April 22, 2022
By Doug Olander
A snook is a snook, you might think. But it’s not that simple, particularly for the keeper of world-record catches, the International Game Fish Association. In fact, there are many species of snook, of the genus Centropomus. The IGFA keeps separate all-tackle records for catches of 10 species: common, fat, Mexican, Pacific, Pacific black, Pacific blackfin, Pacific white, swordspine and tarpon snook. Some of these are little fellers, topping out at just a couple of pounds or so, while others may reach more than 20 pounds. But only three species have busted through that magic 50-pound mark: the common snook (Atlantic), Pacific black and Pacific white.
These seven snook comprise the IGFA current world records exceeding 50 pounds — the seven greatest snook catches on record. Let’s count them down.
7. 51 pounds — Pacific snook (spp.)
Gabriel Fernandez Tefel of Carolina Beach, North Carolina, set out with Chloe Frijole Fishing Charters out of Marina Pez Vela in Quepos, Costa Rica, on July 8, 2016, having no thoughts of making fishing history. But he did just that when a monster of a snook inhaled his live bait. Despite fishing relatively light line, Tefel managed to get the beast to the boat in about 15 minutes, and get an official weight of 23.13 kg.
Note: Both Pacific black and Pacific white snook reach this size; without the opportunity to confirm which species this catch was, the IGFA places it in a general “Pacific snook” category — Centropomus spp. caught in the Pacific.
6. 51 pounds, 5 ounces — Pacific white snook (C. viridis)
For years, Wesley Brough (Cabo Surfcaster) has been guiding land-based anglers to big fish, casting into the surf around Cabo. In June, 2021, Brough was having a few casts on a Cabo beach just for fun with a friend around twilight. He was throwing a Savage Gear Mack Stick stickbait, but in the fading light was about ready to hang it up when he saw mullet fleeing from what he assumed was another roosterfish. Brough made one more cast and was suddenly connected to something big. More than big: It was by far the largest snook he’d ever seen. The fish had swallowed the lure in its huge mouth and couldn’t be unhooked and released alive, so it became the all tackle world record for the species, beating the existing white snook by nearly four pounds.
5. 52 pounds, 6 ounces — Pacific snook (spp.)
The few details available on this great catch reflect in part the fact that it has remained the women’s 20-pound line-class record since January, 1963. Original applications submitted with line samples that long ago haven’t been retained by IGFA. What is known is this: angler Jane Haywood caught the giant near La Paz, Baja California Sur. We know Haywood listed the lure she was fishing as an Acme Dig-a-Jig bucktail.
4. 53 pounds, 10 ounces – common snook (C. undecimalis)
Fishing the lower Parismina River on the Atlantic side of Costa Rica on Oct. 18, 1978, Gilbert Ponzi was casting a bucktail jig with 15-pound mono on an Ambassadeur baitcaster when he hooked what would prove to be the largest snook ever recorded by the IGFA from the Atlantic — then and now. Although arguably outgunned with rather light line, after a 45-minute battle, Ponzi landed the monster. Costa Rica’s Atlantic rios Parismina and Colorado are world-famous for big tarpon in numbers but snook also find these rivers’ estuaries and mouths good places to live.
3. 55 pounds, 8 ounces — Pacific snook (spp.)
River mouths are always prime snook territory. Accordingly, on May 23, 1992, Jose Brenes was casting a lure at the mouth of the Rio Parrita (north of Quepos). He hooked a fish that would clearly be the biggest of the day but had no idea how big until 20 minutes later (not such a long time considering his light line — 12-pound mono) when he landed a snook which would tip the scales at 55 ½ pounds.
2. 58 pounds, 9 ounces — Pacific snook (spp.)
According to the IGFA, this is the largest snook in the world ever caught on an artificial lure. Angler Manuel Zambrano Dufau fished Panama’s Rio Bayano (30 or so miles east of Panama City) from a 28-foot dugout canoe in February, 2018. The lure: A 9-inch Spooltek Stretch. Dufau’s 20-pound Spiderwire braid tested (inevitably) in the 30-pound line class, and this huge snook occupies that line-class record. The angler needed about 15 minutes to subdue the giant.
1. 59 pounds, 8 ounces — Pacific black snook (C. nigrescens)
Quite simply, according to the International Game Fish Association, as far as anyone knows or can prove, this is the largest snook ever caught on sport-fishing tackle. Perhaps that Ward Michaels caught it is not so surprising: He operated an Orlando, Florida, agency that booked fishing and hunting tours around the world, and had himself made dozens of trips to fish Costa Rica. During this particular trip, on March 6, 2014, Michaels and three friends from Houston, fished a river south of Quepos, guided by commercial fishermen on their boats. Trolling 6-inch live sardines around a sandbar in about 30 feet of water, Michaels made his historic catch, battling it to the boat in 20 or so minutes with 65-pound braided line.
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