The Strangest Catches of 2023

From Virginia to Maine, anglers encounter some unusual specimens in their local waters each summer.

Every year, a few unusual species find their way onto the lines of Northeast anglers. Here are a few of the strangest catches of 2023. 

Connecticut’s State-Record Barracuda

strangest catches of 2023
Jon Rogers displays a near-20-pound barracuda that later became the new Connecticut state record under their exotic marine species category.

You never know what you’ll hook when trolling for tuna 25 miles south of Montauk. In late August, Jon Rogers, Paul Lavezzoli, and Jim Sullivan out of Niantic, Connecticut, reeled in what they thought was a wahoo until the jagged set of teeth revealed they had just caught a 19-pound great barracuda. They weighed the 48-inch fish at J&B Tackle Co. in East Lyme, Connecticut, and it was later deemed a state record on Connecticut’s list of exotic marine species.

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Florida Pompano (in Maryland and New Jersey)

strangest catches of 2023
Bobby Graves of Salisbury, MD, earned the 3rd official Maryland state record for pompano with this 6.44-pound, 22 incher, which took the crown in Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay Division.

Since the state of Maryland began recognizing them as a viable target species in 2019, pompano— a sought-after species in Florida and the Carolinas—have grown increasingly common off the coastal beaches and in Chesapeake Bay. However, when Bobby Graves of Salisbury, Maryland, set out a soft crab bait hoping to catch some speckled trout, he ended up with a 6.44-pound, 22-inch pompano. His substantial catch earned him the 3rd official state-record title for pompano in Maryland.

A bit further north, there was also a pompano caught in Ocean County, New Jersey, that was weighed in at Grumpy’s Bait and Tackle.

Cape Cod’s Tarpon

strangest catches of 2023
Hans Brings of Mashpee, MA, caught and released this 5-foot-long tarpon while fishing for sharks on Cape Cod last summer.

While shark fishing at night from a south-facing beach on Cape Cod, Hans Brings of Mashpee, Massachusetts, caught a 5-foot tarpon that inhaled a chunk of bluefish and took him for several drag-ripping runs. Brings, who had released a large sand tiger shark an hour earlier, battled what he thought was another shark for 25 minutes when he saw the gleam from the scales of a silver king in the crashing waves. After his friend snapped a couple of quick pictures to document the fish’s size, Brings revived it in the wash and it kicked off into the night, solidifying this XL silver king as one of the strangest catches of 2023.

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