July 24, 2024

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Pennsylvania State Record Fishery: The Complete Guide

Reading Time: 10 minutes

With over 85,000 miles of streams and rivers, including the mighty Lake Erie and the Susquehanna River, the Keystone State is a playground for anglers chasing that next big catch. Anglers from far and wide cast for top targets like Walleye, Trout, and Bass, vying for a spot in the Pennsylvania record book. This rich mix of cold and warm water fishing spots means that every cast could result in a wall-hanger.

Are you curious about the giants lurking in Pennsylvania’s depths? This guide will dive into the rich tales of Pennsylvania’s largest catches. We’ll detail the when, where, and how these legendary fish were caught. By the time you’re done reading, you’ll be ready to find the next record. Join us to uncover the secret to achieving your own record-breaking success!

Biggest Fish Caught in Pennsylvania by Species

Pennsylvania’s waters are a haven for a variety of game fish, from the mighty Musky in the state’s northern lakes to the elusive Walleye in the Allegheny River. Here, anglers have the chance to battle with some of the nation’s most legendary species. We’re talking Catfish, Chinook Salmon, and Largemouth Bass, as well.

We’ve compiled a list you can navigate through by clicking on each species below. Note that they’re presented in alphabetical order for easy navigation, not by the weight or date of the record.

Catfish (Flathead)

  • Pennsylvania state record: 66 lbs 6 oz on Lake Aldred in 2023
A man in night fishing gear standing aboard a boat and struggling to hold a Catfish that may well be big enough to challenge the Pennsylvania state record
Photo courtesy of Predator Getter Outdoors

First things first. Have you ever locked lines with Flathead Catfish? Known for their substantial size, they’re a prized catch among many freshwater anglers. But catfishing in Pennsylvania really takes things to the next level. In 2023, Michael Wherley reeled in a record-breaking 66 lb, 6 oz Flathead in Lake Aldred, setting a new standard for future challenges.

The preferred habitat for these Catfish, such as the intricate underwater structures of Lake Aldred, plays into their predatory nature. Wherley’s successful technique involved using a robust circle hook baited with a live rainbow trout, proving effective in these deep waters where simpler baits fall short.

The day Wherley set the record was particularly eventful, with his and his companions’ lines catching multiple large fish. However, it was his intense half-hour struggle with the record-breaking Flathead that stood out. And his record stands as a testament to his angling skills and resilience!

Landing Pennsylvania’s record catch not only secured Wherley a place in the history books but also highlighted the local fishing community’s dedication to conservation. He responsibly released the massive Catfish back into Lake Aldred safe and unharmed.

Chinook Salmon

  • Pennsylvania state record: 28 lbs 15 oz on Lake Erie in 1990
A smiling angler in a cap holding a big Chinook Salmon while standing on a boat with water and grey skies in the background

Chinook—also known as King—Salmon are the crowning catch for all anglers wherever they’re found. Not only are these fish, naturally, revered for their table fare qualities, but they grow to impressive sizes and put up more than a robust fight. The record for the largest caught in Pennsylvania waters was set by Gregory Lasko in 1990—an impressive 28 lb, 15 oz specimen from Lake Erie.

Lake Erie’s expansive, cold depths make it a prime habitat for Chinook, especially during their late summer and fall runs. Anglers flock to tributaries like Elk Creek aiming for a big one. While the record stands at nearly 29 pounds, a typical Chinook Salmon in these waters will weigh between 15 and 20 pounds.

Effective techniques for catching Salmon include trolling with spoons and spinners or fly fishing using both wet and dry flies. Naturally, your setup needs to be matched to the Salmon’s seasonal behaviors and the lake’s conditions. Lasko’s record was not just about the right place and time. It demanded meticulous gear selection and a strategic approach to tackle the vigorous strength of the Chinook.


  • Pennsylvania state record: 4 lbs 3 oz on Hammond Lake in 2000
A closeup of a young angler in a hat holding up a Crappie above their face aboard a fishing charter on a sunny day with water and land visible in the distance
Photo courtesy of Fish On Fishing Guide

Crappie, both White and Black, are firm favorites among Pennsylvania anglers. They’re a great beginner fish, offering a playful catch along with delicious, flaky meat as a well-earned reward. While they may not be the biggest fish in the water, the Pennylvania state record set by Richard A. Pino was an impressive 4 lb, 3 oz Crappie from Hammond Lake, Tioga County, back in 2000.

