Between freshwater and saltwater fishing, there are thousands of species of fish anglers catch every year. Some of them are plentiful, like carp, crappie, mackerel, or redfish.
Some species are pretty rare, and therefore more prized by anglers.
Rare Fish Caught by Anglers:
- Golden Trout
- Apache Trout
- Blue Marlin
- Atlantic Goliath Grouper
Golden trout, also called California golden trout, is one of the rarest fish in the US, alongside its cousin palomino trout (a hybrid between West Virginia golden trout and rainbow trout.)
Once upon a time, you could catch golden trout on a stretch of 450 miles up the South Fork Kern River and its tributaries. Now it is native to two watersheds in high altitudes in Sierra Nevada Mountains.
To prevent the extinction of golden trout, the US Fish and Wildlife Service introduced the fish in Wyoming, Washington, and Idaho’s lakes and rivers.
Many anglers consider golden trout one of the most beautiful freshwater fish you can catch in the US.
Golden trout is bright yellow-gold color, with the dorsal side often coppery-olive or coppery-green, and deep red belly. It has bright red or pink horizontal stripes with around ten dark vertical marks on both sides.
The dorsal, lateral, and anal fins have one dark stripe each and white tips.
The striking colors of golden trout earned it a spot as California’s official state fish.
The golden trout grows between 6 – 12 inches long but can grow to around 15 inches in good conditions. Golden trout usually weighs about 2 – 4 lbs. The largest recorded specimen was 11 lbs. Golden trout typically live 7 – 9 years.
The best time to catch golden trout is early morning or late evening. You can try either ultra-light tackle with spoons, spinners, and live bait or fly rod with long leaders, medium-weight lines, and caddisflies or midges.
The Apache trout is a state fish of Arizona, where are its native waters. It is one of the only two, beside Gila trout, native trout species in Arizona, and originates from the White, Black, and Little Colorado rivers in high altitudes of 5900 feet.
In the 1960s, apache trout was nearing extinction. It used to live on a stretch of 600 miles of watershed in the White Mountains, but the range was reduced to meager 30 miles in a short time. It was one of the first fish on the list of endangered species after the 1969 Endangered Species Act.
After implementing recovery actions and performing multiple analytics, decades later, this trout is not as rare anymore but still listed as threatened species. Now the biggest danger is crossbreeding with cutthroat trout.
As for Gila trout, after down-listing it from endangered to threatened in 2006, the US Fish and Wildlife Services decided to open a limited fishing season in 2011 in Arizona and New Mexico.
Apache trout usually grows about 10 – 20 inches long and weighs between 1 – 6 lbs. The record size of apache trout is almost 23 inches long and just over 5 lbs.
The Apache trout is golden-yellow in color with a dark olive dorsal side and golden belly. It has dark spots evenly distributed across its back, sometimes reaching below the lateral line and on the fins. Apache trout has very characteristical spots on its eyes, two on either side of each pupil, creating a stripe across its eye.
The Gila trout, as closely related to Apache trout and by many anglers thought to be the same species, shares with it many features. The only distinctions between the two trout are spots on the eyes and body.
The best chance of catching Apache trout is by using a fly rod. The most successful wet fly patterns are pheasant tail nymphs, scuds, or caddis. If you want to try dry flies, your best bet is on mayfly, adult stonefly, or mosquito.
Sturgeon is a common name of 27 species of fish in the Acipenseridae family. The native range of sturgeon is relatively wide. Depending on the species, they live in subtropical, temperate, and sub-Arctic rivers, lakes, and coastlines in Europe, Asia, and North America.
Although there are multiple species of sturgeon fish, they suffer from overfishing, poaching, and destruction of their habitat. A few of the species are considered extinct, and most of the remaining species are endangered.
Sturgeons live very long, around 50 – 60 years, and reach maturity very late, about 15 – 20 years of age. They also don’t spawn every year, and sometimes not even for few years in a row, if conditions are unfavorable.
Considering all the facts, research data indicates that more than 85% of sturgeon species are at risk of extinction. That makes them the most critically endangered animal species in the world.
Sturgeons have an elongated, spindle-like, scaleless body. They have five lateral rows of bony plates that create an armor-like look. Few of the species can grow large, usually 7 – 12 ft long. The biggest sturgeon caught in recorded history was the beluga sturgeon in 1827, and it measured 24 ft with a weight of almost 3500 lbs.
