North Carolina State Record Fish: The Complete Guide


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The Tar Heel State is renowned for its angling opportunities, drawing in thousands of visitors each year in search of their next trophy catch. Whether it’s fresh or saltwater fishing, the sheer potential these waters hold is limitless. But how big do fish get here? If you want to find out, dive into North Carolina‘s state fish records with us!

In this article, we’ll cover some of the most popular species you can catch along this part of the Southeast. You’ll learn the state record for each and get some background on how these majestic fish were caught. When you’re ready, read on!

Biggest Fish Caught in North Carolina by Species

North Carolina’s waters are home to numerous game fish, whether in lakes, rivers, or the ocean. From Bass to Bluefin Tuna, there’s something to chase for every type of angler. And when it comes to fish records, North Carolina boasts some truly impressive catches.

To introduce you to these record-breaking fish, we’ve created a list you can navigate through by clicking on the species below.

  • Bass (Largemouth)
  • Catfish (Blue)
  • Catfish (Flathead)
  • Crappie
  • Flounder
  • Marlin (Blue)
  • Redfish
  • Speckled Trout
  • Swordfish
  • Tuna (Bluefin)

Bass (Largemouth)

  • North Carolina state record: 15 lbs 14 oz in a Union County farm pond in 1991.

Widespread throughout the United States, Largemouth Bass are arguably the most popular freshwater fish in the country. Beautiful, smart, and fun to catch, they’re responsible for numerous innovations in the world of sportfishing, sparking inspiration and frustrating anglers with their cunning.

North Carolina, like the rest of the country, is home to numerous lakes and rivers where you can catch big Bass. Hotspots include Lake Norman, High Rock Lake, Fontana Lake, as well as the Chowan River. However, there are also numerous small ponds where you can catch these marvelous fish.

And, indeed, one such pond produced North Carolina’s state-record Largemouth in 1991. The fish weighed 15 pounds and 14 ounces and was landed by William H. Wofford fishing in a Union County pond. The fight took him about 5 minutes before he managed to reel the Bass in. William himself wasn’t aware he was holding a record. However, once he weighed and measured the fish, it became a part of North Carolina’s history.

Of course, while North Carolina’s state record Bass is certainly a beefy fish, it’s still far from the biggest Bass ever caught. Largemouth Bass enter trophy territory once they reach weights between 7 and 15 pounds, but the IGFA record stands at a whopping 22 pounds and 4 ounces. The record is actually held jointly, the first 22-pounder was caught in 1932 in Lake Montgomery in Georgia. Then, a Japanese angler reeled in a lunker in Lake Biwa in 2010, equaling the record.

Catfish (Blue)

  • North Carolina state record: 127 lbs 1 oz on the Roanoke River in 2021.

Speaking of popular freshwater species, Catfish are certainly near the very top. Among the varieties you’ll find in North Carolina, Blue Catfish are the largest species. They’re terrific fighters, armed with powerful bodies and a never-say-die attitude that often leads to drawn-out, muscle-burning battles. Blue Catfish often reach weights between 20 and 40 pounds, but some can bulk up to over 100 pounds.

In North Carolina, you’ll find these fish in a wide range of habitats. They bite best during the summer months, but winter is also a prolific season that often produces more trophy-sized fish. Catfish spots include Lake Wylie, Lake Norman, and the Catawba River. However, the best fishing takes place on the Roanoke River.

In fact, North Carolina’s record Blue Catfish was landed in 2021 in the Roanoke near Goldsboro. Rocky Baker, the angler who caught the fish, told the story of how the scale couldn’t even measure the monster at first. Once they managed to get a working scale and weigh the Catfish, they clocked it in at 127 pounds and 1 ounce, beating the old state record by 5 pounds.

But here’s where it gets even better – the world record Blue Catfish, which weighed 143 pounds, was caught in the same waters! To be more precise, it was caught in Kerr Lake, which is an impounded reservoir on the Roanoke River. However, this all happened just across the border, meaning the record belongs to Virginia!

