11 Giant Freshwater Fish that You’ve Probably Never Heard of Before

These record-breaking beasts from all over the world are the stuff of legend—and nightmares

Thirty years ago, Heinz Machacek found data from fishing record books to be incomplete, so he decided to start his own. The result is a website and searchable database called “The World Records Freshwater Fishing.” It includes records of giant bizarre fish caught in far away places.

“The information exchange between scientists, commercial fishermen, and sport fishermen is poor,” he says. “Therefore, we engaged in updating a database concerning the maximum size of freshwater fish.”

According to Machacek, to compile more diverse records, they rely on an international network of anglers and scientists who contribute data on the weight, length, and age of freshwater fish, along with photographs. By taking submissions and publishing data from other record books too, World Records Freshwater Fishing has compiled information on 507 different species of freshwater fish, each weighing at least 5 kg, from all over the world.

The following catches are a few highlights from Machacek’s extensive database. They reflect not only rod-and-reel captures, but fish taken by other methods, which include nets, harpoons, hand lines, spear, and bows. Here are 11 photos of some of the largest fish ever caught in freshwater.

Largest Freshwater Fish: Catfish

1. Mekong Giant Catfish

Two anglers with a giant Mekong catfish that weighs over 600 pounds.
A giant Mekong Catfish! It weighed 645.15 pounds. Heinz Machacek
  • Record Weight: 645 lbs, 15 oz
  • Scientific Name: Pangasianodon gigas
  • Catch Location: Mekong River system, Thailand
  • Catch Method: Other methods record
  • Facts: After a year of feeding on zooplankton, Mekong cats become herbivores. They are a threatened species.
  • Range: Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia, and Laos

2. Salween Rita Catfish

An angler holding up a large 125 pound Salween Rita catfish.
The rod-and-reel record Salween Rita tipped the scales at 125 pounds. Heinz Machacek
  • Record Weight: 308.85 pounds
  • Scientific Name: Rita sacerdotum
  • Catch Location: Thailand
  • Catch Method: Other methods record
  • Facts: The Salween Rita is a rare species of catfish. Deeply gray in coloration, the Salween is scaleless with a broad body and head. It grows to prodigious sizes.
  • Range: Thailand

3. Irrawaddy Mystus

Two anglers holding up a large Irrawaddy Mystus catfish.
The Irrawaddy Mystus is a giant catfish that is a highly sought-after recreational fish. This fish is the rod-and-reel, 115-pound record. Heinz Machacek
  • Record Weight: 176.5 pounds
  • Scientific Name: Hemibagrus microphthalmus
  • Catch Location: Myanmar, India, Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar
  • Catch Method: Other methods record
  • Facts: According to fishbase.org, the Irrawaddy is generally caught amid tree roots and deep rocky structure during high water months. It feeds on shrimp and crabs.
  • Range: The Mainipur drainage in India; Irrawaddy, and Sittang drainages in Myanmar; and the Salween River in Thailand.

4. Jau

An angler posing with a large 170-pound Jau.
The 170-pound, rod-and-reel Jau record was caught by Martin Content in Bolivia. Heinz Machacek
  • Record Weight: 198.42 pounds
  • Scientific Name: Zungaro zungaro
  • Catch Location: Orinoco River system, Amazon River system
  • Catch Method: Other methods
  • Facts: A highly sought-after Amazon catfish, the Jau is generally caught in deep holes and fast current. They are renowned as being excellent fighters.
  • Range: Amazon Basin

Largest Freshwater Fish: Rays

5. Giant Freshwater Stingray

A group of anglers holding up a large 661 pound stingray. Giant freshwater stingrays are one of the largest freshwater fish in the world.
The known rod-and-reel world record freshwater stingray weight 661 pounds. It was caught in Thailand. Heinz Machacek
  • Record Weight: 1,322.77 pounds
  • Scientific Name: Urogymnus polyepis
  • Catch Location: Unknown
  • Catch Method: Rod and reel
  • Facts: Biologists believe that the freshwater stingray may be the largest freshwater fish on earth. It’s diet consists of small fish, crustaceans, and mollusks.
  • Range: Papua New Guinea, Thailand, Australia, Cambodia, Indonesia, Vietnam, and Laos

