Connecticut Reverses New Viral White Catfish Record, Issues Apology

by Matthew Memrick

Connecticut wildlife officials reversed a previous decision and apologized while taking away a state white catfish record from a 23-year-old.

Ben Tomkunas had the catch of a lifetime with a 21.3-pound catfish he caught at Coventry Lake on Aug. 20. He had a picture of the fish and how heavy it was in another photo.

“We were just sitting back and drinking a couple of beers, and next thing you know, my reel just starts screaming like I had a 30-pound striper on there,” Tomkunas told the Hartford Courant.

He didn’t know it was a record at the time. Days later, he took the pictures to the Bureau of Natural Resources, and soon after, they said he had a new white Catfish record.

Time Was The Enemy

Maybe everyone just wanted that catfish to break a new record. 

“This was a tough one to verify as Channel Cats and White Cats, especially when so large, look very similar,” the agency stated. “[But] with multiple sets of expert eyes, we confirm the new state record.”

But as the days went on and the pictures scanned over and over, questions bubbled up. The identification of the fish was in doubt.

On Monday, the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection reversed the Bureau of Natural Resources decision.

Stingy Questions Over The Catfish

Both the DEEP and vocal outside sources were responsible for getting the record pulled.

The decision, they said, was made harder due to a lack of physical evidence. 

“Without the ability to examine the actual fish, identification is left to still images and videos,” a Bureau of Natural Resources post said. 

Officials said the photos and video were “ambiguous and inconclusive” in conclusively identifying the species of catfish. Tomkunas delivered the catfish to his grandfather the day after catching it. The man soon had a feast.

So, the agency issued an apology, saying the “integrity of the state record dataset” needed to be maintained. Oh well. 

Facebook commenters were almost gleeful about the reversal. Even though that was not the ruling, many felt vindicated that they identified the catfish as a channel one.

Facebook commenter John Mayer said, “I feel bad for the angler, (it) should’ve never been confirmed by an incredibly shakey ID at best. Saw this coming the day it dropped.”

Another offered up his own friendly ribbing.

Craig Jones joked, “Dang it. If I knew this I wouldn’t have thrown back the 21.2 pounder I landed this past weekend!”

So, there’s still a mammoth catfish out there. But it has to weigh more than 12 pounds, 12 ounces to be a record in Connecticut. Oh, and keep your fish handy for physical proof.

For now, Oakdale, Calif, resident Russell D. Price has the current all-tackle world record. In 2005, he caught a 19.5-pound catfish.