These Panfish are abundant in many of Pennsylvania’s lakes and reservoirs, with Hammond Lake noted for its potential for fruitful casts. Other notable spots include Lake Wallenpaupack and Pymatuning Reservoir. Typical catches range from 1 to 2 pounds, offering a constant challenge for anglers aiming to fill their buckets.

Pino’s catch carved his name into Pennsylvania’s fishing history and also ignited somewhat of a competitive spirit among local anglers. His quick, intense Crappie showdown in Hammond Lake has become legendary, encouraging others to chase their own record-setting moments. Why don’t you join in?

Lake Trout

  • Pennsylvania state record: 31 lbs 13 oz on Lake Erie in 2019
A man on a boat, holding Lake Trout with fishing gear and Lake Erie's waters visible behind him
Photo courtesy of Rod Squad Fishing Charters

It goes without saying that we’re not done with the mighty Lake Erie yet. Lake Trout are also among the most prized catches in Pennsylvania, and nowhere is this more true than in the deep, cold waters of the Great Lake. Keith Miller‘s record-setting day on May 11, 2019, is the stuff of local legend. He wrestled a 31 lb, 13 oz trophy into his boat, raising the bar for Pennsylvanian anglers.

Setting out with Captain Lane Brown and first mate Tom Thompson, the trio made their way to “The Mountain,” a notorious deep spot 2.5 miles offshore known for its monster catches. As the afternoon sun waned, the action heated up. Rigged with an Orange Crush UV Copper Michigan Stinger spoon tethered to a stout 30 lb braided line, Miller’s rod bent with big potential. What followed was a gritty 15-minute tug-of-war that would end with a Lake Trout heavy enough to tip the scales into record territory.

Bagging an average 15 lb Lake Trout in Lake Erie is impressive in its own right. These fish fight hard and push back harder. While not every angler will reel in a record-breaker, the thrill lies in the possibility. For those aiming to snag your record Lake Trout, remember—it’s about strategy and stamina. Keep your lures deep and your spirits high. Even if you don’t set a record, wrestling with these giants is a prize in itself!

Largemouth Bass

  • Pennsylvania state record: 11 lbs 3 oz in Birch Run Reservoir in 1983
A man in a red shirt, a baseball cap, and sunglasses standing on a boat in Pennsylvania on a sunny day while holding a big Largemouth Bass
Photo courtesy of Bass Fishing Lake Erie

Largemouth Bass reign supreme in Pennsylvania’s freshwater arenas, thanks to their explosive strikes and aerial acrobatics. But where are the best battlegrounds? You won’t be surprised to hear that Lake Erie holds these fish in abundance. However, Pymatuning Reservoir and Raystown Lake are also prime locations thanks to the ample weedy hideouts these bodies of water hold.

Despite that, Pennsylvania’s record fish was caught in Birch Run Reservoir back in 1983. And the legend of Don Shade’s catch is still spoken about widely across the state. Weighing in at 11 pounds, 3 ounces, this Bass leaped into the air during the fierce battle. Shade’s account of the fish being “airborne more than in the water” captures the essence of what it takes to hook a record-setter in these parts.

On average, Pennsylvania’s Largemouth Bass tip the scales between 1 and 5 pounds, but anglers often land trophies nearing 8 pounds. Nothing entices the giants like live shiners or sunfish, though plastic worms and crankbaits are close contenders. Hit the water during the warmer months when Bass are most active and prepare for a show. Gear up with your A-game and maybe you’ll be the next to rewrite the record books!


