Record-setting catfish reeled in on Susquehanna River

Photo submitted to the Fish and Boat Commission by Jeff Bonawitz, pictured with his record-setting flathead catfish caught in the Susquehanna River in April 2019.

For sure, the talk of the local fishing world this year has been Lancaster resident Jeff Bonawitz's state-record-breaking, 50-pount flathead catfish, which he caught from the Susquehanna River in April.

It was a monster fish, and it's possibly still swimming around in the river, since Bonawitz released it alive after having the flathead officialy weighed.

I would be remiss if I didn't note here that southern Lancaster County Waterways Conservation Officer Jeff Schmidt of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission told me about six years ago that he fully expected the new state record flathead to eventually come out of the Susquehanna.

Good call, Jeff.

Every year, the Commission recognizes the biggest fish of each species caught from Pennsylvania waters. Bonawitz's catfish undoubtedly will head the flathead category for 2019.

Currently, the agency has published a list of the biggest fish caught in 2018, and there are some whoppers on there. There are no state records, but there are some dandy fish nonetheless.

And a couple of them were caught by local anglers on local waters.

Three of the top five flatheads caught in 2018 came from the Susquehanna River in and around Lancaster County, including the second-ranked fish caught by Robert Corwin of Columbia.

Corwin's flathead weighed 41 pounds and had a girth of 30 inches. He caught it Aug. 23 using a bluegill as bait.

Bruce Gray of Manheim caught the biggest crappie of 2018. He landed the 4-pound, 4-ounce fish Jan.18, while fishing Lake Ontelaunee in Berks County.

Chris Amspacher of Mount Joy landed the biggest brook trout of 2018, with a 4-pound, 14-ounce fish he caught April 14 on Little Kettle Creek.

Elizabethtown's Abijah Grove pulled the state's second-largest golden rainbow trout of the year out of the Cowanesque River on April 14. That trout weighed 7 pounds, 12 ounces, which was just one ounce shy of the biggest golden rainbow caught in 2018.

Jeremy Boyd of Ephrata was fishing Blue Marsh Lake on Oct. 13, when he landed a yellow perch weighing 1 pound, 10 ounces. That was the fifth-largest yellow perch caught in 2018.

Marsh Creek Lake in neighboring Chester County yielded the biggest tiger muskellunge of 2018. That beast measured 44 inches long and weighed 28 pounds. It was caught by Lauren Brauer of Downingtown.

Mason Crouthamel of Birdsboro caught the fourth-largest chain pickerel of 2018, with a 4-pound, 10-ounce fish he pulled out of Scotts Run Lake in Berks County.

Although it's not near Lancaster County, nor is the angler local, it's worth noting that there was a 10-pound largemouth bass caught in 2018.

We don't hear about many 10-pounders in Pennsylvania. The state record of 11 pounds, 3 ounces has stood since 1983.

But Parker Lilly of Uniontown caught a largemouth on Aug. 12, 2018, that measured 30 inches long, and weighed an even 10 pounds. The bass was caught from Chimney Pond, which is in the Uniontown area.