“I knew it was a record as soon as I saw it,” says local tackle shop owner Matt Musselman of the behemoth flathead catfish.
“I see these big fish all the time,” he adds for Lancaster Online as photos spread like wildfire. “And this was the biggest.”
Indeed, Pennsylvania angler Mike Wherley has caught himself a true “monster” flathead. It’s something the avid angler has always dreamed of, too.
“I’ve told everybody in my family I was going to catch a state record someday,” he told Outdoor Life. “And there I did it. That’s incredible.”
As his dream-catch pops up across the internet, Columbia Bait and Tackle sent Outsider a round of close-up photos confirming Wherley’s weigh-in. His record is pending, but local officials have no doubt he’ll be the new Pennsylvania state record-holder for flathead catfish after his Sunday, May 14 catch and release.
As the day’s photos show, Wherley snagged a whopping 66.4-pound flathead out of the Susquehanna River. The bait? A foot-long trout.
The Stats: Mike Wherley’s Record-Breaking Flathead Catfish
|Flathead Catfish Record/Angler (Year)||Weight||Location|
|Current (pending) PA state record, Mike Wherley||66 lbs., 6 oz.||PA|
|Previous PA state record, Jonathan Pierce (2020)||56 lbs., 3 oz.||PA|
|IGFA All Tackle World Record flathead catfish, Ken Paulie (1998)||123 lbs.||KS|
Columbia Bait and Tackle says Wherley’s record is under official consideration and pending. The weight (pictured below) came courtesy of a state-certified scale, verified by Jeff Schmidt of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.
Once it lands, it’ll easily beat out the previous state record. That flathead was caught by Jonathan Pierce in the Schuylkill River in 2020 and was over 10 pounds smaller than Wherley’s trophy.
Wherley has also shattered his own personal best, telling local trades that his previous biggest flathead weighed 44 pounds. Both that catfish and his new record-breaker were caught in the same area.
This latest trophy remains a living giant, too. “The fish got that big by living a long time, so I wanted him to keep on living,” Wherley also offered to Outdoor Life. After weighing, he released the behemoth back to the Susquehanna River.
Flatheads are True ‘River Monsters’
Flathead catfish (Pylodictis olivaris), also called mudcat or shovelhead cat, are known for their impressive size. On average, however, flatheads grow to around 25 to 35 inches (64 to 89 cm) in length and 20 and 40 pounds (9 to 18 kg) in weight. This makes monsters like Wherley’s true trophies.
As big as his Pennsylvania catch is, though, it’s dwarfed by the IGFA World Record. That cat came in at an astounding 123 pounds – which is not only twice the size of Wherley’s flathead but truly immense for this species in general.
Factors such as natural food sources, water temperature, genetics, and the size of their environment greatly impact the size of all catfish. And it is worth noting that flatheads are not native to PA’s Susquehanna River. Instead, they’re an invasive species that is clearly well-suited to those waters.
Flatheads are native to other freshwater systems of North America, though. They’re primarily found in the Mississippi River basin, including the Mississippi River and its tributaries, such as the Ohio, Missouri, and Tennessee Rivers.
A big part of their expansion to other water bodies (outside their native range) has been introduction for recreational fishing purposes. This makes catch and release the preferred method, instead of culling as with more damaging species like carp.
Congratulations to Mike Wherley on his trophy of a lifetime! For more Trophy Tuesday action, see this North Carolina angler’s massive big-scale pomfret certified as another state record.