Trout may be as various a fish as you’ll find on the world sportfishing scene. Able to thrive in shallow, clear mountain streams or in the frigid, murky depths of massive lakes, the 16 separate species recognized by the International Game Fish Association’s (IGFA) world-record database are a motley assemblage as wide-ranging as the possible methods for catching them. Whether you’re a tie-your-own-flies purist or a gob-of-worms spincaster, there should be no arguing that the eight biggest trout ever caught that sit atop the all-tackle record book are the epitome of trophy trout—a high-water mark worth appreciating no matter what your approach is to angling.
Table of Contents
- The Biggest Brook Trout
- The Biggest Tiger Trout
- The Biggest Bull Trout
- The Biggest Cutbow Trout
- The Biggest Cutthroat Trout
- The Biggest Brown Trout
- The Biggest Rainbow Trout
- The Biggest Lake Trout
The Biggest Brook Trout Ever Caught
Weight: 14 pounds 8 ounces
The longest-standing trout record of all was certified by Field & Stream more than a century ago, when Dr. J.W. Cook hauled a 14-pound, 8-ounce brookie out of the Nipigon River in Northern Ontario’s Superior Country region in July 1915. Cook, who was on a 7-day outing with Native fishing guide Andrew Lexie, mistook the fish for a lake trout until Lexie and other locals correctly identified the species. By the time it was weighed, at the Orient Bay train station, Cook’s catch had been out of the water several days, leading some to speculate that it may have topped 20 pounds when caught. It measured 31 inches long and 11 inches wide, with an estimated girth of 23 inches. The original skin mount was displayed at the Nipigon Historical Museum until 1990, when a fire destroyed the birch-bark mount. You can find a replica at the rebuilt museum today.
The World Record Tiger Trout
Weight: 27 pounds 6 ounces
Cathy Clegg of Colbert, Washington, didn’t just get into the tiger trout record book while fishing off a dock at her family cabin on Aug. 7, 2022—she blasted past the mark set just a year earlier by her son, Caylun Peterson. Tiger trout are a sterile hybrid produced by crossing a male brookie with a female brown trout, and Loon Lake—where both Clegg and her son caught their trophies—is a well-known hotspot for the voracious feeders. Clegg was using nightcrawlers on a spinning rig when the big tiger pounced. “It took off and pulled my drag out like crazy,” she told Field & Stream. “It was so much fun, but I was really afraid I was gonna lose [the fish]. I was shaking. I was so nervous.” At 27 pounds, 6 ounces, Clegg’s record weighed nearly 3 pounds heavier than Peterson’s 24 ½ pounder.
The Biggest Bull Trout Ever Caught
Weight: 32 pounds 0 ounces
The big, hard-fighting bull trout is actually not a trout at all, but a native char. The IGFA all-tackle record for the species was caught on a Lucky Louie plug by N. Higgins on Oct. 27, 1949, in Lake Pend Oreille, a glacier-carved waterbody that is Idaho’s largest lake. The fish weighed 32 pounds and stretched 40 ½ inches long with a 30-inch girth. Bull trout have been listed as threatened on the U.S. Endangered Species List since 1998 throughout their historic Pacific Northwest range, which includes California, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington, and they are now a catch-and-release only fish in Idaho and many of the other places they are still found. In August 2020, Idaho angler Ed O’Hara set a new catch-and-release state record at Pend Oreille with a bull trout that measured 31 inches long.
The Largest Cutbow Trout Ever
Weight: 34 pounds 11 ounces
The 34-pound, 11-ounce whopper that Idaho angler Mark Adams landed on June 25, 2011, at Snake River’s American Falls Reservoir was initially identified as a state-record rainbow trout. Further examination determined the fish to be a hybrid mix of a rainbow and a cutthroat trout—and Adams to be the holder of a new world record for cutbow, a fertile hybrid that occurs naturally where the two species overlap. Genetic analysis from Idaho Fish & Game showed that Adams’ cutbow “had cutthroat trout mitochondrial DNA,” indicating that its mother was a Yellowstone cutthroat. The fish measured 41 1/8 inches long.
The Biggest Cutthroat Trout Ever Caught
Weight: 41 pounds 0 ounces
The second-oldest trout record in the IGFA books is a 41-pound cutthroat caught at Nevada’s Pyramid Lake by John Skimmerhorn on Dec. 1, 1925. Not much is known about Skimmerhorn’s catch, other than it was a big Lahontan, the largest subspecies of cutthroats. According to the Western Native Trout Initiative, more than 370,000 surface acres of lakes and 7,400 miles of stream habitat were occupied or had the potential to be occupied by Lahontan cutthroats in 1800. But human settlement took a heavy toll on the fish, and by 1930 they were thought to be extinct. Rediscovered in the 1970s, Lahontan’s have been the focus of multiple restoration projects, and Pyramid Lake is still considered the go-to spot for trophy-size cutties.
The Biggest Brown Trout Ever Caught
Weight: 44 pounds 5 ounces
The canals that supply water to cool eight power stations on New Zealand’s South Island are renowned for big trout and—thanks to the presence of salmon farms that supply a glut of food that bulks up the local trout population—a big controversy. Fishing guide Seumas Petrie of Turangi showed just how freakishly large the local lunkers can get when he hauled in a brown trout weighing 44 pounds, 5 ounces on Oct. 27, 2020, on the Ohau Canal near Twizel. According to a report in Field & Stream, Petrie (who initially elected to remain anonymous but later stepped forward to complete the IGFA application process to claim the world record) donated the fish to a local bar that already had mounts of two 38-pounders on the wall. Petrie’s catch was the second world-record trout to come out of the Ohau Canal.
The Biggest Rainbow Trout Ever Caught
Weight: 48 pounds 0 ounces
Controversy has shadowed the world-record rainbow trout, too. When Sean Konrad caught a 48-pound ‘bow that measured 42 inches long and 32 inches around in Saskatchewan’s Lake Diefenbaker in 2009, he surpassed the record set two years earlier by his identical twin, Adam. He also launched a debate over whether Diefenbaker’s unique “triploid” trout—said to be genetically modified escapees from a local fish farm—should qualify for trophy recognition. IGFA says they do. “I’m not the one who made this fish,” Konrad said in an interview with NPR when asked about the objection some anglers voiced at the fish being entered into the record book. “I’m the one that caught it, so I’m going to register it.” The Conrad twins currently hold five IGFA line class records in addition to the all-tackle mark, and they reportedly fish only at night, to avoid being followed around the lake by anglers hoping to steal their spots.
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The Biggest Lake Trout Ever Caught
Weight: 72 pounds 0 ounces
Heavier lake trout than this have been documented, including a 102-pounder in 1961, but all those fish were netted. The largest lake trout caught on a rod and reel—and the largest trout on this list—was boated by Lloyd Bull on Aug. 19, 1995, at Canada’s Great Bear Lake. It weighed 72 pounds even. Also known as mackinaw or salmon trout, lakers are the muskies of the trout world: Guides at the lake near the Arctic Circle in Canada’s Northwest Territory where Bull caught his world record fish estimate that a 50-pound or bigger lake trout requires between 1,000 and 1,500 hours of fishing time. Bull was an annual visitor to Great Bear for many years, and he hooked his record fish while trolling a Husky Dardevle. The monster measured 59 inches long and sported a 32-inch girth.