Connecticut angler’s catfish record revoked; state issues apology

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A Connecticut angler credited with shattering the state’s white catfish record last month has had that recognition withdrawn.

Ben Tomkunas caught the 21.3-pound catfish Aug. 20 at Coventry Lake. Days later, the Bureau of Natural Resources declared Tomkunas the new record holder.

“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.”

Apparently, debate continued as to whether the fish, which was released, might have been improperly identified. On Monday, the Bureau of Natural Resources announced that the decision had been reversed by the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

The state record, therefore, still stands at 12.75 pounds.

“Due to questions raised both internally at DEEP and by outside sources, DEEP is recalling its initial declaration of a new state record white catfish caught in Coventry Lake on August 20th,” the Bureau of Natural Resources announced via Facebook. “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. We apologize for this error.”

Tomkunas, who was fishing for carp when the catfish struck, said it “ran like a 30-inch striped bass.”

If the fish was, in fact, a white catfish, it was of world-record size. The current all-tackle world record, set in Oakdale, Ca., in 2005, stands at 19 pounds, 5 ounces.