Biggest Walleye Ever Caught

Young Fisherman Catching a big Walleye Fish
Larry Stark

Professional fisherman, who loves to review new fishing gadgets.

Walleye fishing holds a special place in the hearts of anglers. With their elusive nature and delicious fillets, these freshwater giants have lured countless fishermen to the waters in search of the ultimate prize. But just how big can a walleye get? There are tales of walleyes that defy belief, challenging even the most seasoned anglers. Join us on a journey through the annals of fishing history as we explore the record stories of the biggest walleye ever caught, each one a testament to the potential of these remarkable fish. If you want to catch walleyes like these, take a look at this article: How to Catch Walleye.

What is a Big Walleye

When it comes to walleye, the definition of “big” can vary depending on who you ask and where you’re fishing. However, in the angling world, a walleye is generally considered “big” when it exceeds the 28-inch mark. This benchmark is often used as a yardstick because it represents a substantial fish, one that’s both challenging to catch and provides a significant thrill to any angler lucky enough to hook one. Fore more information on walleye hook sizes, we suggest reading this article: What Size Hook for Walleye?.

But size isn’t the only factor that determines a walleye’s bigness. Age, weight, and the environment it inhabits also play a crucial role. Walleye have been known to live for several decades, and as they age, they continue to grow, with some individuals reaching sizes that would make any angler’s heart race. 

So, while a 28-inch walleye is generally considered a big catch, keep in mind that in the world of these mesmerizing fish, “big” can be a relative term, with the potential for even larger trophies awaiting those who seek them out in the right places and at the right times.

World Record Walleye Weight

The pursuit of world records in fishing is a quest that drives many anglers to explore the limits of their sport. When it comes to walleye, one record in particular stands as a testament to the incredible size these fish can attain. The world record for the heaviest walleye ever caught is a story that continues to captivate anglers and fishing enthusiasts around the globe. 

In 1982, on a fateful day in Old Hickory Lake, Tennessee, angler Mabry Harper reeled in a colossal walleye that would go down in history. This remarkable fish weighed in at an astonishing 25 pounds and 4 ounces (11.5 kilograms). To put this into perspective, the average walleye typically weighs between 1 to 3 pounds, making Harper’s catch a true giant in comparison. This remarkable feat not only secured his place in angling history but also demonstrated the incredible growth potential of walleye under the right conditions.

World Record Walleye Length

The world record for the longest walleye ever caught is a story that continues to inspire anglers worldwide. In 1960, on the banks of Greer’s Ferry Lake in Arkansas, a fisherman named Al Nelson made an extraordinary catch. He reeled in a walleye that measured a jaw-dropping 41 inches in length. 

To put this in perspective, the average walleye typically ranges from 12 to 18 inches in length. Nelson’s colossal catch shattered all expectations, showcasing the potential for these fish to reach remarkable sizes in the right conditions. While it’s weight that often steals the spotlight, the length of this record-breaking walleye is a testament to the awe-inspiring nature of these elusive predators.

Controversy Surrounding World Records

In the world of walleye fishing records, controversies have occasionally marred the accolades. One such instance revolves around Mabry Harper’s record-breaking catch, which initially held the title for the world’s largest walleye. However, this remarkable achievement was soon clouded by doubt, and here’s why.

Photographic Skepticism

The authenticity of Harper’s catch was brought into question due to the quality of the photographs taken. These images failed to provide a clear and compelling view of the massive walleye, casting shadows of suspicion on the reported measurements. Notably, there was skepticism about whether the fish could indeed be 41 inches long and weigh as much as claimed.

The Sternberg Analysis

Years later, in 1996, Dick Sternberg, an angler and writer, conducted a meticulous analysis of the questionable photos and documentation surrounding Harper’s catch. His article in Outdoor Life brought to light the discrepancies and raised significant concerns about the accuracy of the record. Consequently, Harper’s fish faced disqualification from its esteemed world record status.

Resurrecting the Record

Nevertheless, the story didn’t conclude with the disqualification. In 2019, determined efforts by Harper’s relatives and local historians sought to rehabilitate the reputation of Mabry Harper and his extraordinary catch. Their unwavering dedication led to the discovery of crucial evidence that would shift the tide in favor of Harper’s record.

Warden Spurling’s Affidavits

Among the key findings were affidavits from Warden James Spurling, which provided vital details about the weighing of the fish during two separate attempts. Although these scales were not certified by modern standards, they added substantial weight to the argument in favor of Harper’s record.

Unearthed Documentation

Local historian John Oliver played a pivotal role in unearthing additional documentation, including several more photos of the fish. One of these photos featured Mabry’s wife holding the walleye, providing a known reference for her size. When experts scaled up the photo to her life-size aspect ratio, the fish in the picture measured an astonishing 41 inches. Another photo showed the fish’s head next to a ruler, offering undeniable evidence of its remarkable size.

Record Reinstated

In light of these compelling findings, The Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame reinstated the Harper Walleye as the world record, thus ending Arkansas’ tenure as the world record holders for walleye. This story underscores the enduring allure of world record catches and the unwavering dedication of those who champion their rightful place in angling history.

Additional Information

The Tackle and Techniques

Delving into the world of record-breaking walleye catches wouldn’t be complete without exploring the tackle and techniques employed by the anglers behind these remarkable feats. While records provide the “what” and “how big,” the “how” often remains shrouded in angling mystery. 

Harper’s Record-Catching Mystery

Mabry Harper’s monumental catch, which regained its world record status, left anglers and enthusiasts curious about the specifics. What bait did Harper use? How did he present it to entice such a colossal walleye? What about his fishing technique? While some details have been uncovered, there’s still an air of mystique surrounding the precise methods employed on that fateful day. 

The Greers Ferry Giant

Similarly, the 22-pound, 11-ounce walleye caught by Al Nelson on Greers Ferry Lake in Arkansas has its share of enigma. What walleye lure or bait tempted this massive fish? Did Nelson employ a particular technique to outsmart such a heavyweight walleye? The specifics of his angling strategy remain an intriguing aspect of the story. 

A Treasure Trove of Insights

As anglers and fishing enthusiasts, we’re always eager to glean insights from those who have achieved angling greatness. The tackle choices, bait selection, and fishing techniques used to land world record walleye hold the keys to unraveling some of the mysteries of the sport. While records provide us with the “what,” it’s these details that offer a deeper understanding of the “how” and, perhaps, a shot at one day joining the ranks of world record anglers.