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What To Do If You Think You’ve Caught a World Record Fish

Ian Fortey by Ian Fortey Updated on March 7, 2021. In

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People fish for several reasons. Maybe it’s just to relax. Maybe to bond with friends. Or to get dinner. But if you like fishing for sport, then catching a world record fish is a dream. Who wouldn’t want to say they snagged the biggest fish ever caught?

If you are fishing for sport and you do catch a big one, what next? No one explains this when you learn how to fish. How do you know it’s the biggest fish ever caught? Who can confirm it? This is where the International Game Fish Association comes in.

The International Game Fish Association keeps all official fishing records. Whether you pulled in a record Pacific Blue Marlin, a Smallmouth Bass or a Hammerhead Shark, they’ll know.

There are some procedures you need to follow to find out if you have a record. Let’s check out some tips on how to preserve a world record fish. Also some IGFA records, and how to contact the IGFA to see if you snagged an IGFA world record fish.

What to Do When You Catch a World Record Fish

There are a few steps you need to follow when you think you have a world record fish. Confirming the record is the key here. But time is your enemy.

Look Up Your Fish

There’s no sense getting too deep into this if you don’t have a record breaker. Luckily you can look up IGFA records online. Check out what the record for your catch is. If you truly think you have it beat, then it’s time to proceed with proving it.

Weigh Your Record Fish

The moment you take your fish out of the water it has the potential to start losing weight. Anything from a Great White Shark to a bluefin tuna will shrink. The sun will dry a fish out taking precious ounces away. Your big fish will soon be a dehydrated fish.

You need to weigh your fish on an IGFA-certified scale. You can find weigh stations at tackle shops and marinas all over the country. These will give you an accurate reading.

You can also certify your own scale. If you send it into the IGFA, they can certify it for a $40 fee. If catching a world record is something serious for you, then this is essential. Scales need to have been certified within the last year. If they have not been, then it is possible they can be certified after the weight. Additional steps will need to be taken.

Take Pictures of your Record Fish

Obviously we all want pictures of that big fish. But for IGFA records you need to be thorough. You need an accurate girth measurement and weight measurement with pictures of each. Take a photo of your catch from every angle. For a girth measurement, make sure you have your measuring tape around the thickest part of the fish. Take a clear photo of the whole fish plus the tape.

  • Take a clear, unobstructed photo of the fish showing its entire length. Take one with and without a measuring tape visible alongside the fish.
  • Include photos of your rod, reel, and tackle.
  • Take pictures of the fish hanging vertically and laying out on its side.
  • Include a picture of you holding up the fish with clear perspective.
  • Include as many angles as you can. Better to have more pictures than not enough.

Send in a Sample of Line

There are different ways that a fish can become a world record. Your catch may qualify for a line class record. Line class refers to the type of line you used for your catch. If you qualify for a line class record it means you caught the biggest fish of that type on a certain kind of line. These can get confusing so you’ll definitely need to look them up ahead of time. Competition here is very tight as well. It can be difficult to prove you caught a certain fish on a certain line.

Line class is important because you may have caught what looks like a record fish but is not. If the line class doesn’t qualify, you have no record.

For instance, a 30 lb pike may not be a world record. However, if you catch a 30lb pike on 6lb test, that could be a world record. To prove it you’ll need to send in at least 50 feet of the line that you used. This is the only way to qualify for a line class record. Pictures and other documentation will also be required. You may need signed statements from witnesses as well.

For fly fishing, the line class records can be determined differently.

Fill Out an Entry Form

The IGFA website features official entry forms. You can check out what they require of you. You need to make sure you have all the proper information. You can fill it out online or print off a form at home. Make sure you have copies of all the information you submit

Submit Your World Record

If you have a true world record fish, IGFA judges will make that determination. Your name will be officially recorded as the angler. The size of your fish as well as the location will be included. And then it is up to you.

World record holding anglers have managed to be very successful. Angler David Hayes has the world smallmouth bass record. Alfred Dean caught the biggest shark ever with a rod and reel. These men have become world famous. They managed to get endorsement deals and fame from their efforts. So there is the potential to make money if that interests you.

Remember, this is a very competitive field. Some records may require you to even pass polygraph tests. There is a lot of bluster and fraud out in the world. To prove yourself will take work.

What World Records Are There?

There is more than one way to qualify for an IGFA world record. How you fish is as relevant as what you catch.

All Tackle World Records

An all tackle world record is for the heaviest fish. This is regardless of line class up to 130 lbs. There are some additional qualifications.

  • The fish must be a valid species with a scientific name
  • The IGFA has to be able to identify it based on the photos
  • It must be trophy size. That means it has to fall in the top reported weights for the species.

An all tackle world record is what many people would consider the “regular” world record.

All Tackle Length World Record

Similar to the standard all tackle record. The all tackle length record deals with the length of the fish. You have to have the longest fish of your species ever caught to win the record. The fish also needs to be released alive.

Junior World Record

This record is the same as the all tackle world record. The difference in qualifying here is the age of the angler. You must be between 11 and 16 to qualify for a Junior World Record.

