HARRISBURG, PA - The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) is pleased to announce a new state record Brown Trout!
On the morning of August 8, 2020, angler Robert Ferraro, 68, of Erie, departed Walnut Creek Marina along with three friends aboard his boat, 'Heartbeat,' to enjoy a day of fishing. The group was targeting steelhead as they began trolling in 74 feet of water in the area known as the Condos, which is located east of Walnut Creek to the west of the Peninsula.
"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."
At approximately 8:30 a.m., Ferraro said his group was trolling when they got a "big hit" on a downrigger fitted to a 9-foot fishing rod that was trolling a small spoon lure on 14-pound copolymer fishing line at a depth of 56 feet. The fish immediately began to run, taking 50 feet of line with it, and swirled to the surface of the lake but never jumped out of the water. Ferraro says after a stressful 10-minute fight, his friends were able to net the massive fish.
"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," recalls Ferraro. "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."
Upon returning to Walnut Creek Marina, the fish was positively identified as a Brown Trout by PFBC Fisheries Biologist Mark Haffley.
"Older fish like this that have been out in the lake for many years can appear different, but upon examination, it had all the markings of a brown trout including a box-shaped tail, spot pattern, and white pigmentation inside its mouth," said Haffley. "Its exciting to see a fish like this, a large female, which we estimate to be at least 6 or 7 years old."
In the presence of PFBC Waterways Conservation Officer Tyler Soety and Deputy WCO Brad Donor, the Brown Trout was weighed on a certified scale, where it was officially recorded at 20 pounds, 9 ounces, exceeding the previous record set in 2000, also by an angler from Erie, by 11 ounces. Ferraro's fish measured 33.75 inches in length with a girth of 21.125 inches.
As is required for state record consideration, in addition to a witnessed weigh-in and PFBC in-person inspection, Ferraro completed an official state record fish application including color photographs, which was reviewed by PFBC officials and confirmed. State record fish are judged only by weight and must exceed the previous state record by at least two ounces.
Ferraro, a lifelong angler, says he is honored to hold the new state record, which he believes could be broken at any time.
"There are absolutely more fish like this out there," added 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."
Since 2009, the PFBC has stocked approximately 100,000 fingerling Brown Trout annually into Lake Erie tributaries and Presque Isle Bay to enhance the quality near-shore fishery. These Brown Trout spawned at the Linesville State Fish Hatchery in Crawford County and raised at other PFBC hatcheries and cooperative nurseries, add diversity for anglers enjoying the annual fall steelhead run in the tributaries, as well as Lake Erie anglers who seek them on the open water. More information about the PFBC Lake Erie Brown Trout Program can be found here.
A list of current Pennsylvania State Record Fish, official rules, and application can be found at www.fishandboat.com.