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Catfish (Flathead)

  • North Carolina state record: 78 lbs 9 oz on the Neuse River in 2020.

As members of the Catfish family, Flatheads are another fish North Carolina anglers love to wrestle. They’re somewhat smaller than Blue Catfish, but are still capable of giving you a tough workout when you hook them. Typically, Flathead Catfish come in weights between 20 and 30 pounds. However, like their Blue cousins, Flatheads can also exceed 100 pounds.

If you’re pursuing Flathead Catfish, you’ll often find them in the same kind of waters where you’d go for Blues. Popular spots include High Rock Lake, Lake Wylie, Cape Fear River, and the Neuse River. And it’s the last of these that holds the North Carolina Flathead Catfish record.

The record Flathead was caught in the Neuse River back in 2020. Tyler Barnes, the angler who reeled in this river monster, was night fishing when he got the record-breaking bite. To keep the fish alive, he had to first haul it in his livewell, before placing it in a water tank so it could be measured in the morning. The fish ended up weighing 78 pounds and 9 ounces. Afterward, Tyler successfully released the fish back into the water.

While this hefty Flathead must have taken a lot of effort to reel in, it actually falls almost 50 pounds short of the world record. The largest Flathead Catfish registered by the IGFA stood at 123 pounds. It’s a record dating back to 1998, to Elk City Reservoir in Kansas.

Crappie (Black)

  • North Carolina state record: 4 lbs 15 oz on Lake Lucas in 1980.

Fun to catch and delicious to boot, Crappie are always a welcome sight at the end of your line. For many anglers in North Carolina, they’re the fish they grew up targeting, as they’re a fantastic species to practice your skills on. In the Tar Heel State, you’ll find two different types of these fish, the smaller White Crappie, and their larger counterparts – Black Crappie.

A closeup of a Black Crappie as it

Naturally, Black Crappie are still Panfish and they don’t get very big. Specimens that reach 2 pounds are already treated as trophy-sized fish. In North Carolina, you can catch them in most lakes but the two that stand out nowadays are Jordan Lake and Falls Lake.

This being said, the state record Black Crappie was actually caught in Lake Lucas in Asheboro. The record-breaking 4-pound 15-ounce fish was reeled in by an angler named Dean Dixon in 1980, who has remained unbeaten since. In 2022, a tournament angler fishing on High Rock Lake came close with a 4 pounds 14 ounces Black Crappie.

But how does North Carolina’s state record fish match up to the biggest Crappie ever reeled in? The current all-tackle record for Black Crappie stands at 5 pounds 7 ounces. This “slab” Crappie was caught in 2018 in Tennessee by an angler fishing in Richeison Pond.


  • North Carolina state record: 20 lbs 8 oz in Carolina Beach in 1980.

While they’re odd-looking fish, there’s no question that Flounder are among the most sought-after catches wherever you find them. They possess a mild, delicious taste, making them a target of choice for any angler eager to catch a dinner.

When we say Flounder, we generally refer to Summer Flounder, which are ubiquitous in North Carolina’s coastal waters. You’ll find them up and down the state’s ocean shores, but the best fishing takes place in the Cape Fear region.

It was right hear, near Carolina Beach, that the state record Flounder was wrestled out of the water. The fish was caught in 1980 by an angler called Harold Auten who was fishing in Snow’s Cut, a channel connecting the Cape Fear River to the Intracoastal Waterway. The record-breaking Flounder weighed in at 20 pounds 8 ounces, with no fish since then coming close to its size.

As for the all-tackle Summer Flounder record, it was landed further north in New York. Back in 1975, a boat captain named Charles Nappi caught a 22 lb 7 oz Flounder fishing out of Montauk. His record still stands to this day.

Marlin (Blue)

  • North Carolina state record: 1,228 lbs 8 oz offshore from the Oregon Inlet in 2008.

