Florida Saltwater Fishing Records – A Legacy of Angling and Conservation

A Legacy of Angling and Conservation

Florida, also known as the “Fishing Capital of the World,” boasts an incredibly diverse ecosystem that offers anglers the chance to catch a wide variety of fish species. The state’s fishing records have been meticulously documented and maintained, highlighting the achievements of local and visiting anglers alike.

In this article, we’ll explore the fascinating history of the Florida State Fishing Records and how they’ve evolved over time, drawing on information from both the Big Catch Florida website and the Catch a Florida Memory programs.

The Early Beginnings of Florida State Fishing Records

Florida State Fishing Records
Source: floridasportsman.com

The roots of the Florida State Fishing Records can be traced back to the 1950s when the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) first began documenting the state’s largest catches. Initially, these records were limited to a select number of species, such as largemouth bass, blue marlin, and tarpon.

Over time, the list expanded to include over 70 different freshwater and saltwater species, all of which can be found on the Big Catch Florida website.

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The Importance of Accurate Record-Keeping

Florida’s fishing records have gained significant importance due to their role in promoting conservation efforts and showcasing the state’s biodiversity. These records provide anglers with valuable information about the various fish species inhabiting Florida’s waters, helping them identify which species to target and when.

Moreover, they help raise awareness about the importance of sustainable fishing practices and the need to protect the state’s fragile marine ecosystems.

To ensure the accuracy of the records, the FWC requires that all record-breaking catches be weighed on certified scales and witnessed by impartial observers. Additionally, the fish must be positively identified by an FWC biologist or other qualified expert, and the angler must provide photographic evidence of their catch.

This rigorous process helps to maintain the integrity of the records and ensures that only legitimate catches make it into the record books.

Notable Record-Breaking Catches in Florida’s History

Record-Breaking Catches in Florida's History
Source: fieldandstream.com

Throughout the years, there have been some truly impressive catches documented in the Florida State Fishing Records. Some of the most notable record-breaking catches include:

  1. The heaviest largemouth bass, weighing in at 17 pounds, 4.16 ounces, was caught by Billy O’Berry in 1986 at an undisclosed lake in Polk County.
  2. The largest tarpon on record, weighing a staggering 243 pounds, was caught by Gus Bell in 1975 off the coast of Key West.
  3. The heaviest swordfish, weighing 612 pounds, 12 ounces, was caught by Stephen Stanford in 2007 in the Florida Keys.

These catches not only highlight the incredible skill and dedication of Florida’s anglers but also showcase the state’s rich and diverse fish populations.

The Role of Catch a Florida Memory Programs

The Catch a Florida Memory programs, introduced by the FWC, aim to encourage anglers to participate in fishing-related activities while promoting conservation and responsible fishing practices.

The programs consist of various challenges and clubs, including the Saltwater Fish Life List Club, Saltwater Reel Big Fish, and Saltwater Grand Slams. By participating in these initiatives, anglers can earn recognition, awards, and even become part of Florida’s fishing history.

These programs not only foster a sense of community among anglers but also contribute to the conservation of Florida’s fish populations by encouraging the use of proper catch-and-release techniques and promoting responsible fishing practices.


Florida’s fishing records represent a rich history of the state’s fishing culture and the anglers who have contributed to its legacy. By maintaining accurate records and promoting conservation through initiatives like the Catch a Florida Memory programs, the FWC continues to protect and celebrate Florida’s diverse marine ecosystems.

As more anglers take to Florida’s waters in pursuit of record-breaking catches, the state’s fishing records will continue to evolve and expand.

These records serve not only as a testament to the skill and dedication of anglers, but also as an important reminder of the need to preserve and protect the fragile ecosystems that support Florida’s abundant fish populations.

By participating in the Florida State Fishing Records and Catch a Florida Memory programs, anglers can play a role in preserving the state’s fishing heritage and promoting sustainable fishing practices for future generations.

As we look ahead, it is crucial to continue fostering a sense of community and responsibility among anglers, ensuring that Florida remains the Fishing Capital of the World for years to come.

So, whether you’re an experienced angler looking to etch your name in the record books or a novice fisherman eager to learn more about Florida’s diverse fish populations, the state’s fishing records and conservation programs offer an exciting opportunity to be part of an ongoing legacy.

Embark on your next fishing adventure and help contribute to the remarkable history of Florida’s State Fishing Records while promoting the conservation of its incredible marine ecosystems.

If you are intrested of Florida’s Wildlife, go check this article!

