Top 10 Bucket List Fish
As fishermen and women, we all have that one (or 10) fish that would be a dream come true to have on the end of the line. Here at Big Game Fishing, we like to focus on just that: big game fish! We have put together a quick list of our Top 10 Bucket List Fish that we find both interesting, and a real challenge to catch. Some of these may be on your list too, and some you have never heard of! Although there are countless species of bucket list fish in both saltwater and freshwater, we have focused primarily on freshwater species from all around the world.
1: Tiger Muskellunge
This fish is a real treat. The Tiger Muskellunge, or Tiger Muskie, is a hybrid species of fish created by environmentalists that combines a native Muskie and a Northern Pike. Their offspring, the Tiger Muskie, combines the most badass characteristics of both of these carnivorous fish into one ferocious beast. Although they are sterile and cannot reproduce naturally, Tiger Muskie have virtually no predators allowing them to grow up to enormous lengths and weight. Just recently, the world record Tiger Muskie was caught through the ice in a New York lake commonly stocked with these hybrid fish. A Tiger Muskie can be distinguished from a Pike and true Muskie by their recognizable tiger-like stripes along the entirety of its body. Tiger Muskie can be found in countless lakes and slow moving rivers in Canada and the United States.
2: Alligator Gar
Alligator Gar might just be the baddest fish in the water, with two rows of razor sharp teeth and a long snout; it’s no wonder why it’s named after the alligator! Alligator Gar are another prehistoric fish that dates back 100 million years and can be found in all the Gulf Coast states and most southern states of North America including Texas, Florida, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Alabama, & Florida. There are multiple species of Gar that are easily distinguished by their unique features, with the Alligator Gar growing the largest and having the longest life span. Alligator Gar are ruthless killers who will eat just about anything that has the misfortune of coming in contact with one. Live shiners or cut up pieces of chicken liver are common bait for Alligator gar, although conventional lures have proven successful. Growing up to between 6 - 10 feet (3 meters) and weighing an astonishing 100 pounds; Alligator Gar are one of the largest living freshwater fish.
3: Peacock Bass
Peacock Bass are one of the more common fish on this list, but a bucket list fish in its own respect! Peacock Bass are a beautiful freshwater game fish that can be found all throughout South America, and were strategically introduced to Florida waterways in 1984. This gave anglers in North America the chance to catch these tropical wonders without needing a passport or special fishing charter. Peacock Bass that are found in the Amazon can reach weights of up to 20 pounds while the fish found in Florida are on average weighing around 4 - 6 pounds. The largest Peacock Bass ever caught was a Butterfly Peacock Bass weighing in at a massive 32 pounds. Much like other species of bass, Peacock Bass put up a great fight and can be caught on the same tackle you would use on a normal fishing trip.
Onto the Arowana! This fish first fascinated me after watching numerous fishing documentaries shot along the Amazon river and there was always one fish that stood out from the rest, the Arowana. This monster fish is another prehistoric wonder that managed to survive millions of years without changing its biological structure at all. If it’s not broken, why fix it? Arowana are an extremely violent fish and have virtually no predators allowing them to grow up to extreme lengths. That aggression tends to drive out all other larger game fish in the area so that the Arowana can feed at will. If ever given the chance to join a fishing charter along the Amazon river Arowana fishing is by far the craziest experience. Arowana will slam a top water bait just as often as a piece of cut-bait and can even be caught on a fly rod opening up a wide range of tackle options.
5: American Paddlefish
Now, we have talked about other prehistoric fish in this article but the American Paddlefish may just be the strangest one yet! Dating back 125 million years ago, Paddlefish have been stalking prey in freshwater ponds and lakes seemingly unnoticed for too long. The Paddlefish gets its name from its large paddle shaped rostrum protruding from its face above the mouth. The Paddlefish grows its “paddle” shortly after birth and continues to grow its entire life, taking up 1/3 of its total body length. The “paddle” is used to locate prey with its thousands of sensory receptors. Paddlefishing can be done in states such as Missouiri and Mississippi, although catching one requires much different techniques than the others we have mentioned before. The most common way to catch a Paddlefish, or Spoonbill, is by using a “snagging” rig. This rig is usually a large straight pole with a large weight on the end and a very large hook, no reel or line required! Anglers will go up and down a river body dragging the “snagging” rig along the river bed hoping to hook into one of these monsters.