As an angler, you’ll probably agree that just about every species out there has its own charm when you’re targeting it. However, in terms of sheer size, speed, and power, very few fish out there can compete with Blue Marlin. These majestic fish represent the holy grail of sportfishing, and the battles they put up are nothing short of legendary.

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A Blue Marlin leaping out of foamy blue ocean waters, as the photo was taken mid-jump.

Each summer, epic fights take place offshore from North Carolina. Blue Marlin arrive around June, signaling the beginning of one of the hottest times to fish the deep seas. You’ll typically find them in the Gulf Stream, which lies 20 to 60 miles offshore depending on where you depart from.

For the quickest ride to Marlin fishing grounds, you’ll want to start your trip from the Outer Banks. Out of the OBX, you’ll have access to the same waters where North Carolina’s record Blue Marlin was caught in 2008. After an epic fight, Trey Irvine landed a “Grander” Marlin that weighed 1,228 pounds 8 ounces. The Marlin was caught as a part of the Pirate’s Cove Billfish Tournament, netting Trey and the crew nearly $500,000.

While it’s hard to imagine these fish can grow larger than this, the official IGFA all-tackle record for Blue Marlin stands at 1,402 pounds 2 ounces. This incredible fish was caught in Brazil in 1992, measuring 13 feet and 5 inches in length.


  • North Carolina state record: 94 lbs 2 oz in Avon in 1984.

With beautiful spotted tails and bronze scales, Redfish are among the most beloved species in the US. They bite with eagerness and fight with plenty of tenacity, making them a cornerstone fish for inshore anglers. Typically, a Redfish that’s two to three years old will weigh anywhere between 6 to 8 pounds. However, trophy specimens can reach weights of well over 50 pounds.

North Carolina’s waters are truly rich with Redfish. They’re year-round residents in these parts, offering pretty much non-stop action everywhere along the ocean coast. In the fall, the fishing gets even better as Bull Redfish show up, giving anglers a shot at a trophy catch.

As fate would have it, it was during the fall run in 1984 that the record-breaking Redfish was caught in Avon, North Carolina. And we’re not talking about the state record either. The monster Red weighing 94 pounds 2 ounces currently holds the world IGFA all-tackle record. David Deuel reeled in the record catch while surf fishing the Outer Banks beaches.

According to the legend, it took David 45 minutes to triumph over the fish. By the time he managed to finally reel in the giant Red, David was over a mile down the beach from his initial spot.

Speckled Trout

  • North Carolina state record: 12 lbs 8 oz in the Neuse River in 2022.

Often caught in the same waters as Redfish, Speckled Trout are another species that’s immensely popular in North Carolina. While they’re not as brawny as Redfish, Speckled Trout are exciting to fish for and they may occasionally surprise you with a jump. On average, Specks weigh around 2-3 pounds, while any fish over 10 pounds is treated as a trophy specimen.

Generally, you’ll find Speckled Trout all along North Carolina’s Atlantic coast. The Cape Fear region offers excellent fishing, but so do the Outer Banks and the Crystal Coast. While it’s possible to reel them almost throughout the year, fall is the high season for these fish.

With this in mind, the biggest Speckled Trout in North Carolina was actually caught in February 2022. Todd Spangler broke the 60-year-old state record with a 12-pound 8-ounce fish. He caught it angling near the mouth of the Neuse River.

Meanwhile, the all-tackle record for Speckled Trout dates back to 1994. The current record-holder is Craig Carson who caught a 17-pound 7-ounce specimen fishing in Fort Pierce, Florida.


  • North Carolina state record: 504 lbs 8 oz offshore from Morehead City in 2022.

With incredible speed, jaw-dropping acrobatics, and powerful bodies that befit a member of the Billfish family, Swordfish are among the toughest adversaries you can face in the open ocean. They’re elusive fish, spending most of their day in depths over 1,000 feet. To add to all that, Swordfish frequently reach weights of several hundred pounds, occasionally exceeding a thousand.

