The New Pennsylvania Record Flathead Catfish Was Caught and Released in the Susquehanna

May 8th


CategoryPosted in Wide Open Spaces

A catch from last month has been confirmed as the new Pennsylvania record flathead catfish.

The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission confirmed Pennsylvania’s latest state record fish, a 50-pound flathead catfish caught and released in the Susquehanna River in April.

Jeff Bonawitz, the Lancaster County resident who caught the fish, said he spent 25 minutes landing the giant.

Incredibly, the fish spent a night awaiting an official weigh-in at Bonawitz’s house, and was then released back into the same water body it was pulled out of.

Here’s a video report from local ABC affiliate WNEP.

The now-confirmed state record flathead catfish was landed around 2:30 pm on April 6, 2019, with a live bluegill. Bonawitz used a medium duty 8-foot spinning rod and reel fitted with 25-pound monofilament line.

The new state record seemed to be forthcoming, according to Bonawitz.

“We had already caught several 30 pounders to that point, so it had been a good day,” he said. “We were running low on bait, so I decided to use the biggest bluegill we had left. I had a bite and let the fish toy with it for a few minutes. When I finally pulled, it just bent the rod straight down. I could tell it was big. It kept hanging down deep and when it finally came up to the top, we thought it might be a mermaid. I’ve fished the Susquehanna for years and I’ve never caught anything quite like it.”

Bonawitz knew the mega-fish could rival the previous state record, a 48-pound, 6-ounce flathead caught in 2006. Since he couldn’t get to a certified scale right away, he resorted to keeping the fish alive in an aerated container in his home until the next day.

The live fish was officially weighed at Columbia Bait and Tackle in Lancaster County, where it tipped the scales at 50 pounds, 7 ounces. It was 45.25 inches long with a girth of 31.25 inches, but Pennsylvania record fish are only determined by weight.

An official PFBC law enforcement inspection and verification followed, and the new Pennsylvania state record was confirmed. Bonawitz and his 8-year-old nephew then released the monster catfish back into the Susquehanna River.

“It was such an amazing fish,” said Bonawitz. “I thought the best thing to do was put it back so that maybe the next guy could catch it. I have a feeling this record may not last very long.”



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