HARRISBURG, Pa. (WTAJ) — A Pennsylvania state record has been broken and a new champion was crowned for the biggest Flathead Catfish caught in the Commonwealth.

The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) certified the new state record Flathead Catfish that was caught Sunday, May 14.

Angler Michael Wherley, of Fayetteville in Franklin County, was out fishing on the Susquehanna River section known as Lake Aldred near Conestoga that morning in a 16-foot bass boat. Wherley said he baited a live Rainbow Trout onto a large circle hook, weighted with a 1.5 ounce sinker, and cast his line into a 50-foot-deep channel.

Michael Wherley Flathead Catfish 1.png
Photo provided by The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission

At around 10 a.m., Wherley, who was fishing with his friend Tommy, said fishing action began to pick up, and three of the four rods they had in the water hooked fish at the same time

“It was a little bit crazy, but we managed to start reeling them in,” said Wherley.  “There was a 30-pounder, and then Tommy brought in a 45-pounder that ended up breaking the net when we tried lifting it into the boat.”

Wherley says as he reeled in the third rod, he knew right away it was a very large fish, and his arms started to cramp as he continued to battle the catfish for the next 30 minutes.

“When it finally came to the surface, all I could think was that it was humungous!” recalled Wherley. “When I got the fish next to the boat, I handed the rod to Tommy, and I stuck both hands in the fish’s mouth and pulled as hard as I could to bring it aboard.  We knew we had something.”

Michael Wherley Flathead Catfish 2.png
Photo provided by The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission

Wherley said he was aware of the previous state record, a 56lb., 3oz. fish caught by a Philadelphia angler in the Schuylkill River in May 2020.  Confident that his catch had a chance to beat the record, Wherley and Clark kept the fish alive by placing it inside a large plastic tote box filled with water and equipped with an aerator. 

The anglers then headed to nearby Columbia Bait and Tackle where a certified scale was located.

At approximately 3:50 p.m., in the presence of PFBC Waterways Conservation Officer Jeff Schmidt, who was on duty nearby at the time of the catch, Wherley’s Flathead Catfish was recorded as weighing 66 lbs., 6 oz., exceeding the previous state record by more than ten pounds. 

The fish reportedly measured 50.25 inches long with a girth of 35 inches, however, Pennsylvania state record fish are judged only by weight and must exceed the previous record by at least two ounces.

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“This is just incredible, and I’m really glad we were able to release the fish back into the river,” said Wherley. “My previous personal best flathead was 44 pounds last year.  I know I’ve had bigger ones on the line, but they got off before I could get them on the boat.  I’ll enjoy this record as long as it lasts, but I’m sure it will probably be broken in a year or two, if not sooner.  I’m a hundred-percent certain there are even bigger fish out there.”

Anglers who are pursuing a state record, or think they have caught a state record fish, should follow the guidelines set by the PFBC that are listed here.