Where to Catch a Fish Bigger Than You
White Sturgeon – Fraser River, B.C.
The list begins with the largest freshwater fish in North America, the white sturgeon. The Bay Area and Pacific Northwest boast some big sturgeon weighing several hundred pounds, but those are just babies compared to what lurks beneath the waters of Fraser River in British Columbia. Try 1,500 pounds and 20 feet in length. Landing a monster anywhere approaching this number requires a team supporting the one given the task of reeling in a BC sturgeon.
Black Marlin – Cairns, Australia
The king of all gamefish is the black marlin, the most entertaining and often toughest fighter in the ocean. To get to the biggest, you have to go down under and fish the waters of the Great Barrier Reef. Cairns, located on the northeast coast of Australia, is the most well-known starting point to get to giant black marlin, which can reach up to 1,500 pounds. Though the current IGFA world record for black marlin was caught off the coast of Peru, many anglers expect the next record to be set in this part of the world. Combine the thrilling possibility of a record catch and the vast quantity of black marlin tipping the scales over 1000 pounds and you can see why Cairns has been widely considered the black marlin capital of the world.
Goliath Grouper – Florida Keys
While blue marlin are famous for their speed and great jumps when fighting, a grouper uses all its muscle power to stay down at all costs. These large-mouthed behemoths can be found in most locations along the Florida coast (the current world record is in the northeast part of the state) but the Keys get the edge for the sheer amount of goliaths swimming the depths. Most commonly trophy-sized groupers get to 400 pounds, but they can actually reach up to 800 pounds and eight feet in length. As they tend to fight just below the boat as opposed to swimming away, you best have a rod that can handle the sharp bend or else it will snap in half. Be wary of the strict regulations, however, as goliath groupers must be released immediately and unharmed to help protect its population. Furthermore, this species cannot even be handled in the boat or else it will suffer internal damage, so if you’re looking for that photo for proof, keep the grouper in the water.
Mako Shark – Cape Cod, Massachusetts
There are many species of sharks we fish for that are bigger than us – tiger, bull, and hammerhead for example – but this list will stick with mako as the shark representative as their fighting spirit makes them the most popular for anglers. Not to mention the danger factor. Cape Cod, Massachusetts contains the highest population of quality sized makos, both shortfin (quite common) and longfin (rare, but larger). These fish can weigh over 1,000 pounds and grow to be over 13 feet in length, with jaws wide enough to easily swallow your head whole. If you do hook onto a monster mako, be prepared to move your boat at great speeds to keep up with it (up to 40 knots or more).
Giant Bluefin Tuna – Nova Scotia
The biggest tuna you can find anywhere in the world is found just offshore of Nova Scotia, where bluefins are caught weighing well over 1000 pounds. However, the challenge is finding them. Commercial fisheries made a heavy dent in tuna populations in Atlantic Canada, as they are now considered an endangered species. Recreational fishing is still legal, but catch-and-release is encouraged. Large bluefins can be found off the coast of the United States as you move south, but they can’t match the size and power of the Atlantic Canadian variety.
Tarpon – Boca Grande, Florida
Tarpon don’t nearly reach the weights of some of the other fish here (rarely over 200 pounds) but the length, not too mention the fight, is enough to make you feel small. Especially since they look like overgrown minnows on steroids. 6-8 feet specimens can be found at the most famous tarpon fishing spot in the world, Boca Grande. Their leaps out of the water can be enough to set anyone’s heart racing.
AlLigator Gar – Rio Grande River, Texas
The state of Texas as a whole is a hotbed for alligator gar, but they don’t get as big as along the Rio Grande River. The IGFA world record – 279-pounds – came from here, but there have been recorded catches of gar over 300 pounds. Huge gars vary in length, as some can grow to be 10 feet, but skinny, while others are no more than seven feet, but heavier because of its wider girth. After one look at a gar’s prehistoric size and shape, you may drop swimming faster than you can say ‘see ya later alligator.’
Wels Catfish – Ebro River, Spain
The wels catfish has become something of a legend in Spain ever since a few thousand were set free by a German angler back in the 1970’s. Since being introduced, the wels catfish has thrived under the warm waters and have grown to be a major invasive species threat – and their growth in size, as well as quantity, has given them the nickname “The Ebro Monster.” These monsters can grow to be 10 feet long and several hundred pounds in weight, but its most striking feature is its mouth, which is wide enough to swallow a human whole. Though its aggression towards humans is rare, there have been reports of wells catfish latching onto the legs of unwary anglers wading in the water. Best stick to a boat to be safe.
Arapaima – Amazon Basin, Brazil
South America is filled with odd looking fish not seen anywhere else on Earth. The Arapaima may not look as exotic as some the tropical fish it swims alongside, but it surely holds the title as the giant of the Amazon River Basin. Known to be the largest scaled freshwater fish in the world, the arapaima can grow to lengths over 12 feet and weigh more than 300 pounds. Due both to its trophy size and tasty flesh, overfishing has decimated the arapaima’s population, including the amount of fish over the 10 feet range. Commercial fishing is now illegal, but charters in remote basin locations can still take adventure-seekers out in pursuit of these river beasts. Adult arapaima do not have functional gills, and therefore must surface to breathe air. For this reason spear and fly fishing are the preferred methods for this South American fish.
If you’re used to bringing in smaller-sized fish like bass or surfperch, or even if you’re already a big-game angler, landing a fish bigger than you is the thrill of a lifetime. Just be sure to bring a camera along to capture the memory forever – and to prove you’re not just telling tall fishing tales.