With so many Giant Catfish out there it is hard to know which ones are real and which ones aren’t. Here are a few giant catfish photos I’ve come across that seem to be real. You can judge for yourself.

OK, now for the purpose of this post.

I recently got an email that described a really big catfish. We are talking about a giant catfish that was cut open to find pieces of ingested human. Here is how the story goes:

Each year, a few people will be drowned mysteriously in Huadu’s Furong Reservoir. It was not until recently when the son of a certain official went swimming in the reservoir with his friend and were drowned that the secret was unravelled! It’s a 3 meter long man-eating catfish whose head alone is 1 meter wide! After cutting up the catfish people were surprised to find the remains of a man inside! Because this was a huge incident, and the local government was afraid of the impact on local tourism, they imposed an embargo on the news, but people came away with these pictures taken on their cell phones of the man-eating fish! Swimming in the reservoir is now forbidden because it is feared another similar man-eating catfish is still lurking in the waters. Talk about one BIG fish!!

Take a look at some of the Giant Catfish pictures below (or so many are fooled to believe by this email):

Big Catfish In China Biggest Catfish in the World?
Whale Shark That Looks Like a Big Catfish Urban Legend of a Giant Catfish
Whale Shark Meat Huge Catfish or Whale Shark? Worlds Biggest Catfish Is Really A Whale Shark

The story is amazing and it would seem that this is the biggest catfish in the world. Unfortunately, it isn’t a catfish at all! It’s a whale shark. And it wasn’t caught in a fresh water reservoir as whale sharks live in salt water. Furthermore, when it was cut open, no human remains were found; just some entrails that vaguely looked like the bottom half of a human torso.

Catfish stories have been common for years and though no one really knows how big a North American catfish can actually get, it is fairly certain that they don’t grow to the size of a small car. The record catfish is reportedly 123 lb flathead caught in Kansas but some people have sworn that they can get twice that size. These same people are also the same ones who “almost” caught one. There are many larger catfish caught in Spain and in the Congo and they can reach upwards of 400lbs as seen by some of the world’s biggest catfish pictured at the top of this story.

500 lb Giant Catfish in Tennessee from 1914Most of the giant catfish stories are nothing more than pranks that took on a life of their own. There is a widely-circulated 1914 Tennessee photograph that shows a 500lb giant catfish. In the picture, the fish is in what appears to be a logging wagon with its tail hanging off. A man is seen viewing this big catfish at the rear end of the wagon. It seems to be someone believable to the average person. But even if it were true, the man would be long dead now with only this one photograph to carry on the tale.

But was the photo real to begin with? A member of the photographer’s family dismissed the incident as just a prank. “My daddy had a little wagon that looked like a log wagon,” said Joe Brownlow Pitts of Savannah, Tennessee. “He put the fish — which weighed, I recall, about 85 lbs. — on it. Then, my uncle Frank, who was good at photography, cut out a cardboard man that was being used in a clothing advertisement and stuck it on the wagon, along with the fish. He took the picture.

But there may have been some additional motive for perpetuating this myth. Hardin County, Tennessee is the self proclaimed “Catfish Capitol of the World” and the National Catfish Derby, an annual catfishing derby and festival, is held on the Tennessee River. The derby president, Jay Barker doesn’t hesitate to show off the the black and white photo. In 2003, writer Taylor Wilson had a chance to catch up with him at the event and interviewed several people including Barker.

Barker told Wilson that he first learned of the photo from Betty Coleman, a fellow resident of Savannah, Tenn. She found it while gathering old photos for the Hardin County Historical Society.

Since then, people have informed Barker that the photo was taken in the Hardin County community of Cerro Gordo in 1914. Additional facts came to light including the assertion that the man standing alongside the catfish was Warren McConnell and that a copy of the picture hung for many years in Pitts General Store.

The catfish has been estimated, by those who believe in the photo’s authenticity, to weigh about 500 pounds.

Whether the photo is true or not, Barker has long known the story would get plenty of news play and help promote the event.
Some people say it’s fake, but others firmly believe the catfish was actually caught. Jay Barker, president of Tennessee’s National Catfish Derby

Faye Callens said his mother, Rilla Callens, handed down the photo to him as she had worked as a bookkeeper at Pitts General Store. She told her son that the photo was genuine and that a man named Green Bailey caught the fish on a trotline.

