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8 Freshwater Fishing Records That Have Stood for a Ridiculously Long Time

Fishing World Records Freshwater
YouTube: MOConservation

These world-record fish have stood the test of time.

Nothing gets an angler's attention quite like a world-record fish. These catches are rare and seem to keep getting even rarer, to the point where some of the records seem unbreakable.

Here are eight world-record freshwater fish that've stood the test of time. We know there are a lot of record-keeping organizations out there. For sake of simplicity, though, we're focusing only on all-tackle world records recognized by the International Game Fish Association.

Muskie

The iconic "fish of a thousand casts," the muskellunge is a legendary game fish, and the world record has proven quite elusive. Cal Johnson's 67-pound, 8-ounce monster currently holds the sportfishing title. Although, there have been numerous challenges by an organization called the World Muskie Alliance trying to get Johnson's record taken down. They actually completed a detailed photo analysis of Johnson and his muskie, as well as the mount itself. And, in 2009, they submitted a 34-page report to the IGFA, claiming the record wasn't what it seemed. But the IGFA decided it wasn't enough evidence to strike down the fish and they upheld the record.

Meanwhile, in the 69 years since the catch, anglers everywhere are struggling to catch a muskie that comes remotely close to the Johnson fish. There have been some close calls, but no one can seem to get a fish over that magical 60-inch mark. It seems for now, this record is safe for the long haul.

Bluegill

Surprisingly, the bluegill world record has stood for over 70 years now and may stand for many more. There are no pictures of the fish available, but T.S. Hudson caught the 4-pound, 12-ounce monster on Ketona Lake in Alabama in 1950.

The even crazier part of this angling story is the fact that Hudson's record fish only edged out the previous record by two ounces and it was caught in the same lake! The other bluegill, which Coke McKenzie caught three years earlier, spent 20 hours in a freezer before hitting the scale. That delay likely caused the fish to lose some ounces, so the fish's live weight may have been considerably greater.

Unfortunately, the world will never know for sure. Since then, anglers have caught many big bluegills, but it's rare to find one over 2 pounds. In fact, only a handful have gotten to the magical 4-pound mark. You can bet it'll be big news if a new record fish ever does emerge.

One interesting facet of this story is that it appears Ketona Lake is completely off-limits to anglers now. The lake allegedly sits surrounded by private property and access is strictly controlled. It really sets the imagination churning, making us wonder what big fish might be swimming around in it completely unknown to the public.

Largemouth Bass

Let's face it. You knew this one would be on the list. Technically, Manab Kurita's 22-pound, 5-ounce fish is one ounce bigger than George Perry's legendary 1932 record. But IGFA rules specify a game fish must be 2 ounces heavier, so the Kurita bass is in a tie for first place.

That means the Perry bass, taken out of a tiny oxbow called Montgomery Lake in Georgia, is still hanging on, albeit by a thread. Perry's fish didn't just break the record, it smashed it by more than 2 pounds. The Perry bass has since survived close call after close call to retain its crown, and there isn't even a confirmed photo of the fish in existence because Perry and his family cooked the bass and ate it! When you dive deeper into the story, it was only by chance the world knows about it since Perry submitted his catch to a Field and Stream contest on a whim. It makes us wonder what other fish have been caught over the years without ever seeing a record application filled out.

It's likely this fish will remain the Georgia state record until the end of time. Most anglers consider the all-tackle largemouth bass world record the holy grail of game fish records, and when the day comes and the record does officially fall, the lucky angler who lands it will undoubtedly be cementing his or her place in fishing history.

Brook Trout

Dr. J.W. Cook caught the current brook trout world record in July of 1915. Yep, you read that correctly, the brook trout world record is well over 100 years old and counting! 

Cook caught his record fish on the Nipigon River in Ontario and weighed it five days after he caught it. Experts have estimated the brookie likely weighed a staggering 20 pounds or more when it was still alive!

There's been some debate as to whether the fish was actually a brook trout or a brown trout. Unfortunately, the world will never know for sure. The mount was destroyed in a fire, which means any sort of genetic testing is out the window.

But Cook would probably be pleased to know his record fish is still greatly celebrated in Ontario, especially along the banks of the Nipigon River, where countless fly fishing enthusiasts now throw lines hoping for a similar chance at a historic-sized brook trout. In fact, an entire festival was held to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Cook's catch.

Smallmouth Bass

Nobody has come even remotely close to breaking David Hayes' 1955 11-pound, 15-ounce smallmouth bass record. Taken out of the giant smallmouth factory Dale Hollow Lake in Tennessee, it hasn't been without its controversy.

The Hayes bass was actually disqualified from the IGFA record book in 1996, as it was allegedly stuffed with 3 pounds of weights. Hayes wasn't involved in these claims, but a lack of witnesses led to the IGFA believing the story was false. They ended up re-instating the fish just three years later.

There are many monster smallmouth bass landed these days, but smallmouths over 10 pounds are rare. The next biggest bass is 10 pounds, 14 ounces, and no one else has ever landed an 11-pounder. The fact that the Hayes fish was nearly 12 pounds makes it all the more impressive. When you start breaking down the top smallmouth ever caught, many anglers and even fish biologists are starting to believe the Hayes fish was simply a total freak of nature. After so long, it seems it's going to take a once-in-several-lifetimes type of fish to dethrone Hayes. If this one ever is broken, we expect it to be Dale Hollow Lake again that produces it. Because when it comes to smallmouth fisheries, this lake is one of the only ones to produce fish over 10 pounds more than once. 

Alligator Gar

Bill Valverde's 279-pound alligator gar rod-and-reel record has stood for 67 years now. Caught on the Rio Grande in Texas in 1951, this 7-foot gar has somehow managed to stand up to all of its challengers over the years. Gar fishing has gone up in popularity in recent years, but a new world record remains elusive.

Perhaps it has something to do with more anglers practicing catch-and-release for these prehistoric giants. Maybe it's just a case of anglers not realizing what they have when they land a fish that big. At any rate, we're expecting this giant gar to hold the record for some time to come.

Channel Catfish

This is the most recent fishing record on this list. Caught in 1964, W.H. Whaley's 58-pounder has held off all contenders decades. Caught in Santee-Cooper Reservoir in South Carolina, there hasn't really been a major contender for this freshwater fish record.

It's probably because channel cats over 20 pounds are relatively rare. But it's still puzzling no one else has even come close to re-writing the record books, especially considering almost every other catfish world record has been broken, sometimes more than once in the years since.

Walleye

It's hard to believe the walleye world record catch has stood for over 60 years and counting. But as far as freshwater fishing world records go, it's a bit of a strange one. Tennessee generally isn't the first place people think of when they think of a premier walleye fishing spot. Yet that's just where Mabry Harper caught her 25-pound fish in Old Hickory Lake back in 1960.

Like many of these records, there's plenty of controversy about this fish, including many rumors it wasn't as big as it was claimed to be. The Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame eventually disqualified the fish, and the IGFA has allowed it to remain the all-tackle record.

There have been a number of walleyes pushing 22 pounds in the years since, but none have challenged the Harper fish. It makes us wonder if it'll ever happen at all.

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8 Freshwater Fishing Records That Have Stood for a Ridiculously Long Time