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Record Flathead Catfish Reported in PA

It was the first flathead over 50 pounds ever reported caught in the Keystone State.

Record Flathead Catfish Reported in PA

Jeff Bonawitz, pictured with his nephew Dylan, caught his record on April 6 on the Susquehanna River in York County. (Photo courtesy of Jeff Bonawitz/Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission)

A good day of fishing turned great for a Pennsylvania angler who recently caught a record-sized flathead catfish.

The 50-pound, 7-ounce behemoth was caught by Jeff Bonawitz, 54, of East Lampeter Township while fishing April 6 on the Susquehanna River, according to a Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission news release. The fish beat the previous record (48-6, Blue Marsh Spillway, 2006) by more than 2 pounds.

“We had already caught several 30-pounders to that point, so it had been a good day,” said Bonawitz, who was fishing with his friend, Bryan Bruce of York. “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 … I’ve fished the Susquehanna for years and I’ve never caught anything quite like it.”

Record Catfish
Jeff Bonawitz used a live bluegill to catch this 50-7 flathead catfish. (Photo courtesy of Jeff Bonawitz/Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission)

Fishing in 22 feet of water south of Lower Bear Island, Bonawitz baited the bluegill onto his medium-duty 8-foot spinning rod and reel, spooled with 25-pound monofilament line. He fought the fish for 25 minutes, and after taking measurements of it in the boat, he suspected he might have a record.

According to the news release, Bonawitz was unable to locate a certified scale immediately after the catch, so he kept the catfish alive overnight in an aerated container at his home. The fish was weighed the next day on a certified scale at Columbia Bait and Tackle in Lancaster County.

>>From news release: As is required for state record consideration, Bonawitz contacted PFBC law enforcement officials and arranged for an in-person identification and examination of the fish. Waterways Conservation Officer Jeffrey Schmidt conducted the inspection and verified the weight. A completed state record fish application including color photographs was reviewed by PFBC officials and confirmed. State record fish are judged only by weight and must exceed the previous state record by at least two ounces.

Record Catfish
Jeff Bonawitz watches his nephew release the big flathead. (Photo courtesy of Jeff Bonawitz/Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission)

Bonawitz, with his 8-year-old nephew Dylan helping out, released the fish alive near Wrightsville Bridge. Mike Parker with Pennsylvania Fish and Boat said a state wildlife officer was on hand when the fish was released and confirmed it swam away.

“It was such an amazing fish,” said Bonawitz in the news release. “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.”

Click here for more on Pennsylvania State Record Fish.

Record Catfish
Dylan Bonawitz coaxes the record fish to swim, which it did with no issues, according to the PFBC. (Photo courtesy of Jeff Bonawitz/Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission)

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