Several record breakers top list of the 2021 PA Angler Awards Program
Pennsylvania anglers netted some real trophy fish in 2021.
The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission released the results of last year’s Angler Award Program, and the results are impressive.
The angling awards are different from the agency’s state record system. Under this program, the commission takes the angler's word regarding the size and weight. Fish that are entered for a record are personally investigated by agency staff members.
Kevin Hoy, now 29, of Saint Marys landed the heaviest bass of 2021. He caught a 7-pound, 23-inch largemouth bass while fishing Oct. 23 in Ridgway Reservoir.
“I was waiting and waiting,” he said Thursday in a telephone interview about wanting to see the online list to see where his fish ranked. He was fishing in a waterway he hadn’t fished in the past.
“I was kind of tipped off by an old timer,” Hoy said about deciding to fish there late in the year. “He said you can’t beat fishing in this reservoir in the fall.
“I basically like fishing for largemouth,” he said about giving it a try with a Yamasenko Wacky Rig. That day he caught several bass with a combined weight of about 20 pounds. “The seven pounder helped a lot.”
He was fishing along a downed tree in the water. “I saw it flash and from there my heart stopped until I got it in,” he said about the two- or three-minute fight to land the heavy bass.
“I’m not out trying to break a record," he said, "but I want to target large bass when I go.” He’s having the trophy fish mounted.
“I certainly put in the time and did a lot of reading up on bass fishing and basically was obsessed with it. So it does mean quite a bit,” he said about catching the top bass of the year.
The state record for a largemouth bass was set in 1983 when Donald Shade of Waynesboro hooked an 11-pound, 3-ounce bass from Birch Run Reservoir.
A couple of fish on the annual top fish list were also submitted and approved as state records.
Kirk Rudzinski of Erie has the record yellow perch. He caught a 3-pound, 17-inch fish on an emerald shiner April 9 while fishing in Lake Erie.
"It's kind of overwhelming," the 63-year-old told the Erie Times when the record was confirmed. "You think about all the millions of people in Pennsylvania, and all the millions of people that perch fish, and I caught the biggest one. It's hard to wrap your head around." He planned to have the fish mounted and put on display in his Erie sport shop, the East End Angler.
Another record that fell last year was for walleye. Richard “The Breeze” Nicholson, 62, of Connellsville landed an 18- pound, 1-ounce, 34-inch walleye while fishing in the Youghiogheny River in Fayette County. He used a creek chub as bait on Oct. 28 to break the 41-year state record.
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When the record was confirmed, he said, “I’m tickled about the fish. I’m glad it beat the record, but it’s a shame to beat an old record like that,” he said noting that he anticipates someday another fish will break this record. “It’s just a matter of time. I truly believe it’s not the only big fish in the river.”
He planned to have a replica of the fish mounted as he had plans to eat the fish as part of his “Hillbilly Surf and Turf” nights.
The listing of top fish also includes a steelhead trout that appears would have beat the existing record by six pounds if it was submitted through the state record program.
Siarhei Navitski of Brooklyn, New York, said he reeled in a 26-pound, 4-ounce fish while fishing Dec. 4 in Walnut Creek. To put that steelhead in perspective, the state record is a 20-pound, 3-ounce fish caught in 2001 by Corey T. Brown of Osterburg, also in Walnut Creek.
Attempts to reach Navitski about why he didn’t submit the monster trout to be the new record were unsuccessful.
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Daniel Wielobob of Conneaut Lake caught a 4-pound crappie on Feb. 12 out of Lake Wilhelm. He was using a tungsten jig to catch the fish that is within a couple ounces of the existing state record.
Other top fish for 2021 include:
Jeremiah Jeffries of Harrisburg caught a 1-pound, 5-ounce, rock bass while fishing June 5 in Raystown Lake. He was using a Savage Gear Cicada.
Tyle J. Stauffer of Monaca netted a 5-pound, 13-ounce smallmouth bass while fishing on Aug. 6 in Lake Erie.
