What's Behind Monster Shellcrackers at Lake Havasu?

The home of the world record redear sunfish may be ‘quagga’ crazy. (Photo courtesy Arizona Game & Fish Department)

Lake Havasu has a well-deserved reputation for its stellar bass and striper fishing.

But did you know the large Colorado River reservoir bordering Arizona and California is also home to some of the best redear sunfish (aka shellcracker) angling in the world?

It was five years ago — Feb. 16, 2014 — when angler Hector Brito set the existing world record with a 17-inch, 5.78-pound shellcracker caught in Havasu on a nightcrawler. By that time, Havasu anglers had already seen a sharp increase in shellcracker size, but the question was why.

In an article entitled Mystery of World Record Solved? Nick Walter of the Arizona Game and Fish Department wrote that invasive quagga mussels could be behind the bigger fish.

Hector Brito caught this world-record redear sunfish at Lake Havasu in 2014. (Photo courtesy Arizona Game & Fish Department)

The redear sunfish is called shellcracker due to teeth in its throat that allows it to crush and eat crustaceans, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the sole reason for the bigger fish. But Arizona Game & Fish also notes reports of bigger shellcrackers began a couple of years after the quagga mussel was discovered in Havasu.

Also, a 2014 study by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation found redears and bluegills do indeed eat quaggas, also resulting in a decrease in the mussel population.

Click here to read all of Arizona Game & Fish’s fascinating report

Get Your Fish On.

Plan your next fishing and boating adventure here.

Recommended for You


MLF Pros: What's Your Go-To Lure?

G&F Online Staff - May 20, 2019

When all else fails, here's what these pros tie on.


Quick Tips: How to Spot and Stalk a Hog

Ian Nance - May 28, 2019

Try these tips to improve your wild boar hunting skill set.

Trout & Salmon

How to Catch the Biggest Trout in the Stream

David Paul Williams

Several factors need to be evaluated before reaching a conclusion about what fly, lure or...

See More Recommendations

Trending Stories


Bass Pond Fishing: Catch Lunkers at Small Lakes Near You

Dan Anderson - February 13, 2018

Veteran bass anglers often dismiss urban fishing opportunities as "kid's fishing ponds," but...


10 Most Common Reel Performance Problems

Anietra Hamper

Fishing reel maintenance provides a steady stream of business for The Fisherman's Warehouse

Other Freshwater

3 Deadly Bait Rigs For Stripers

J.B. Kasper - April 21, 2005

The colder waters of early spring are prime times to use bait rigs for stripers.

See More Stories

More Panfish


Great Plains Crappie Fishing Guide 2019

Brent Frazee

Expect a bumper crop of these fancy speckled panfish to keep you grinning from ear to ear.


Deep Thinking Will Catch the Biggest Bluegills

Terry Madewell

Learn how to find the biggest fish in your lake.


Monster Bream: Bluegill Record Set in Colorado

G&F Online Staff - June 21, 2019

Record-holder was fly-fishing for pike when the fish struck.

See More Panfish

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction


Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services


GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.