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The Biggest Catfish Ever Caught

The biggest catfish ever caught have come on some surprisingly simple fishing tackle throughout the entire country. Whether you’re fishing in rivers, lakes, ponds or even creeks, catfish offer anglers of all skill levels an oportunity to catch the fish of a lifetime. With fairly simple gear, anglers can expect to get big bites in all kinds of different habitats. 

While lots of other fishing techniques might require specialized gear and fancy bait, catching some of the biggest catfish can be quite simple. Even better, they grow to insanely big sizes and pull hard. 

And for the record… the above photo you just scrolled past? That’s just a state record. That’s how big these fish get. 

In all reality, these fish are are fairly easy to catch. While other species might require a fair amount of research and preparation, simple presentations can do a world of good in your pursuit of big catfish. Whether you’re partial to the red wiggler worms from the corner gas station, raw chicken livers from your local grocery store or fresh-caught panfish on the end of your line, you can expect quick action and lots of fun no matter where you’re fishing. 

Even better than the thrill of catching these giant fish is the outstanding table fare they provide. In most folks’ opinion, there’s not much better than some fresh catfish fillets or nuggets after a good day of fishing. With just a few sizeable catfish, you’re able to easily and economically feed large groups of people without spending hardly any money. This video explains how to best prepare your catch. 

In order to highlight the big-fish potential of this type of fishing, we wanted to put together a comprehensive list of the biggest catfish ever caught. We’ll cover channel catfish, blue catfish and yellow catfish.

World Record flathead catfish: 123 pounds

Ken Paulie had the day of his life on May 19, 1998 when he caught a giant 123-pound flathead catfish while fishing at Elk City Reservoir in Kansas. In addition to its massive weight, the behemoth measured 61 inches long with a girth of 43 3/4 inches. Paulie caught the monster on a live minnow at the end of a Zebco rod adorned with a Zebco 33 reel spooled with 14-pound Trilene monofilament fishing line. 

He noted that his live minnow-and-bobber rig didn’t go underwater quickly like you might think. Instead, it slowly went out of sight and thinking it might be a crappie, he lightly set the hook. Upon pulling back on the fish, he quickly realized it was something much bigger. After a long fight on light-duty gear, Paulie was able to grab the monster by the back of the gills and get it onto dry land. 

With this catfish species heavily populating the midwest section of North America, it’s no surprise Paulie was able to catch it. Since Paulie’s catch, the flathead catfish has also made its way throughout most of the country. Known for its exceptional pulling power and excellent-tasting meat, this popular species will eat just about anything in its way. Formally classified as omnivorous, the flathead is a notably indiscriminate feeder.

Here is the official IGFA flathead catfish record listing

World Record blue catfish: 143 pounds

As anglers, we all want to see pictures of big fish; that’s a pretty obvious statement. But when it comes to catfish, the biggest ones don’t just look big… they look grotesquely huge. That’s absolutely the case when it comes to Richard Anderson’s record-setting 143-pound blue catfish caught from Kerr Lake in 2011. In addition to its shocking weight, the record blue catfish measured 57 inches long with a 44-inch girth. A trusty Shakespeare Ugly Stik was able to conquer the monster. 

Constructed between 1947 and 1952 in order to produce hydroelectricity, Kerr Lake is owned by the US Army Corps of Engineers. In addition to its practical day-to-day uses, this 50,000-acre lake has become home to giant catfish of all species. 

As we’ve previously noted, catfish will eat just about anything you put in their path but this behemoth fell victim to a drifted piece of chicken as bait. The angler made an attempt to keep the fish alive in a 250-gallon tank in order to donate it to a Bass Pro Shops aquarium but unfortunately, the fish died the next day. 

Here is the official IGFA blue catfish record listing.

World Record channel catfish: 58 pounds

As a further testament to the indiscriminate feeding patterns of most catfish species, W. Whaley managed to fool a record-setting channel catfish in 1964 with a bucktail jig using Berkley line. The big channel cat was caught in the very popular Santee-Cooper Reservoir in South Carolina. In addition to its 58-pound weight, it also measured 47.25 inches with a girth of 29 inches. 

The channel catfish is a very popular and common catfish species reaching from most of the U.S. to many parts of Canada and Mexico. It’s the only catfish species with a noticeably forked tail to whenever you catch a big catfish, that’s one of the main characteristics you’ll want to check in order to identify it. It’s also worth noting that many of these channel catfish will have spots on their skin which will help you further make a positive identification. 

In addition to being particularly easy to catch, this is one of the most delicious catfish species imaginable. Most of the time when you order catfish at a restuarant, you’re going to receive a plate-full of channel catfish. Known for their flaky, white meat, you won’t only enjoy catching them and enjoying their hard-pulling nature but you’ll also be rewarded by their outstanding and mild taste. 

Here is the official IGFA channel catfish listing

Check out more huge catfish in these stories

Potential Record Catfish Caught

Angler Breaks West Virginia Catfish Record

Angler Catches Mississippi Record Catfish

Teen Catches N.C. Record Catfish

Two Monster Fish Break State Records in North Carolina

Man Catches Kentucky Blue Catfish State Record

Giant Catfish Breaks State Record