When people think of giant records and equally giant fish, most tend to think of old, grainy photos and sepia tones. However, anglers should keep in mind that records are meant to be broken, and some of the largest fish on record have only been caught recently. Thanks to the efforts of conservationists, as well as state and federal agencies, there are still plenty of fish in American lakes.
If these are any indication, they only get bigger. Here are five of the largest fish that anglers have pulled through the ice in the last few years, and they are sure to get your juices flowing for next season.
While you’re at it, why not gear up while prices are low?
1. A monster PA Muskie (2015)
Sometimes, ice fishermen are reminded that they may need to cut bigger holes in the ice. Nicholas Colangelo was fishing in Northwest Pennsylvania last February when he found that a 10-inch hole barely accommodated the massive, 53-inch musky he pulled in.
“The fight was 30 minutes long, I didn’t see the fish for the first time until the 10 minute mark!” Mark wrote triumphantly on Facebook. ”For the next 20 [minutes] this fish would take off on 60-feet runs each time I got it near the hole—eventually got it by the [gill] plate and landed the biggest fish of my life.”
Colangelo had been fishing with his friend Luke Wholey for about 18 hours before he caught the massive fish on a three-inch shiner. The anglers quickly posed with the musky for a few pictures and then released it back into water. Colangelo said he did not weigh the fish, but estimated its weight at well north of 40 pounds and said it was possibly over 30 years old. The angler added that it was one of four muskies they caught that day, along with an eight-pound walleye.
2. 32-pound Common Carp (2014)
Andrew Plumridge, 41, landed a possible world-record catch-and-release common carp on his second-ever ice fishing trip. The massive 32-pound, two-ounce fish was Plumridge’s first catch on rod and reel. The Sharon, Massachusetts bank auditor was part of a group fishing the Housatonic River on January 31, 2014. The group was guided by former professional angler Paul Tawczynski, who said the fish was the biggest carp he had ever pulled out of water in his career.
“I knew right away when it came out of the hole that at the very least, a pin fish,” Tawczynski told OutdoorHub, referring to the bronze and gold pins that Massachusetts anglers are rewarded with when they land especially large fish.
The day started off slow, and Tawczynski said that several hours went without so much as a splash. Towards the end of the trip he noticed the telltale flash of carp, and advised the anglers to change equipment. Common carp have been in Massachusetts for more than a century. While they are still generally considered an invasive species, many anglers now consider them a native fish in the Housatonic. The anglers had a rough time landing any of the carp at first, which Tawczynski said was due to the hooks falling out too easily.
“We were just about to pick up and call it a day when I saw Andrew’s rod bend over real hard,” he recalled. “I had to coach him on how to pump the fish, not to over-reel the drag, [and] how to keep it tip-up or tip-down when necessary. I actually had the line going through my fingers so I could feel the fish move.”
The battle took half an hour, during which the anglers became increasing aware of how large the carp was. The fish was difficult to reel in, retreating deeper into the icy water every so often. Finally, Tawczynski was able to grab it by the gills and squeeze it through the eight-inch hole in the ice. The guide said that neither he or Plumridge had any idea it could be a world record.
3. World’s (formerly) largest lake trout (2013)
It may no longer hold the world record, but this massive lake trout is still a thing of beauty.
If you were to ask Bruce Sederberg if he had any regrets over releasing what is the largest lake trout ever caught on ice with rod and reel, he would tell you emphatically that he didn’t regret a thing. It’s just how he always did things.
The 57-year-old lifelong Minnesota angler has been dipping lines into the water since he was six and sported an altruistic approach to fishing. Sederberg prided himself on never biting off more than he chew. On every fishing trip Sederberg would keep a few specimens for a fish fry with family and friends, the rest go straight back in the water.
He brought that attitude with him onto the ice of Ontario’s White Otter Lake on January 18, 2013, where he had been ice fishing for years.
“Even knowing it might be a world record, I knew I had to release this fish.” So he and his nephew slowly lowered the trout back into the hole where it jumped back into the lake’s depths. The two borrowed a tape measure from a friend and measured the marks on the snow, where it came to an even 46 inches. It is estimated to have been anywhere from 40 to 44 pounds, which would place it over the record ice fishing kept lake trout. That one was caught by Earl Palmquist in 1987 and had weighed 40 pounds at 44 inches long.
4. 33-pound Pike from Nebraska (2014)
A late January ice fishing trip in 2014 left Jake Rodiek with a difficult decision: should he keep a behemoth 33-pound northern pike and break Nebraska’s 17-year-old record, or should he release it back through the hole in the ice?
In order to verify the fish as a Nebraska record, Rodiek would have to bring the pike to a Game and Parks office. The angler admitted that he did not have the heart to risk the monster pike for a shot at the record.
Before letting the fish slip out of his fingers, Rodiek was able to document the pike and get its measurements. The current state record for northern pike caught on rod and reel belongs to Steven Morris of Scottsbluff, who in 1997 caught a pike weighing 30 pounds and 1 ounce. Rodiek’s fish measured 45 inches long and 27.5 inches in girth. Rodiek and his fishing partner estimated that the pike weighed roughly 33 pounds.
You can watch the release below:
5. World record yellow perch (2014)
While this may not be one of the heaviest fish on this list, it is certainly one of the biggest surprises.
When Gary Wiese took a hunting trip to Wisconsin in early 2015, he hardly expected that it would result in a new world record for yellow perch. Especially since he caught no fish during the trip, the record did not belong to him, and the perch was caught in 2014.
So how did it happen? According to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, it was a case of fortunate happenstance. In addition to his love of hunting, Wiese is an avid angler and regularly took trips to Idaho’s Lake Cascade with his 12-year-old daughter, Tia Wiese. The lake was especially popular with anglers because of restoration efforts than started more than a decade ago, when thousands of yellow perch were released into the lake. For the past few years, anglers fishing at Lake Cascade have routinely reported perch over two pounds, and Wiese himself took a fish close to the state record. His daughter, on the other hand, nabbed that record last March.
“She was really excited. She was jumping up and down,” Gary said in a press release. “We were both pretty excited.”
While hunting near Hayward, Wisconsin, Wiese decided to pay a trip to the Fresh Water Hall of Fame and Museum located there. As Wiese perused the museum, he learned that his daughter’s fish actually qualified not just for a state record, but also for a spot in the world record books.
“I knew there were different line class records, but I didn’t know there were records like ice fishing,” Gary said.
Want to catch your own record-sized behemoth? Check out Cabela’s Tackle Shop and catch up on ice fishing tips from the experts, check out recommended gear, or watch jigging demonstrations.
This article was produced in cooperation with Cabela’s.