In the serene waters of the Susquehanna River near Conestoga, Pennsylvania, about 70 miles west of Philadelphia, Michael Wherley sensed a mighty force tug at his fishing line.
Indeed, his instincts were spot on. The experienced angler had landed an enormous 66-pound flathead catfish, an extraordinary catch by any standard.
“I was simply astonished at the sheer size of it!” exclaimed Wherley in a news release dated June 6 from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.
The 46-year-old native of Fayetteville, who has spent 15 years fishing for flathead catfish on the Susquehanna River, relayed his thrilling encounter to the officials.
Wherley and a friend had started their fishing expedition around 10 a.m. on May 14. Soon enough, the duo began hauling in sizable fish.
“It was quite the frenzy, but we managed to get them in,” Wherley detailed his exciting experience. “First, a 30-pounder, and then my friend reeled in a 45-pound behemoth that ended up tearing the net as we tried to hoist it into the boat.”
The most exciting moment was when his third rod started to whirl, indicating a giant catch. After an intense 30-minute struggle, with his arms aching from the effort, Wherley managed to bring the fish near the boat.
“I passed the rod to my friend and thrust both my hands into the fish’s mouth, exerting all my strength to heave it aboard. We knew we had a significant catch,” Wherley told officials.
Wherley was aware of the previous state record for flathead catfish – 56 pounds, 3 ounces, and he had a hunch that he had bested it.
To ascertain the weight of his colossal catch, he kept the fish alive in a bucket with water and an aerator, and promptly took it to a certified scale.
Following this, an officer from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission officially weighed the catfish, and at 66 pounds and 6 ounces, Wherley’s catch had indeed shattered the previous record by over 10 pounds.
In a display of sportsmanship, Wherley then returned the record-breaking fish to its home in the river.
“This is absolutely amazing, and I’m elated that we managed to return the fish to the river,” said Wherley. “My personal best before this was a 44-pounder last year. I’m sure I’ve had bigger ones hooked, but they got away. I’ll relish this record for as long as it stands, which could be a year or two, or even less. I’m fully confident there are larger fish out there yet to be discovered.”