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.

1. Giant Freshwater Stingray

A group of anglers holding up a large 661 pound freshwater stingray.
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

2. 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

3. Giant Siamese Carp

A group of people standing around a large 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

4. 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

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5. 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.

6. 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

7. 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

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8. 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

9. 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

10. Common Carp

An angler holding up a very large 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

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