  • Pennsylvania state record: 54 lbs 3 oz on Conneaut Lake in 1924
A man in sunglasses and a baseball cap holds a Musky, almost large enough to be the Pennsylvania state record, with its mouth facing the camera in front of a bridge
Photo courtesy of Susquehanna Rippin Lips Guide

The “Fish of 10,000 Casts,” Musky promises an intriguing challenge for any avid angler in Pennsylvania. Conneaut Lake, the state’s largest natural lake at 929 acres, is not just scenic, it’s also a Musky haven. This big body of water has more history to brag about, though, playing home to the state record Musky. Lewis Walker Jr.’s 1924 catch of a colossal 54 lb, 3 oz fish has defied over a century of challenges.

Alongside Conneaut, the Allegheny River and Lake Arthur are popular Musky territories, continually restocked to ensure good populations. While today’s catches generally weigh between 20 and 30 pounds, the legendary size of Walker’s catch remains the ultimate angling dream.

For those hunting trophy Muskies, there are a few things to keep in mind. Patience and persistence are as crucial as your lure. But large lures and live baits like minnows or suckers are your best bet. Fish around structures such as weed beds, submerged logs, and steep drop-offs where Muskies love to lurk. Who knows? With the right strategy and a bit of lick, you might just set the next century-long record!

Northern Pike

  • Pennsylvania state record: 35 lbs in Allegheny Reservoir in 2003
A man kneeling on a boat and holding a large Pike on a river or lake in Pennsylvania on a fall day
Photo courtesy of Nature Of The Beast Fishing

In the predator league of Pennsylvania’s freshwater scene, Northern Pike are true powerhouses. These beasts are renowned for their explosive strikes and dogged persistence. Sleek, fast, and armed with razor-sharp teeth, it’s no wonder they’re top targets for any angler who comes across them!

For trophy Pike, Allegheny Reservoir—also known as Kinzua—is your battleground. It was here that Carl Stoltz landed a 35 lb Pike in 2003, setting a high bar for future anglers. This reservoir, along with Conneaut Lake and Lake Wallenpaupack, is famed for its potential to yield giant Pikes that push the scales.

Northern Pike in Pennsylvania are always hefty, often ranging from 20 to 30 inches and weighing between 4 and 10 pounds. Yet, it’s not uncommon for seasoned anglers to encounter trophies over 20 pounds in prime spots. Effective strategies include trolling with large minnows or synthetic minnow imitations along the dramatic underwater drop-offs. You can also try casting robust stickbaits and flashy spinners amidst lush weed beds.

Smallmouth Bass

  • Pennsylvania state record: 8 lbs 8 oz on Scotts Run Lake in 1997
A young child stands on a boat while wearing full winter gear while holding a Smallmouth Bass on an overcast day
Photo courtesy of Susquehanna Rippin Lips Guide

We’ve already covered one species of Bass, but the Largemouth’s not-so-younger sibling, Smallmouth Bass, also deserves its moment of glory. Fondly referred to as “Smallies,” these fish are renowned for their fighting prowess, making them a worthy favorite for Pennsylvania anglers. Top spots include the rocky reaches of the Susquehanna River and Lake Erie. Alternatively, you can explore the currents of the Juniata River.

The record for the heaviest Smallmouth Bass caught in Pennsylvania waters belongs to Robert T. Steelman, who landed an 8 lb, 8 oz giant at Scotts Run Lake in 1997. This lake’s crystal-clear waters and rich aquatic life make it an ideal battleground for these spirited fish.

Though the average Smallmouth Bass in Pennsylvania will usually reach a weight of between 1 and 4 pounds, anglers regularly reel in larger Smallies, especially during the peak seasons of late spring and early summer. For those aiming to challenge Steelman’s record, try fishing with lures or live bait near deep structure where these fish spawn and feed.


  • Pennsylvania state record: 17 lbs 9 oz in Allegheny Reservoir in 1980
A man in a blue shirt smiles as he holds a Walleye aboard a fishing charter on a lake in Pennsylvania on a bright and clear day
Photo courtesy of Ditch Chicken Charters

Walleye, with their glowing eyes and elusive nature, are a prized catch all across the northern US. They’re especially noted for their delectable taste, while their fighting skills are also more than noteworthy. These fish prefer deep, cool waters, and the Allegheny Reservoir, where Richard E. Nicholson landed Pennsylvania’s record-breaking fish, is one of the places to be! Weighing in at 17 pounds, 9 ounces, this Walleye proves the prowess of this lake!

