Strong fish are almost always the most fun to catch, but they can also be an absolute pain for anglers. There is a difference, however, between the strongest fish and the most difficult fish to catch. Tarpon, for instance, are strong but not the strongest fish by any means.
However, their preference for leaping out of the water and spitting the hook makes them one of the toughest fish to catch. Size is relative to strength as well. We could list all of the largest fish in the world or we could list the strongest ones relative to their size.
The latter is the best approach. There is no doubt that catching a 450lb goliath grouper is just not in the same category as fighting a flathead catfish. With that being said, here are the 11 strongest fish, in no particular order.
Strongest Fighting Fish
Wahoo are some of the fastest fish in the water, topping out at 50 mph. Floating debris and underwater structures tend to lure them in, either alone or occasionally in groups. Their strength is what makes them so hard to catch.
Since wahoo are so streamlined, there is no resistance when it comes to pulling them in. Their strength is all they have to rely on, and wahoo can get up to top speed in the blink of an eye. Thanks to a combination of lightning speed and brute strength, wahoo will give any experienced angler a run for their money.
For non-anglers, the word “Albacore is probably associated with the cans of tuna on the grocery aisle. Albacore and beastly fighters, and they don’t put up with being dragged through the ocean like a whipped dog.
Cigar plugs and features or spoons lure these monsters in, and once you hook one, be prepared for the ultimate arm wrestling contest. Either you will tire out, or it will.
3. Jack Crevalle
This fish doesn’t make the lists very often, and it’s mostly because they aren’t much when it comes to food. However, like Bonita, they make excellent chum for shark fishing on the beach. Jack travel in schools and when of the best places to hook one is around old bridges.
It’s a battle to exhaustion as you let it run, bring it in, let it run, bring it in, and let it run until it just can’t run anymore. At this point, it will simply float to the surface, and you can hook it with your handy gaff. On a bridge, simply lower a rope with a giant treble hook and gaff it that way.
Sailfish are a lot like wahoo, and we might just give the wahoo the edge in terms of strength. But only by a hair. These powerful fish will give you a heck of a run, and if you like to catch them on a lighter test, you can play the run-and-pull game for over an hour before it tires out.
Sails love dead baits more than anything else, and you can get more significant action fishing for sails if you stick with a dead bait setup. The record is 221 lbs, but 100 to 120 lbs are something you will experience more frequently.
5. Yellowfin Tuna
You can catch smaller yellowfin tuna close to the shoreline, but who wants the babies when you can go a bit deeper to find dad and mom? Yellowfin love to hang out at oil rigs and underwater manmade structures, such as sunken ships for reefs.
The record is 427 lbs but it’s not uncommon to hook a 200 lb yellowfin. Goggle-eyes and tinker mackerel are high on a Yellowfin’s appetite list.
This migratory fish is one of the most popular for deep-sea anglers. They are extremely fast and while you probably won’t have to pour water over your reel in full “Quint” style, ready yourself for a good fight.
7. King Mackerel
King Mackerel are one of the more aggressive fish when hooked. The first thing a king will do is drag a lot of line off your reel, and they often jump, throwing you out of your rhythm. Thanks to their streamlined shape, they can take off in a hurry, though they don’t turn their bodies against the water like pompano.
Avoid braided line when trolling for king mackerel. When they run, the line can burn into your hull and will often snap if you don’t keep the rod up.
While many of the fish on this list are all fire and brimstone off the jump, they tire quickly. Grouper found their way onto this list because of their sheer endurance levels. They can take whatever you throw at them and go on and on and on.
Large grouper call for a 70lb test, braided line, and a lot of patience. You need a powerful rod as well. Grouper are known for snapping lesser rods like cheap twigs.
In the freshwater category, carp are known to be one of the fiercest fighting fish around. They’re big, bulky fish, and none of that mass is purely for show. They will use every ounce of their considerable strength against you.
They can bend a strong hook enough to get free and will run several times before you break them down into pure exhaustion.
Steelhead are like tarpon because they love to jump and will do so often, given the opportunity. They are relentless fighters and plenty strong to boot. They’re as smart as they are strong, a bad combination for any good angler.
A steelhead’s first course of action is to get into some underwater rocks or trees and break your line. You’ll spend as much time holding your rod up high as you will working the reel.
We mentioned them briefly in the beginning, and for good reason. Tarpon are notorious for giving you all the fight you could ask for and more. Once you are exhausted and tired of fighting this feisty fish, it will clear the surface of the water and spit your hook.
You’ll need plenty of drag and a 50 lb test minimum to go after these violent, aggressive fighters that will do just about anything to get away.
There you have it—11 of the strongest fighting fish in the water. Of course, there are so many more, but only 11 could make the list today.
If you’re looking for a little runner-up action, there are plenty of other fish that could have made the list as well, including redfish, bonefish, salmon, northern pike, striped marlin (basically every marlin), bluefin tuna, and Pompano.
Hook any of the above and get ready to have a blast—or a really long day, depending on who wins the battle.
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