Lancaster County man reels in record breaking catfish |

Lancaster County man reels in record breaking catfish

Madasyn Czebiniak
PA Fish and Boat Commission
Jeff Bonawitz, 54, of East Lampeter Township, Lancaster County caught a 50 pound, 7 ounce flathead catfish, surpassing the previous state record.

A Lancaster County angler went fishing in the Susquehanna River last month.

He ended up reeling in a flathead catfish that surpassed the state record, according to the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.

“It was such an amazing fish,” said Jeff Bonawitz, 54, of East Lampeter Township.

The record setting catch occurred at 2:30 p.m. April 6.

Bonawitz launched his boat from the Muddy Creek public access area located south of Lower Bear Island on the Susquehanna River in York County, according to the commission.

He was in 22 feet of water when the catfish saw the live bluegill he had baited. It put up a 25-minute fight before Bonawitz was able to bring it aboard.

“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, Brian 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, we thought it might be a mermaid.

“I’ve fished the Susquehanna for years and I’ve never caught anything quite like it.”

The catfish tipped the scales at 50 pounds, 7 ounces. The previous record was set in 2006 when a 48-pound, 6-ounce flathead catfish was caught in Blue Marsh Spillway in Berks County, according to the commission.

Pennsylvania state record fish are judged by weight and must exceed the previous record by at least 2 ounces, the commission said.

Bonawitz brought the fish home and kept it alive in an aerated container until it could officially be weighed the following day at Columbia Bait and Tackle in Lancaster County.

Following the weigh-in, Bonawitz and his nephew, Dylan, 8, released the live fish back into the Susquehanna River.

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

A list of current Pennsylvania State Record Fish, official rules and application can be found at

Madasyn Czebiniak is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Madasyn at 724-226-4702, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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