Indeed Bailey’s name is inscribed on the photo along with the date and place where the photo was taken, “Cerro Gordo 1914.” Callens also said he visited Bailey’s sister several years ago, and she told him her brother did catch the big fish.

Many people don’t believe the photo is real, and that is all right. But my mother told me it was, and she had no reason to lie. Faye Callens

Of course it is this kind of logic by Faye Callens that spreads these stories so effectively. Her mother probably believed the story to be true and the person who told her may have believed it as well. But this doesn’t make it true.

Wilson found other stories that were attached to the picture of this monster catfish.

One was that the late Joe B. Pitts, proprietor of Pitts General Store, actually caught the fish. Another story claimed that the fish was caught during a dry summer after it became landlocked in shallow water (before dams regulated water levels on the Tennessee River).

Then, there was the story that the whole thing was a hoax. A cardboard cutout of a man from a cigarette ad was placed on a child’s wagon with a catfish that really weighed about 50-80 lbs.

It is interesting that Barker has a copy of another photo of the same man and the fish taken from a different angle, yet the man looks the same as the first photo.

Barker would never admit the old photo was suspect. After all, the place bills itself as the “Catfish Capitol of the World”?

“Personally, I believe it is authentic, and it shows without a doubt why we’re the Catfish Capitol of the World,” Barker stated firmly.

At one time the famed photo had been made into a postcard used to promote the National Catfish Derby.

I’m going to lay this fish story to rest, but if any of you find a REAL 800lb catfish, be sure to let me know.

31 Responses to “Giant Catfish – Some of the World’s Biggest Catfish”
  1. austin whitt says:

    yea that picture isnt a catfish thats a baby whale shark

  2. Oodora says:

    True. Yet the email has been going around forever that it a giant catfish. It appears that there is a rope under the head of the first two pictures that sorta looks like whiskers. Maybe that is what throws people off.

  3. austin osborne says:

    its true but how would a saltwater whale shark be living in a freshwater resevoir i dont get it but again theres never been aman eating (catfish) that had big enough teeth to a person whole

  4. Dave Dumon says:

    hey that’s a whale shark. I like the one in Thailand better.

  5. Christopher Hunt says:

    Well, I have personally seen a 198 lb catfish caught in Hanceville, Alabama. It was caught by a man who worked at “The Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament.” I was a brother that was staying at teh monastery at the time. To bad we didn’t get that into any books if the biggest on record is 123 lbs. It freaked me out when he brought it up from the river. I had never seen a catfish much longer than 18 inches, and thought that was how large they got until then…

  6. jonathan cannon says:

    Look 2 all u non belivers of giant catfish my mom worked for tennesee valley authroty for 38 yrs and there has been plenty of divers down 2 inspect the dam below water the majority of these divers have seen catfish as big as cars and have not been happy about having 2 enter the water again,my dad who also worked for the same company has personally pulled cats out of lines leading back into the turbines weighing 100+ lbs so whoever wrote this website u are misinformed sorry u need 2 come 2 the south and fish for cats maybe you will learn a thing or two

  7. kate says:

    this is sooooooooo cool!!! i love this website@!!

  8. ray says:

    yea jons right. they had a documentary on tv where they went to find this catfish and they said they couldnt find it but they found a huge one that could def eat a baby and there is evidence for the man eatin catfish it had a wierd name. i thought it was mud hake but idr. it was interesting

  9. Kelsie says:

    If anyone reading this has an American monster catfish story to tell, I’ve been working on a book now for several years (yes: I’ve interviewed Mr. Barker down in TN). :) If you’ve got stories–be they first, second, or 8th hand accounts, please PLEASE e-mail me: kelsiegray@gmail.com


  10. lucas says:

    that is some big fish like to catch one

  11. Stanley Bohanan says:

    that aint no catfish. that is big baby shark.

  12. joey says:

    that is fake but i have seen over hundred pound catfish here in mississippi they prolly could eat a baby

  13. Ruston says:

    I would like to see some pictures that divers have taken below damns. Just to see if catfish get as big as cars for myself. Personally I dont want to go diving down there to find out for myself. If you have any pictures you can e-mail them to me at RustonTomlinson@Hotmail.com.