Speaking of hybrid fish, the Splake is another draw-dropping species with immense beauty. The Splake is the beautiful outcome when crossing a native Brook Trout with a native Lake Trout. This symbiotic relationship allows the Splake to adapt to its surroundings much better and can live a much longer, healthier life. Splakes also grow much faster than its parents, making them a perfect stocking fish for sport and food. Ontario started introducing Splake into local waterways in 1960 to help preserve the native Lake Trout population that was in decline. Much like other hybrid fish, the Splake is infertile and cannot reproduce naturally in the wild; making for an interesting relationship between the Splake and other naturally occurring species. Splakes are quickly becoming the “go-to” fish to stock in colder climates such as Ontario and the Great Lakes as they survive much longer than Lake Trout and can greatly improve the overall fishing experience and overall health of the ecosystem. Splakes are known to be more likely to bite than other species of Trout and can be fished using many of the same techniques you would when trying to locate a Brook or Lake Trout.
Sturgeon are one of the oldest living creatures ever with fossils dating back to 245 million years ago and living a maximum lifespan of 100 years, making it a true living dinosaur! Various species of Sturgeon can be found throughout rivers and lakes in both North America and Europe / Eurasia. In North America, Sturgeon can be found in the Great Lakes, Hudson River, Mississippi River, along with multiple major river ways in California and Idaho. Although they grow at a very slow rate, Sturgeon can reach lengths of 12 feet (3.5 meters) and weigh hundreds of pounds! The most common way to catch a Sturgeon is by using live bait and just waiting for a monster to bite, while there are other less common forms of catching them such as spearfishing through the ice with a spear in states that allow it. Their overall size elusiveness alone makes them one of the most sought after big game freshwater fish out there.
8: Arctic Grayling
The Arctic Grayling is a beautiful, bountiful fish from the Salmonid family that just puts a smile on our faces. From the beautiful scale pattern, to the oversized dorsal fin running along its back, the Arctic Grayling is truly a work of art. Much like Salmon and Trout, the Arctic Grayling prefers cold rushing waterways and can be found naturally throughout Canada and Alaska. Various states within the United States have started stocking Arctic Grayling, opening up a huge market for US fishermen. Arctic Grayling can be caught with many of the same tactics you would use when fishing for Salmon or Trout in a stream or river, and typically grows up to a maximum of 8 pounds. We chose this fish for our list due to the natural beauty and wonderful characteristics this fish is blessed with.
9: Lake Trout
A favorite among sport fisherman and subsistence fishermen alike, the Lake Trout is a must-have on any bucket list. Known for its extreme size and worthy fight, the Lake Trout can grow up to 40+ pounds and can be found in numerous waterways in the northern United States and canada. Lake Trout prefer very deep waters, so if you are looking to catch one your best bet is to check topography maps for your local lake and choose the deepest one. Lake Trout are commonly stocked in North America so finding one can prove easier than the previous fish we have talked about. Nevertheless, the Lake Trout puts up an amazing fight and is an absolute blast to have hooked up on the end of your line.
10: Blue Catfish
When talking about gigantic freshwater bucket list fish, it would be impossible to leave out the Blue Catfish! Much like other Catfish species, the Blue Catfish is a bottom dwelling beast that can grow extremely large and is commonly found in rivers of all sizes. Found in waterways all over North and Central America, this chunky fish is not impossible to locate. Whenever you may catch other species of Catfish is a great place to try fishing for a Blue cat. Living up to 20 years and growing up to 60 pounds, it is a full workout getting this fish into the boat! Blue Catfish populate by the hundreds and can drive other species of fish and common food sources to peril. This opens up a seemingly endless season for the Blue Catfish and is a favorite among subsistence fishing for their great flavor.
We could have chosen just about any fish to be on our Top 10 Bucket List Fish list, but the ones we chose have a special place in our heart for a number of reasons. Rarity, history, the challenge, and overall fun each play a huge role in how we narrowed that long list down to just 10 fish. What are your Top 10 Bucket List Fish? Leave a comment, we would love to find out!