DEEP recalls state record of white catfish caught by CT man


COVENTRY, Conn. (AP/WTNH) — On Tuesday, the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) reversed their announcement that a white catfish caught in Connecticut last month smashed a state record.

Initially, the fish caught on Aug. 21 in Coventry was thought to have broken a state record and possibly the world record for the species. The issue: the evidence was eaten.

DEEP said in a Facebook post, “Without the ability to examine the actual fish, identification is left to still images and videos, which have proven to be ambiguous and inconclusive to definitively identify the species of catfish in this case. To maintain the integrity of the state record dataset, we are reversing the initial announcement that this 21.3-pound fish was the new state record White Catfish.”

Ben Tomkunas, 25, caught the 21.3-pound (9.66-kilogram) fish late at night in Coventry on Aug. 21. It was longer than three feet (about a meter).

Connecticut Fish and Wildlife confirmed in a Facebook post on Sept. 8 that the catch was a white catfish and that it easily broke the previous state record for the species of 12.7 pounds (5.76 kilograms).

“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, of Coventry, told the Hartford Courant.

Tomkunas described the process of reeling the catfish in to News 8.

“It was pretty difficult. I was actually impressed, it took about five minutes for me to actually get it to shore, it fought really hard,” Tomkunas said. “My mind is blown. I thought I was going to be in a couple of fishing articles but it’s across the world right now and my mind is like in a different spot.”

Tomkunas’ friend, Chris Braga, had a digital scale and took a photo of the fish coming in at the record-breaking weight.

The International Game Fish Association has recorded the world record for a white catfish catch to be 19.3 pounds (8.75 kilograms) for a fish caught in 2005 in California.

White catfish are one of several species of catfish in Connecticut, and officials said they scrutinized this catch to confirm it was not a channel catfish, which are generally larger. Other species of catfish, like blue catfish or catfish found in Asia, can dwarf the white catfish.

Tomkunas said he intends to submit a claim to the association to secure the new world record. But he also told the newspaper that he gave the fish to his grandfather the next morning.

“It kind of got eaten,” he said.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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