  14. hailey says:

    I have seen a catfish that could eat my son whole. My dad caught it in kentucky at a pay lake. My grandfather use to work at cheatam dam restoring the dam itself and he has told me many stories about huge catfish he has seen himself.

  15. hookafish says:

    wel ive seen a 18 pound catfish and hooked and cought it one myself. Later i cought a 30 pound catfish. Than i saw a dead catfish in the indian kali river that was measured 8 feet. I thought it was fake till somewon was fishin in the kali river and nearly cought a catfish that looked like it could easily swollow me whole. It was a Goonch Or Giant devil catfish. I dont get why the goonch is not the biggest catfish on earth. After that i heard tales that the peaple have met 24 foot goonch catfish and theatened to kill me if i wouldnt believe them

  16. lacey says:

    that is the coolist thing Iv seen

  17. this is nothing,i live in byhalia and ive seen catfish as big as vw beetles,wana know more,ask me-tate says:

    my name is tate and im origanally from memphis,tn off the mississippi river,ive seen dead catfish down at the harbor atleast 8 to 10 ft long and 75 pds…wana know more ask me…tate

  18. Erica says:

    Dude thats small compared to the fish in Warsaw, MO. The catfish are sittin under the dam the size of a greyhound bus

  19. Josh Pruitt says:

    I’ve had always heard stories about the big catfish in Smith Lake, Alabama. My grandfather,my dad,and a bunch of friends and other family have told me there is one as big as a volzwagon in smith lake. I have heard to that a man my dad knew was a scuba diver and he swam in this under water cave and as soon as he swam out the cave swam away. My Dad told me that at the dam they would have to turn the turbines on to release big catfish that was plugging the water to flow threw the dam. So yes I believe.

  20. shubham says:

    these pictures are excellent

  21. redneckfishermen says:

    the pic is of a whale shark and not a flathead and i know this bacuse me and my brother fish for flathead and flathead only and i have seen pics of the world record flathead and yes it is a flathead and as far as i know the only saltwater fish that can live in freshwater is the bullshark

  22. Yaherdme says:

    That ain’t nothin. Fish round here way bigger. My daddy cawt a cat fish that could eat trailer. We ain’t no how to use a camra or nuthin so I ain’t got pics like the rest yall but my name ain’t tator if I’m lyin!

  23. Brandon Eckhoff says:

    i like fishing

  24. ichigo says:

    That’s not a catfish! That’s a whale shark! People can’t you see the difference no whiskers on that fish!

  25. dalton says:

    its a whale shark but why would it be in freshwater

  26. question mark says:

    giant catfish have no whiskers! alot of the pics are def not giant catfish cuz they way too small and have whiskers and the head shape is wrong!!! crap crap crap

  27. phillips says:

    my husband and son-in-law fish for cat on the tennessee river next to knoxville and they have caught cat there that weigh a 100 + pounds,and their friends have caught bigger ones then that.so yes there are cat big enough to swallow a kid in tennessee.

  28. anonymous says:

    how n the f do u mistake a baby whale shark 4 a catfish someone must have not been fishing as a kid

  29. Anonymous says:

    well that was a big catfish i wish i can get one like that

  30. lee william says:

    hey man i need one of them on my line

  31. wagstag says:

    There’s been stories of giant catfish circulating around Louisiana for as long as I can remember..my uncle used to be a police officer in caldwell parish and told me that divers on the Ouchita river came up reporting catfish much bigger than a grown man down below the dam..there’s another popular story about divers up in the red river in Shreveport seeing the same thing when they were building some sort of underwater fence below one of the river boat casinos. The older I got the more I heard similar stories from all over the south..never really knew what to believe Ive never thought it impossible. I personally hung a large fish by the ouchita river dam that 3 people took turns fighting for the better part of an hour before the rod was snapped and the line broke..and that was on 80 pound test line if my memory serves me right. I’m not claiming that it was a man eater but whatever it was was truly massive. At the very least, giant catfish are a fun legend that intend to pass down.

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