Fascinating Fishing Facts

Perhaps you have never heard of Sir Hugh Beaver, but chances are good you know his brainchild.

Sir Beaver was hunting with a party in Ireland in 1951. One hunter in the party shot at, but missed, a golden plover. This prompted a discussion: What is Europe's fastest game bird — the golden plover or red grouse?

Sir Beaver concluded that a book supplying answers to such questions might prove popular in the pubs that sold his company's products.

You see, Sir Beaver was managing director of Guinness Brewery, and his brainchild, as you probably have guessed, is the best-selling copyright book of all time, the Guinness Book of Records.Anglers have always loved discussing superlatives.

No matter where we are, the conversation is likely to turn to the extreme aspects of the field-sports we enjoy. If someone says something, for example, about the biggest this or the fastest that, a wildfire of discussion almost certainly will be ignited.

Conflicting opinions will add fuel to the conflagration, wagers will probably be laid, and after some burning argumentation, someone will dart off to a bookshelf (or increasingly, to the Internet) to find the information needed to settle the dispute.

To stimulate such tasty dialogues, we present the following randomly chosen morsels about fishing that are sure to nourish the intellect and satisfy every appetite.

Biggest record fish
On April 21, 1959, Alfred Dean caught a 2,664-pound great white shark off the coast of south Australia. Amazingly, he subdued this monster — the heaviest record fish ever listed by the International Game Fish Association (IGFA) — in only 50 minutes on 130-pound line. Dean also caught great whites weighing 2,333 and 2,536 pounds.

Biggest fish ever hooked and landed
What may be the largest fish ever hooked and landed is described in "Fishes and Fishing in Louisiana" by James Gowanloch (1933). Gowanloch tells how Captain Jay Gould captured a manta ray that measured 19 feet, 9 inches from wing-tip to wing-tip.

The ray was hooked on a large shark hook on 1,200 feet of 1/2-inch rope, and when it had been subdued and towed back to Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., the city's 20-ton crane had to be used to lift the fish from the water, after the chain hoists on three smaller cranes were stripped in trying to bring it up. The manta ray's weight was estimated at 5,500 pounds.

Littlest lunker
The smallest fish ever to make the record books may be the 3.4-ounce pygmy whitefish from Little Bitteroot Lake that earned Brent Mitchell a place in Montana's angling records.

Oldest fishing record
In May 1865, Dr. C.C. Abbot caught a 4-pound, 3-ounce yellow perch while fishing a lake near Bordentown, N.J. His fish later was certified as an IGFA all-tackle world record, a record that has stood 142 years, longer than any other.

Biggest tiger shark
On June 14, 1964, Walter Maxwell made one of the most incredible catches of all time. He was fishing from the Cherry Grove pier near Myrtle Beach, S.C., when he landed the current world-record tiger shark, which weighed a tremendous 1,780 pounds. Using a 16/0 reel that held 1,400 yards of 130- pound test line, he managed to land the 13-foot, 11-inch fish after just 4-1/2 hours.

Best double
In 2005, British golf pro Gary Hagues pulled an 83-pound, 8-ounce world-record mirror carp from France's Rainbow Lake. After the fish was officially weighed, he tagged and released it.

Hagues returned to Rainbow Lake in 2006 to enjoy a free vacation he won for catching the first carp. And, against all odds, on November 30, 2006, he caught the same fish again to set another world record. This time the monster carp weighed 87 pounds, 2 ounces.

Best prize for a record fish
In March 2006, fishing during the Texas Carp Challenge, angler Al St. Cyr landed a 43.13-pound, state-record common carp in Austin's Town Lake. That fish earned St. Cyr a $250,000 payday from the American Carp Society, the largest prize ever for a carp fisherman in the U.S.

Fastest fish
A group at Florida's Long Key Fishing Camp came up with a simple method for accurately measuring a fish's swimming speed. A fish is hooked. It makes a run. You measure how much line the fish took off the spool in a certain number of seconds, and you can calculate the fish's speed.

The fastest fish in these speed trials, perhaps the fastest fish in the world, was a sailfish that took out 300 feet of line in three seconds, a velocity of 68 mph. That's zero to 60 mph in 2.6 seconds!

Oldest fish
We know little about the longevity of wild fish. But when a fish is kept in an aquarium, we can determine its age very closely.

The oldest on record is a female European eel named Putte. When she died at Hälsingborg Museum, Sweden, in 1948, that slimy ol' gal was reported to be 88 years old.

Fastest-traveling fish
A tagged great white shark became the quickest recorded oceanic traveller after it swam from South Africa to Australia and back in under a year.

The female shark was tagged with a data transmitter off South Africa in November 2003. The unit detached automatically and was recovered off western Australia four months later, but that wasn't the end of the story.

In August 2004, five months after the transmitter bobbed to the surface, project research scientists spotted the shark — identifiable by a pattern of notches in its dorsal fin — back in its old haunt off South Africa. It had completed a round trip of some 12,500 miles in just nine months.

Biggest fly rod and reel
On June 12, 1999, Tiney Mitchell of Port Isabel, Texas, finished constructing the world's largest fly fishing rod and reel. The rod is a whopping 71 feet, 4.5 inches long. The reel measures 4 feet in diameter and 10 inches in width.

Biggest wooden fishing lure
Most anglers keep their lures in tackle boxes. Ron Mirabile of New Port Richey, Fla., lugs his on a 14-foot trailer.

Mirabile, a collector and carver of fishing lures, has built what may be the largest wooden lure in the world: an 8-foot-long, 200-pound torpedo called "Bassmonger," which has two 9-inch hooks, two 2-inch glass eyes and a sleek coat of green paint with black spots.

Most expensive lure
Were you upset the last time you snagged and lost a $5 or $10 fishing lure? Then you might not want to fish with the Million Dollar Lure from MacDaddy Fishing Lures.

This 12-inch trolling lure, designed to catch marlin, is crafted with just over 3 pounds of glimmering gold and platinum, and encrusted with 100 carats of diamonds and rubies (4,753 stones to be exact).

Cost? Just as the name says — a cool $1 million.

Highest price paid for a fishing lure
Tracey Shirey, a collector from South Carolina, paid $101,200 for an 1859 copper fishing lure, a record price for an American fishing collectible at auction.

The 10-inch-long saltwater lure was made by gunsmith Riley Haskell of Painesville, Ohio, in the 1850s. Its spinning, double hook was the first patented hook in the U.S.

Strangest item inside a fish
The Manitoba Morning Free Press in Winnipeg (May 18, 1894) tells of a 140-pound Kansas catfish caught by one Douglass Smith.

In its stomach was found a small bottle, securely corked, containing this message: "Whoever will find this will please send it back to me. H.E. Pipes."

Mr. Pipes had thrown the bottle in the Kaw River three years earlier, 75 miles from where the fish was caught.

Coolest bait celebration
At Nantwich in northwestern England, the World Worm Charming Championship is held each June. This is a unique event where worms are "charmed" out of the soil by over 200 competitors from throughout the world.

The record was set by Tom Shufflebotham in 1980 when he charmed 511 worms out of the ground at the first World Worm Charming Championship.

Most consecutive casts
In July 1999, Brent Olgers of Macon, Ga., established a world record for the longest period of consecutive casting.

Using a Zebco 33 Classic reel, Olgers cast 6,501 times in just over 24 hours, averaging 270 casts per hour. Each cast had to be at least 45 feet in length.

Keith Sutton is the author of numerous books on fishing. Autographed copies are available on his website, www.catfishsutton.com.