Jeffrey Mickel II of Roaring Spring has the top striped bass of the year with a 22-pound, 9-ounce fish caught June 21 in Raystown Lake. He enticed the trophy with a live alewife as bait.
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Edward R. Kickler of Verona was honored for the largest white bass. It was a 2-pound, 8-ounce fish caught Aug. 7 in the Allegheny River on a Rapala Shad Rap.
Darren Boehmer of White Haven reported the largest bluegill. It was a 1-pound, 10-ounce fish caught May 19 in Lake Francis on a deer hair caddis fly.
The top carp honor went to Daniel Leichliter of Laceyville. He caught a 29-pound, 14-ounce carp on Dec. 9 in the Susquehanna River on a Keith Swimbait.
Jesse Wall of Tamaqua has been recognized with the largest bullhead catfish. He hauled in a 2-pound, 9-ounce fish he caught Oct. 12 in Rabbit Run Reservoir on a nightcrawler.
Top honors for a channel catfish go to John Rotto Jr. of Apollo. He landed a 28-pound, 12-ounce trophy on April 10 in French Creek. He used a sucker as bait.
The heaviest fish of the year was a 57-pound, 9-ounce flathead catfish caught on Sept. 18 by Garrett Hollenbach of Selinsgrove in Lake Aldred.
Sam Conte of Lower Burrell was fishing in Lake Erie on Aug. 24 when he landed the top freshwater drum. It weighed 12 pounds.
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The top muskellunge honor went to Douglas W. Panic of Mammoth. He was fishing on Sept. 6 in Lake Wilhelm when he caught a 40-pound, 50-inch musky on a crankbait.
Donald E. Sewalish of Elmora was fishing in Lake Erie on June 19 when he caught the heaviest white perch of the year. It weighed 1 pound, 7 ounces and fell to a worm harness with a night crawler.
Tanner Zeigler of Louisville got the biggest chain pickerel. He reeled in a 5-pound, 7-ounce fish June 3 on a Sanko Worm in Sherman Creek.
The top northern pike honor goes to Christopher Fitzpatrick of Carson, Virginia. He landed a 14-pound, 13-ounce pike May 25 from the Allegheny River.
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Nick Nigro of Irwin was fishing on Nov. 21 in the Allegheny River when he caught the largest sauger of the year. It weighed 3 pounds, 7 ounces.
For American shad, Samuel Dunbar of Blooming Glen caught a 5-pound, 2-ounce fish on April 13 in the Delaware River.
Ashley Vitaioli of Scranton caught a 5-pound, 19-inch sucker in the Lackawanna River for the top honor.
Jim Lawson of Warren found success in the West Branch of Tionesta Creek with the top two brook trout of 2021. On May 24 he caught a 5-pound, 9-ounce fish, and a day earlier he netted a 5-pound, 3-ounce fish for the No. 2 spot.
In brown trout, Fred Williams of Greentown reeled in a 15-pound, 33-inch fish on May 15 in Lake Wallenpaupack. He was using a Thunderstick as bait.
Ryan Hannah of Girard caught the largest lake trout. It was a 17-pound, 10-ounce fish he caught May 22 in Lake Erie.
Top golden rainbow trout honors go to Scott A. Failor II of Lancaster. He was fishing Jan. 15 when he caught a 7-pound, 6-ounce fish in Yellow Breeches Creek.
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Mark Portner of Hanover is credited with the heaviest rainbow trout. He caught a 10-pound, 6-ounce fish on April 4 in Kaiser Lake.
All of these trophy fish caught across Pennsylvania prove that you never know what you are going to catch any time you go out fishing. If you think you may catch a trophy fish sometime, read about the Angler Awards and record programs at fishandboat.com online. It's good to have a plan in place in case you catch the fish of a lifetime.
Brian Whipkey is the outdoors columnist for USA TODAY Network sites in Pennsylvania. Contact him at email@example.com and sign up for our weekly Go Outdoors PA newsletter email on your website's homepage under your login name. Follow him on social media @whipkeyoutdoors.