PHOTO: Fisherman Lands Massive Record-Breaking 661-Pound Stingray

by Jon D. B.

U.S. and Southeast Asian scientists have confirmed the man’s giant stingray as the world’s largest recorded freshwater fish after a catch & release.

Put this man in all the record books. His name may not be public as of yet, but this Cambodian man is now on record as having caught the biggest freshwater fish ever on planet Earth. Let that sink in for a moment.

Caught in Cambodia’s section of the Mekong River, the catch is, of course, also the largest giant stingray ever recorded. Measuring 13 feet (4 meters) from nose to tail, the gentle giant weighs just under 660-pounds (300 kilos). Scientists of Wonders of the Mekong, a joint Cambodian-U.S. research project, would confirm the catch and measurement.

And it was a spectacle. Freshwater fish of this size are rare in any corner of the world. Within hours of the post-midnight catch, Wonders of the Mekong personnel arrived on the scene and were blown away by the giant:

The team then inserted a tracker near the tail of the freshwater giant before releasing it. Now, the stingray – a female – will provide the organization with invaluable information about her species in the river.

As for the angler of the century, he’s a local fisherman from northeastern Cambodia. After catching his prize south of Stun Treng, he would alert this nearby Wonders of Mekong team. The project has been public about its conservation efforts along the Mekong River, and it paid off in dividends with this once-in-a-lifetime catch.

“Yeah, when you see a fish this size, especially in freshwater, it is hard to comprehend,” Zeb Hogan, leader of Wonders of the Mekong, tells the University of Nevada in Reno via Associated Press. “I think all of our team was stunned.”

Angler’s Giant Stingray Signals Hope for Mekong River

Their amazement is deeply rooted in conservation, too; not just the hulking size of this stingray. “The fact that the fish can still get this big is a hopeful sign for the Mekong River, ” Hogan adds.

Like so many of the world’s freshwater sources, the Mekong is threatened by pollution, overfishing, and a rapidly changing climate.

“Big fish globally are endangered. They’re high-value species. They take a long time to mature,” Hogan explains. “So if they’re fished before they mature, they don’t have a chance to reproduce.”

In addition, “A lot of these big fish are migratory, so they need large areas to survive. They’re impacted by things like habitat fragmentation from dams, obviously impacted by overfishing,” he continues. “So about 70% of giant freshwater fish globally are threatened with extinction, and all of the Mekong species.”

As one of those migratory species, the giant stingray may be using this area of the Mekong River as a spawning grounds. The local fisherman’s catch is the fourth giant stingray to come from the area in the past two months. All four have been female, leading scientists to this conclusion.

The river itself is a giant, too, running all the way from China and Myanmar down to Thailand, Cambodia, then Vietnam. And it spawns giants of all kinds. The previous record for a freshwater fish came from a Mekong fish, too: a Mekong giant catfish weighing over 646-pounds (293 kilos) in 2005. The cat, however, came from the Thailand section of the river.

For this month’s 660-pound record-breaker, the Cambodian fisherman would also receive market-rate compensation. He took home $600 on top of the story of a lifetime.