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New state record brown trout certified

The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission recently certified a new state record brown trout. The huge trout was caught in Lake Erie by Robert Ferraro of Erie on August 8.

Ferraro and three friends were trolling for steelhead in 74 feet of water at an area of Lake Erie known as the Condos when the record fish hit a small spoon at a depth of 56 feet about 8:30 that morning. After a 10-minute battle, the monster brown was netted.

“We had been fishing in the same area the day before and caught some steelhead and walleye,” said Ferraro. “The water temperature at the bottom of the lake had become warmer overnight and we were not having as much luck. We were just about to go looking for cooler water when our luck changed. It was a huge thrill to catch such a big fish, but we didn’t know exactly what it was at first. We suspected it was a brown trout. We know they’re in here, but the biggest ones I’ve caught before were around 12 pounds, and this fish was over 20 pounds. It had a very dark back and some silver coloring on the body that made us question what it was for a minute. We knew if it was a brown trout, it had a great chance to be a record.”

Ferraro had the fish positively identified by a PFBC fisheries biologist as a female brown trout estimated to be at least 6 or 7 years old. With the verification of the species, he could begin the process to have the fish certified as a state record catch.

The first and most important step was to have the fish weighed on certified scales before witnesses. The monster brown trout officially weighed in at 20 pounds, 9 ounces and measured 33.75 inches in length with a girth of 21.125 inches. To set a new state record, a fish must exceed the weight of the current record fish by at least two ounces.

Ferraro’s fish topped the previous record by 11 ounces. That fish was caught by another Erie angler at the mouth of Walnut Creek, a Lake Erie tributary, back in 2000. Finally, an official state record fish application including color photographs was submitted and reviewed by PFBC officials who confirmed the fish as a new state record.

In a small bit of personal back story, I know and have fished with Ferraro, so I was delighted to hear of his record catch. Dr. Bob, as we called him, is a cardiologist and one of my old friends from Erie was one of his patients. Because of his occupation, he fittingly named his boat “Heartbeat.” In fact, he is now one of four friends who have caught a state-record fish. Maybe some of their luck will rub off on me one day.

Ferraro is a dedicated angler who spends much time on Lake Erie knows the fishery well. For that reason, he thinks he might not hold the honor of catching the state’s biggest brown trout for long. “There are absolutely more fish like this out there,” said Ferraro. “I really hope it gives other people some motivation to get out and catch them. I think it really underscores how healthy our fishery is right now in Lake Erie.”

Ferraro’s brown trout marks the second state record fish certified for 2020. A 56-pound, 3-ounce flathead catfish caught from the Schuylkill River back in May was also certified as a new state record. Pennsylvania’s oldest standing state record fish is a 54-pound, 3-ounce muskellunge taken from Conneaut Lake in Crawford County back in 1924.

As much as I love Lake Erie and the spectacular fishing I have enjoyed there over the years, I also wonder if we should keep separate records for Lake Erie and the rest of the state. Pennsylvania has many world-class trout streams, but none of them are capable of producing a 20-pound brown trout like the food-rich waters of Lake Erie. I looked at the current list of state record fish to see just how dominate Lake Erie might be.

The PFBC keeps angling records for 32 species of fish in Pennsylvania. Of those, eight of the current state record fish were caught in Lake Erie or one of its tributaries. Despite Lake Erie’s world-class walleye and smallmouth bass fisheries, the state record for either of those species did not come from Erie. Besides brown trout, Erie’s state record fish and year caught include: rock bass, 3 lb. 2 oz., 1971; yellow perch, 2 lb. 14 oz., 2016; Chinook salmon, 28 lb. 15 oz., 1990; coho salmon, 15 lb. 5 oz., 1985; pink salmon, 4 lb. 8 oz., 1995; lake trout, 31 lb. 13 oz., 2019; and steelhead trout, 20 lb. 3 oz., 2001.

Salmon and steelhead were stocked pretty much exclusively in Lake Erie and given that Pennsylvania discontinued its salmon program some years ago, any new salmon records are highly unlikely.

Lake trout have been introduced into a few other Pennsylvania waters, including Raystown Lake here in our region, but it is also highly unlikely any will approach the potential of Lake Erie. That means Erie has really only topped the downstate fisheries for just three species at present: brown trout, rocks bass and yellow perch.

A list of current Pennsylvania State Record Fish along with official rules and application in case you hook the fish of a lifetime can be found at the www.fishandboat.com

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