Depending on the species, some sturgeons live only in freshwater habitats, others primarily in saltwater coastal areas.
On rare occasions, sturgeons jump out of the water. Considering they can reach quite large sizes, it can be dangerous. There were a few serious accidents when the sturgeon landed in the boat.
Despite low numbers of sturgeons, there is still a chance of catching a few within their fishing season on a purely catch and release basis. In the US, there are eight species of sturgeon: Atlantic, shortnose, lake, shovelnose, pallid, Alabama, white, and green sturgeon. The Alabama sturgeon is extremely rare, with no numbers known; the last recorded Alabama sturgeon caught was in 1997.
Your best bet to catch sturgeon is to move over deep holes and runs. That’s where the sturgeons feed. You should use Lamprey or smelt if you want to be successful. Good baits for sturgeon are also shrimp, shad, crawfish, and squid. Make sure your tackle is heavy. Sturgeons are known for putting on an unforgettable fight.
The blue marlin is native to tropical and temperate waters of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans. Despite having only a few natural predators, like killer whales and sharks, blue marlin’s numbers are declining every year due to unsustainable fishing. It is considered a threatened species by IUCN.
The blue marlin is one of the biggest and fastest fish in the ocean, reaching the size of 14 ft and weigh os nearly 2000lb, with females usually four times the size of males.
The blue marlin has a striking blue color on the dorsal side and a silvery-white belly. It has a high dorsal fin and spear-shaped, sharp upper jaw, which is used to stun and wound its prey.
Blue marlin spends most of its life in the open ocean, migrating for thousands of miles after warm ocean currents. It prefers warm surface waters, where it feeds on tuna and mackerel, but is known to dive for squid.
Fishing for blue marlin is considered a fantastic experience due to the fight they’re put up when hooked. Blue marlin, one of the world’s best game fishes, can be caught on artificial lures with a skirt, natural or live bait, like skipjack tuna. The best method is usually trolling.
Atlantic Goliath Grouper
Atlantic goliath grouper, or itajara, is a large saltwater fish living in artificial and coral reefs. It takes a long time for the Atlantic goliath grouper to mature, and while it grows, there is a multitude of predators it needs to avoid, including humans.
All this contributes to rather low numbers of specimens. It led to IUCN considering the goliath grouper a vulnerable species.
Goliath grouper can live in brackish waters, canals, and mangrove swamps, which is atypical behavior for grouper fish. It grows to a large size of up to 8.2 ft and can weigh around 800 lbs.
The Atlantic goliath grouper is grey, greenish, or brownish-yellow in color with small dark spots covering its fins, rather big head, and dorsal part of its elongated body.
Some specimens have few dark vertical stripes. Goliath grouper usually lives around 35 – 37 years in favorable conditions.
Since 1990, there is a ban on the harvest and possession of Atlantic goliath grouper in Florida, but that doesn’t prevent you from catching and releasing this fish.
While fishing for goliath grouper, you should always proceed with caution. Caught fish must be released immediately, alive and unharmed, and left in the water during release.
Sawfish, also known under the name of carpenter sharks, are fish from the rays family. They live in tropical and subtropical waters worldwide, usually found in coastal and brackish waters, but can adapt to freshwater.
There are five species of sawfish existing today, two are endangered, and the other three are critically endangered. The reason for such low numbers of specimens could be their slow breeding ratio, habitat loss, on top of overfishing, and poaching for their fins, teeth, and saw.
The sawfish has a shark-like body, flat underside, a flat head ending in a long, saw-like rostrum with a row of teeth on either side. The rostrum is usually a quarter or one-third of the body length, and its most recognizable feature of sawfish, giving it its name.
Sawfish has two distinct dorsal fins, pectoral and pelvic fins resembling wings, and tail with upper lobe longer than the lower one. Depending on the species, sawfish reach 10 – 25 ft long and weigh as much as 1300 lbs.
The lifespan of wild sawfish is unknown, but captive specimens live between 35 – 50 years old, depending on the species, except for narrow sawfish, which reached only nine years.
There is not much data on a few of the species of sawfish, and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation is asking for help with data collection.
If you manage to catch a sawfish while fishing for other species, they ask you to contact them with all possible details, like the date, location, size, and depth, amongst other relevant information.