Species Weight Length(in.) Date Angler County Image
Largemouth Bass 17.27 pounds unavailable 7/6/1986 Billy O’Berry Polk County
Largemouth Bass
*Largemouth Bass 20.13 unavailable 5/19/1923 Frederick Friebel Big Fish Lake, Pasco County
Largemouth Bass
**Redeye Bass 7.83 pounds unavailable 2/18/1989 William Johnston Apalachicola River, Gadsden County
Redeye Bass
Spotted Bass 3.75 pounds unavailable 6/24/1985 Dow Gilmore Apalachicola River, Gulf County

Suwannee Bass 3.89 pounds unavailable 3/2/1985 Ronnie Everett Suwannee River, Gilchrist County
Suwannee Bass
Shoal Bass 5.95 pounds 22.4 11/18/2017 Sheldon Grace Calhoun
Shoal Bass
Striped Bass 42.24 pounds unavailable 12/14/1993 Alphonso Barnes Apalachicola River, Gadsden
Striped Bass
White Bass 4.69 pounds unavailable 4/9/1982 Richard Davis Apalachicola River, Gadsden County
White Bass
Sunshine Bass 16.31 pounds unavailable 5/9/1985 Thomas Elder Lake Seminole, Jackson County
Sunshine Bass
Black Crappie 3.83 pounds unavailable 1/21/1992 Ben Curry, Sr. Lake Talquin, Gadsden County
Black Crappie
Flier 1.35 pounds 12 Inches 5/9/2015 Twila Gates A Cypress Pond in Jackson County
Bluegill 2.95 pounds unavailable 4/19/1989 John LeMaster Crystal Lake, Washington County
Redbreast Sunfish 2.08 pounds unavailable 4/29/1988 Jerrel Dewees, Jr. Suwannee River, Gilchrist County
Redbreast Sunfish
Redear Sunfish 4.86 pounds unavailable 3/13/1986 Joseph Floyd Merritts Mill Pond, Jackson County
Redear Sunfish
Spotted Sunfish 0.83 pounds unavailable 5/12/1984 Coy Dotson Suwannee River, Columbia County
Spotted Sunfish
Warmouth 2.44 pounds unavailable 10/19/1985 Tony Dempsey Yellow River, Okaloosa County
Chain Pickerel 6.96 pounds unavailable 6/11/2004 Jep Dove Lake Talquin, Gadsden County
Chain Pickerel
*Chain Pickerel 8.00 pounds unavailable 7/5/1971 Jimmy James Lake Talquin, Gadsden County
Chain Pickerel
Redfin Pickerel 1.06 pounds unavailable 6/6/1993 Mike Milkerson New River, Bradford County
Redfin Pickerel
Common Carp 35 pounds to qualify   1/1/0001 VACANT  
Common Carp
*Common Carp 40.56 pounds unavailable 5/24/1981 Bernard Rowan Apalachicola River, Gadsden County
Common Carp
Channel Catfish 44.50 pounds unavailable 5/19/1985 Joe Purvis Lake Bluff, Lake County
Channel Catfish
Flathead Catfish 69.9 pounds 48.5 inches 8/26/2020 Lavon Nowling Santa Rosa County
Flathead Catfish
White Catfish 18.88 pounds unavailable 9/21/1991 Jim Miller Withlacoochee River, Marion County
White Catfish
Blue Catfish 69.5 pounds 48.5″ 5/30/2015 William Stewart III Washington County
Blue Catfish
Brown Bullhead 7.02 pounds unavailable 2/12/2014 Richard A. Clinton Lake Iola, Pasco County
Brown Bullhead
Yellow Bullhead 5.05 pounds unavailable 12/17/2010 Tom Flynn Crystal River, Citrus County
Yellow Bullhead
Bowfin 19.00 pounds unavailable 10/5/1984 Jim Brown Lake Kissimmee, Osceola county
American Shad 5.19 pounds unavailable 2/15/1990 Bud Dankert St. Johns River, Seminole County
American Shad
American Shad 5.19 pounds unavailable 3/18/1992 Albert Judy St. Johns River, Volusia County
American Shad
Longnose Gar 41.00 pounds unavailable 4/14/1985 Evan Merritt Lake Panasoffkee, Sumter County
Longnose Gar
Alligator Gar 123.00 pounds unavailable 7/8/1995 Zachary Phillips Choctawhatchee River, Walton County
Alligator Gar
Florida Gar 9.44 pounds unavailable 3/25/2001 Patric A. McDaniel Lake Lawne, Orange County
Florida Gar
Butterfly Peacock Bass 9.11 pounds 23 – 5/16 inches 10/8/2021 Felipe Prieto Broward County
Butterfly Peacock Bass
Oscar 2.34 pounds unavailable 3/16/1994 Jimmy Cook Lake Okeechobee
Mayan Cichlid 2.37 pounds 13.6″ 11/28/2016 Jonathan Johnson Collier
Mayan Cichlid
Jaguar Guapote 2.78 unavailable 6/29/2017 Jerry Martin Miami-Dade
Jaguar Guapote
Blue Tilapia 9.57 pounds unavailable 8/31/2010 Pamela Henry St. Lucie River, Martin County
Blue Tilapia
Yellow Perch 1.47 pounds unavailable 10/23/2005 David Thomas Dead Lake, Gulf County
Yellow Perch

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