Smallfry World Record

These records are the same as the all tackle world record and the junior world record. The difference with these records is age. Smallfry records apply to anglers under the age of 10.

Line Class Records

As we mentioned earlier, line class records depend on the line used. They are kept for every eligible species. They are judged according to the breaking strength of the first 16.5 feet of line. That means line directly preceding the double line, leader or hook. That section has to be one solid length of line. The weight of the fish has to be at least one half of the line class used to catch it.

Line class records cover line class from 2 pound test all the way to 130 pound.

Tippet Class Records

These records are kept according to the breaking strength of the class tippet. The weight of the fish must be at least ½ of the tippet class.

Tippet class records are from 2 pounds to 20 pounds.

IGFA World Record Requirements

There are some additional requirements for claiming your record.

  • Your claim must be made within 60 days of the catch
  • A witness is not required, but will help your claim
  • If the species cannot be confirmed, the claim will be rejected
  • The IGFA will not recognize certain claims. This includes ones from contests where financial rewards have been offered. So if you got paid for catching a record breaking fish it may not qualify.
  • If a fish weighs under 25 pounds, the record must be at least 2 ounces more than the previous record holder.
  • Things are different for a fish that weighs over 25 pounds. The new record must weigh at least one half of one percent more than the existing record
  • If the new fish is the same weight or within that range, it will be marked as a tie.

Knowing the qualifications for claiming a world record fish is the easy part. Actually catching a word record fish is the hard part. Some of these records have stood for over half a century. Winning a new one takes time, effort, and luck.

IGFA World Record Fish

If you’re still keen on catching a world record fish, you need to know what you’re up against. Let’s take a look at some likely candidates.

FreshWater World Records

Even the usual fishing hole can have some world record catches. Although saltwater fish are always bigger, freshwater fish have their own challenges. These are some of the biggest from around North America.

Largemouth Bass: 22lb 4 oz

There’s an all tackle record tie for largemouth. One comes from Japan, but the other is from Montgomery Lake, Georgia. George W. Perry caught his record bass back in 1932.

Northern Pike: 55lb 1oz

Many record pike have been captured in North America. The record, however, is from Germany. Lothar Louis caught it back in 1986.

Rainbow Trout: 48lb

Massive rainbow trout can be reeled in across North America. The record comes from Lake Diefenbaker in Canada back in 2009. The Santa Ana River Lakes in California have also produced some record fish.

Black Crappie: 5lb 7oz

This record was made just recently in 2018. Lionel Ferguson caught it in Tennessee.

Yellow Perch: 4lb 3oz

Competition is right for yellow perch. The largest on record was snagged in Bordentown, New Jersey. That was all the way back in 1865. Dr. C. Abbott reeled it in.

Smallmouth Bass: 11lb 15oz

David Hayes holds the smallmouth bass record. He set this back in the year 1955. As you can see, this has stood for an incredible length of time. This is an all tackle record that David Hayes made at Dale Hollow Lake in Tennessee.

SaltWater World Records

If you’re in the market for some big game fish, then saltwater fishing is what you need to do. These are the monstrous records for some of the world’s biggest.

Great White Shark: 2,664 lb 0 oz

Alfred Dean caught his monster Great White to get an all tackle world record back in 1959. The shark was pulled in on a rod and reel and weighed over one ton.

Pacific Blue Marlin: 1,376 lb

The world record Pacific Blue Marlin was caught back in 1982. Jay de Beaubien reeled it in at Kaaiwi Point in Kona, Hawaii. Hawaii has a history of being a good spot to catch record Pacific Blue Marlin.

Atlantic Blue Marlin: 1,402 lb 2 oz

The IGFA world record Atlantic Blue Marlin was caught in 1992 by Paolo Amorim in Vitoria, Brazil. Many of the line class records for Atlantic Blue Marlin come for Portugal.

Black Marlin: 1,560 lb

Black Marlin can grow significantly larger than their blue cousins. The record black marlin was caught in Cabo Blanco, Peru. Alfred Glassell, Jr. reeled it in. Black marlin have also proven to be favorites of trophy hunters. Enrico Capozzi holds three of the line class records for black marlin. Australia is your best bet if you want Black Marlin.

Bluefin Tuna: 1,496 lb

Record bluefin tuna can be found all around North America. The largest was pulled in near Nova Scotia, Canada by Ken Fraser. Bluefin tuna can also be pulled in off the coast of Maryland, New York, and Virginia.

Wahoo: 184 lb

Wahoo has proven to be a popular game fish. The Wahoo record was caught in Mexico in 2005 by Sara Hayward. Florida is a decent spot for catching Wahoo but a line record for Wahoo was even made off of Cape Cod.

Goliath Grouper: 680 lb

The world record goliath group was reeled in at Fernandina Beach, Florida. Lynn Joyner snagged it all the way back in 1961. Many of the Goliath Grouper line records have also come from Florida.

About Ian

My grandfather first took me fishing when I was too young to actually hold up a rod on my own. As an avid camper, hiker, and nature enthusiast I'm always looking for a new adventure.

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