Allegheny Reservoir’s deep underwater contours and abundant bait fish populations make it a Walleye oasis, but it’s not the only place you can land these beauties. Lake Erie and Pymatuning Reservoir are also famous for their Walleye stocks. All of these bodies of water offer diverse environments, from deep open waters to weedy shallows. This allows Walleyes to hang out year-round.

A typical Walleye in Pennsylvania will weigh between 2 and 5 pounds, so the record is really something special. Successful anglers employ tactics like trolling with jigs or crankbaits during dusk or dawn when the fish are most active. Live baits such as minnows and nightcrawlers can also be effective, particularly during the colder months under the ice. Yes, these are prime ice fishing targets, too!

Yellow Perch

  • Pennsylvania state record: 3 lbs on Lake Erie in 2021
A closeup of a small Yellow Perch being held by two hands on a boat, with another person visible in the background, along with the waters of a lake in the distance
Photo courtesy of Tight Lines Sport Fishing LLC

In a strange twist of fate, the last entry on our list of the record fish in Pennsylvania is also the least. Well, “smallest,” if we’re being pedantic. Yellow Perch may not be the main headline-grabbers in the state, but they’re celebrated for the lively angling experiences they offer, as well as their striking stripes and succulent flavor.

Lake Erie is a particular haven for Perch enthusiasts, with abundant schools near structures like the Sunoco Cribs at Presque Isle. Kirk Rudzinski‘s landmark catch in 2021—a 3 lb Perch snagged using an emerald shiner—redefined the state records exactly here.

Perch average between 8 and 12 inches and weigh around a pound, making them a perfect target for light-tackle enthusiasts. Rudzinski’s 16 ⅞” catch, therefore, certainly stands out and is a testament to Lake Erie’s potential to produce trophy-sized Perch.

Effective techniques include jigging with small jigs or tipping hooks with live bait such as minnows or worms. Focusing efforts around underwater structures and weed beds can significantly increase your chances of hitting a Perch hotspot. The right time and moment can turn a good fishing day into an unforgettable one!

Pennsylvania State Record Fish: An Overview

If you had trouble keeping track of the different fish measurements earlier, don’t worry! We’ve compiled an easy-to-read table with all the record-breaking fish, including their sizes and the years and locations they were caught:

Species Pounds Ounces Place Year
Catfish (Flathead) 66 6 Lake Aldred 2023
Chinook Salmon 28 15 Lake Erie 1990
Crappie 4 3 Hammond Lake 2000
Lake Trout 31 13 Lake Erie 2019
Largemouth Bass 11 3 Birch Run Reservoir 1983
Smallmouth Bass 8 8 Scotts Run Lake 1997
Musky 54 3 Conneaut Lake 1924
Northern Pike 35 0 Allegheny Reservoir 2003
Walleye 17 9 Allegheny Reservoir 1980
Yellow Perch 3 0 Lake Erie 2021

Pennsylvania State Record Fish: Land of Legends

A man holding a Steelhead, caught fishing along Pennsylvania's part of Lake Erie, on a cloudy day
Photo courtesy of Pacifictime Sportfishing

Pennsylvania’s fish records reflect the state’s rich angling tradition. Each catch tells a story of skill, patience, and luck. Whether you’re a seasoned angler or a novice, Pennsylvania’s waters offer endless opportunities to make your mark. Keep an eye on the record books, and perhaps your name will be added to the list of record holders in the near future!

What did you think of our guide to Pennsylvania’s state record fish? Did any records surprise you? Have you got any Pennsylvania fishing stories to share? Click the comment button below and tell us your thoughts!

Please note that all of the images used in the article are used to reflect the species caught and in no way claim to be of the record catch.

The post Pennsylvania State Record Fish: The Complete Guide appeared first on FishingBooker Blog.

By: Lisa
Title: Pennsylvania State Record Fish: The Complete Guide
Sourced From: fishingbooker.com/blog/pennsylvania-state-record-fish/
Published Date: Wed, 19 Jun 2024 10:44:12 +0000

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