waters near La Paz, Mexico in 1960, it’s surprising how long this one has held on considering how popular they are as a sport fish. Maybe it’s because catch-and-release is more popular than eating these strange game fish. There have certainly been photos of monster roosterfish circulating the internet. Some look big enough to topple Sackheim’s record, but many of these fish were simply caught and released.
This is the one of the youngest world records on this list at just 39 years, but it is also one of the most iconic in saltwater fishing history. Ken Fraser’s gargantuan 1,496-pound Bluefin tuna from Nova Scotia is one of only a handful of game fish ever caught on rod and reel to exceed the 1,400-pound mark. The jaw-dropping photos of this fish graced a number of magazine covers and sometimes still circulate on social media to this day. Fraser later wrote a book about his world-record 1979 catch. While there are some truly huge tuna in the Atlantic today, landing a fish of this size is such a rarity that some believe Fraser’s world record may never fall.
The world record for the strange-looking dolphinfish has stood since 1976 when Manuel Salazar hauled in a nearly 70-inch, 87-pound monster while trolling a soft-plastic squid off the coast of Costa Rica. There are actually two different subspecies of dolphin, the pompano and maui-maui, but it seems the IGFA accepts them both as one species in their records. In any case, this is a popular fish, on the end of a line and on the dinner table, which makes the length the world record has stood all the more puzzling.
Here’s another species that’s fairly popular with saltwater fishing enthusiasts. Also known as “weakfish,” this species has somehow managed to maintain the same all-tackle world record for six decades. Lyal Baumgardner set the standard in 1953 when he caught a 65.5-inch white seabass weighing a whopping 83 pounds, 12 ounces near San Felipe, Mexico. The last bass to really come close was a 74-pounder that fell 4 pounds short of a state record for California in 2016. To put into perspective how big Baumgardner’s bass really was, the IGFA has only recognized four seabass over the 70-pound mark since then!
It has been 40 years since Gilbert Ponzi set the world record for common snook with a 53-pound, 10-ounce beast in Costa Rica in 1978. Who would’ve thought such a popular sportfish record could survive for this long? It’s especially puzzling considering most of the saltwater fishing records for the other subspecies of snook have fallen in recent years.
The bonefish world record of 16 pounds has stood since 1971. Caught by Jerry Lavenstein in the Bahamas, we suspect the main reason this world record has stood for 46 years is for similar reasons as the roosterfish. It simply isn’t as popular for table fare and quite a few bonefish are released and never submitted to the record books.