6. Discus Ray

An angler kneeling beside a large discus ray.
Certainly an odd-looking catch, this 116-pound Discus Ray measured nearly 4-feet in diameter. The “all-methods” record is nearly double that. Heinz Machacek
  • Record Weight: 250 pounds
  • Scientific Name: Paratrygon aiereba
  • Catch Location: Rio Apure, Venezuela
  • Catch Method: Other methods
  • Facts: The Discus Ray can reach diameters of more than 5 feet. It lives primarily in deep water, but moves into the shallows at night to feed.
  • Range: South America

Largest Freshwater Fish: Carp

7. Giant Siamese Carp

A group of people standing around a large freshwater fish, a 270-pound Giant Siamese Carp.
Weighing more than 270 pounds, this Giant Siamese Carp was caught in Thailand. Heinz Machacek
  • Record Weight: 440 pounds
  • Scientific Name: Catlocarpio simensis
  • Catch Location: Mae Klong River, Thailand
  • Catch Method: Other methods record
  • Facts: The Giant Siamese Carp is considered to be the ultimate of monster carp species. It is an extremely hard-fighting fish.
  • Range: Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, and Southern Vietnam

Read Next: The 6 Best Western Trout Rivers to Fish During the Salmonfly Hatch

8. Common Carp

An angler holding up a one of the largest freshwater fish: a giant carp
Though many might think that the common carp is a U.S. fish, it’s actually a 2,000-year old transplant. Heinz Machacek
  • Record Weight: 112.14 pounds
  • Scientific Name: Cyprinus carpio
  • Catch Location: Euro-Aqua Lake, Hungary
  • Catch Method: Rod and reel
  • Facts: Native to Europe and Asia, the original Common Carp dates back 2,000 years. According to Wikipedia, Common Carp have been introduced to most continents and 59 countries.
  • Range: U.S., Europe, Canada, Russia, and Ukraine

Largest Freshwater Fish: Other Fish

9. Humpback Mahseer

Three anglers in the water holding up a large 130 pound Mussullah Mahseer fish.
The rod-and-reel, 130-pound record Mussullah Mahseer was caught in the Cauvery River in India. Heinz Machacek
  • Record Weight: 205.03 pounds
  • Scientific Name: Hypselobarbus mussullah
  • Catch Location: India
  • Catch Method: Other methods
  • Facts: The critically endangered Mahseer is nicknamed “The Tiger of Kaveri” due to its fighting ability. It is believed to have divine protection. There are at least seven Mahseer species in Indian rivers.
  • Range: India

10. Murray Cod

A black and white photo of an angler posing next to a large 105-pound Murray Cod.
A vintage 1911 photo of a 105-pound Murray Cod from Australia. Heinz Machacek
  • Record Weight: 250.45 pounds
  • Scientific Name: Maccullochella peelli
  • Catch Location: Barwon River, Australia
  • Catch Method: Other methods
  • Facts: The Murray Cod is Australia’s largest freshwater predatory fish . It inhabits the Murray-Darling basin in southeastern Australia. It is considered to be an apex predator.
  • Range: Southeastern Australia

Read Next: 10 of the Nastiest and Hardest Fish to Catch on the Planet

11. Taiman

An angler wading in the water holding up a large giant Taiman trout.
The Taiman is actually a giant trout and a member of the salmon family. Heinz Machacek
  • Record Weight: 231.8 pounds
  • Scientific Name: Hucho taiman
  • Catch Location: Kotuy River, Russia
  • Catch Method: Other methods
  • Facts: The Siberian giant trout is a member of the salmon family and highly sought by recreational anglers.
  • Range: Russia and Mongolia