On April 6, 2019, angler Jeff Bonawitz, 54, of East Lampeter Township, Lancaster County launched his boat from the Muddy Creek public access area located south of Lower Bear Island on the Susquehanna River in York County. Fishing in 22 feet of water, Bonawitz baited a live bluegill onto his medium duty 8-foot spinning rod and reel fitted with 25-pound monofilament line. The soon-to-be-record catch occurred at 2:30pm.
Jeff Bonawitz and nephew, Dylan with the state record flathead catfish“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, we thought it might be a mermaid,” joked Bonawitz. “I’ve fished the Susquehanna for years and I’ve never caught anything quite like it.”
Following a 25-minute fight, Bonawitz brought the fish aboard his boat. After taking some initial measurements, Bonawitz suspected it could be a contender for the state record, which had been previously set in 2006 when a 48-pound, 6-ounce flathead catfish was caught in Blue Marsh Spillway in Berks County. Unable to immediately locate an operational certified scale on which to weigh the fish, Bonawitz kept the fish alive in an aerated container at his home until the following day. On April