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4. Blue catfish, 1211/2 pounds, caught from Lake Texoma in 2004 by Cody Mullenix. It was the world rod and reel record when caught, and Mullenix made it more interesting because he was fishing from the bank. The blue cat world record has twice been eclipsed since 2004, which indicates the increased skill of those who seek big catfish and the general health of that fishery. Mullenix dubbed his fish "Splash" and donated it to the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center, where it was a dive show favorite at feeding time until it died of natural causes.
5. Largemouth bass, 14.09 pounds, caught from Lake Monticello in 1980 by Jimmy Kimbell. Kimbell's fish was the first of seven modern largemouth bass records and was particularly important at the time because it proved that Florida strain largemouth bass had the ability to grow larger than the northern strain largemouth bass native to Texas. Kimbell's fish is still the Monticello record.
Ranking Texas' most historic catches doesn't just come down to size
3. Largemouth bass, 18.18 pounds, caught from Lake Fork in 1992 by Barry St. Clair, who was crappie fishing at the time. St. Clair's giant bass remains the state record 23 years after the catch.
The International Game Fish Association's recent list of the 10 biggest record largemouth bass provided the impetus to consider the 10 most important Texas fish records. Here they are, in ascending order:
A closer look at the 10 most important Texas fish records
8. redfish, 59.50 pounds, caught from the Gulf of Mexico in 2000 by Artie Longron. Until given game fish status in 1983, redfish and spotted seatrout were netted for the commercial market. Longron's big red would rank higher had it been caught from a bay. The biggest redfish are usually caught by fishing in the surf on a September or October storm surge, when big reds are spawning.
9. Guadalupe bass, 3.71 pounds, caught in 2014 from the Colorado River by Bryan Townsend. This is the lightest of the top 10 Texas records, but it was caught on fly tackle and the Guadalupe bass is the state fish of Texas. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department almost wiped out these fish in their Hill Country niche by stocking many of the small streams with smallmouth bass, which cross with Guadalupe bass. The 2014 record indicates Guadalupe bass, as a species, are alive and healthy.
1. Whichever memorable fish you've caught, whether it was a 6 inch bluegill that got you started along the often challenging but always interesting path of fishing, or a monster that you caught and released, with no consideration of entering it as a record. It could even be the big one that jumped at boat side and spit the hook or your child's or grandchild's first fish to ensure another generation of angler/conservationists.
7. Alligator gar, 279 pounds, caught from the Rio Grande in 1951 by Bill Valverde. This fish remains the IGFA world record. Bigger alligator gar have been landed in Texas, a 307 pounder from the Nueces River on a trotline and a 290 pounder from the Trinity River by a bowfisher, but the Valverde fish is the biggest freshwater fish documented as having been caught by a rod and reel angler in Texas.
2. Largemouth bass, 17.67 pounds, caught from Lake Fork in 1986 by fishing guide Mark Stevenson. Though surpassed by the St. Clair bass as a state record, Stevenson's fish was the first entry into what became the Toyota ShareLunker program. It also wound up in Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World headquarters in Springfield, Mo., where it was the aquarium star and a leading ambassador for Texas bass fishing. For his contributions, Stevenson was inducted this year into the Texas Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame.
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10. Tiger shark, 1,129 pounds, caught from the Gulf of Mexico in 1992 by Chap Cain III. It's the heaviest fish documented that was caught from a Texas port. It would rank higher, Buy Men Canada Goose Chateau Parka Grey Australia but it was caught in international waters. Cain's giant tiger gets extra points on the heels of the Discovery Channel's Shark Week.
6. speckled trout, 15.50 pounds, caught from the Lower Laguna Madre in 2002 by Carl Rowland. I lived near the Texas coast in the 1970s and early 1980s. I caught thousands of speckled trout from Sabine Lake on the Louisiana border to the Laguna Madre near the Mexican border. None were half the size of Rowland's 2002 record, highlighting a vivid win for conservation.