In the Tar Heel State, you’ll find Swordfish in the same type of waters that other deep sea giants lurk. The action typically takes place about 60 miles from the coast. Here, you’ll come across deep offshore canyons that Swordfish use as their hunting grounds.

See also

When it comes to North Carolina’s state record for Swordfish, it was actually set as recently as 2022! A father-son duo of Cary and Brandon Carney were fishing off Morehead City when they hooked into a massive, 504-pound 8-ounce specimen. And to make the story even better, the electric reel Cary hooked the fish with malfunctioned, prompting a grueling 2.5-hour battle with the giant.

Still, the biggest Swordfish ever caught is even more impressive. The world-record catch dates back all the way to 1953 when the legendary Lou Marron landed an 1,182-pound behemoth. The fish was landed off the coast of Chile while Lou was fishing with his wife, Genie, earning them both spots in the IGFA Hall of Fame.

Tuna (Bluefin)

  • North Carolina state record: 877 lbs offshore from the Oregon Inlet in 2017.

Bluefin Tuna, much like Billfish, are among the most prized sport fish an angler can hope to encounter. And there’s a good reason for that! Bluefin Tuna are armed with endless stamina, surprising intelligence, and willpower to battle the hook for hours on end. Additionally, Bluefins are massive fish, with adult specimens often reaching over 100 pounds and sometimes over 1,000.

If you’ve read the article up to now, you can probably guess where North Carolina’s Tuna grounds lie. We’re talking about the Gulf Stream, of course! Hatteras, the southern point of the Outer Banks offers the fastest ride to the deep seas. However, you’ll have to bring plenty of layers, as North Carolina’s Bluefin Tuna season takes place in winter.

Towards the end of one such season, on March 17, 2017, Scott Chambers headed out of Wanchese, NC on a trophy Bluefin trip. He ended up fighting an 877-pound specimen for two hours, ultimately reeling it in and setting the new North Carolina Bluefin Tuna record. The fish was so big it took 90 minutes just to get it in the boat.

Interestingly, an even bigger, 900-pound Bluefin was caught in 2022 in North Carolina. But since it took three anglers to reel it in, the fish could not be registered as a record. Amazingly, neither this catch nor the official state one came close to the All-Tackle Record for Bluefin Tuna. The world record dates back to 1979 when Ken Fraser caught a 1,496-pound Bluefin while fishing off of Nova Scotia.

North Carolina State Record Fish: An Overview

In case you found it a bit hard to track the various fish measurements throughout the article, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Here’s a simple table where you can see all the record-breaking fish we covered, with their exact sizes and dates they were caught.

Species Pounds Ounces Length (in) Girth (in) Place Year Bass (Largemouth) 15 14 N/A N/A Union County 1991 Catfish (Blue) 127 1 60 40 Roanoke 2021 Catfish (Flathead) 78 9 52 37 Neuse River 2020 Crappie (Black) 4 15 N/A N/A Lake Lucas 1980 Flounder 20 8 N/A N/A Carolina Beach 1980 Marlin (Blue) 1228 8 179.5 82 Oregon Inlet 2008 Redfish 94 2 57 38 Avon 1984 Speckled Trout 12 8 33.5 18 Neuse River 2022 Swordfish 504 8 104 53 Morehead City 2022 Tuna (Bluefin) 877 N/A 113 79 Oregon Inlet 2017

North Carolina: Home to Record-Breaking Fish

A sunset photo of the Johnnie Mercer Fishing Pier in Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, with the waves crashing against the sandy beach.

And there you have it! These are the state records for some of the most popular species in North Carolina. Of course, these amazing catches are only a small part of what makes fishing in the Tar Heel State so great. Every year, anglers break their own personal bests in these waters and form memories they’ll never forget.

With some skill and a fair bit of luck, you too might be able to land your dream catch. And whenever a record is broken, you can count on us to keep you posted on what’s the latest catch to beat.

How did you enjoy our rundown of North Carolina’s state record fish? Is there an entry that surprised you? What’s the catch you’re most proud of? Hit the comment button and let us know!

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>