Fish for free day offers fun, record potential

Posted on: May 27, 2016 | Bob Frye | Comments

Blog--Records--blue catfishThis is West Virginia’s new record blue catfish, pulled from the Ohio River.

This is the day that eliminates excuses.

On Sunday, May 29, when many people will be off work anyway and perhaps picnicking, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission is offering the first of two statewide “fish for free” days. For 24 hours – from 12:01 a.m. to 11:59 p.m. — anyone, state resident or not, can fish anywhere in the state without first having to buy a fishing license.

The other fish for free day is July 4.

All other rules apply on both occasions, meaning seasons and creel limits. It’s not a free for all, after all.

But it is a great day to introduce a newcomer to fishing, get someone who used to fish re-interested in the sport or – if you’re not an angler yet yourself – try wetting a line.

That’s the goal.

“Many families already spend the day at lakes and parks throughout the state. Now they can try fishing at no cost,” said the commission’s Steve Kralik, director of the bureau of outreach, education and marketing.

“We know that once people, especially kids, try fishing, they will see how much fun it is and will want to do it more often.”

Those visiting parks can oftentimes borrow equipment. The commission, together with the bureau of state parks and local entities, runs a “fishing tackle loaner program.” Would-be anglers can borrow gear, much like taking a book from the library, to use for the day.

They’ve got to provide their own bait, but otherwise, everything else they need is included.

A list of participating parks can be found here.

And if you need extra motivation?

There are some big fish out there. An Erie County angler just broke Pennsylvania’s state record for yellow perch. That story is here.

The commission maintains records for 32 species. Fourteen have been set since 2000; others date back to the 1960s, 70s and 80s. The oldest, for muskies, goes all the way back to 1924.

But records are made to be broken, as anglers in a number of other states have been busy proving this month.

West Virginia certifies state record fish in two ways, by length and weight.

Fishing the Ohio River earlier this month, Mark Blauvelt of New Lebanon, Ohio, caught a 44.88-inch, 59.74-pound blue catfish – a species, interestingly enough, that some in the Fish and Boat Commission have in the past considered reintroducing to this state’s portion of the river.

Anyway, Blauvelt’s fish, which was caught on cut bait, is the new record holder as the heaviest blue cat ever landed there.

West Virginia’s record blue, length-wise, remains a 2014 fish that went 47.75 inches.

In Ohio, an angler caught what appears to be a new state record yellow perch, whether he gets credit for it or not.

According to multiple media reports, an angler named David Berg was fishing Lake Erie from shore when he hooked and landed a yellow perch that weighed 2 pounds, 14 ounces, and measured 15.73 inches long and 13.5 inches around.

The existing Ohio record weighed 2 pounds, 12 ounces and was 14.75 inches long.

So what’s the issue?

Berg had his fish weighed at a tackle shop that had once had its scale certified in the past, let that certification lapse, then had it recertified again after his catch was recorded. It wasn’t considered certified at the time he put his fish on it, though.

Debate about whether to consider his fish the new record is ongoing, but it’s a heck of a catch anyway.

Blog--Records -- FLA Flathead recordThirteen-year-old Charles Patchen with his record Florida flathead.

In Florida, a 13-year-old boy fishing with a Zebco 33 reel spooled with 14-pound test line caught the state record flathead catfish earlier this month. It weighed 63.8 pounds.

That topped the previous state record by 8 pounds.

Charles Patchen was fishing for panfish originally, but when they stopped biting, his stepfather suggested using one of the bluegills for bait. That’s when the big cat hit.

A Missouri man recently caught a state record spotted bass, one measuring 17.5 inches and weighing 2 pounds, 11 ounces. He caught it on a “jug line,” which Missouri recognizes under its “alternative methods” category that takes in fish caught using jug lines, throwlines, trotlines, limb lines, bank lines, spearfishing, snagging, snaring, gigging, grabbing, archery gear, and atlatls.

It’s the 12th record fish caught in Missouri this year alone.

And finally, there’s this.

In Texas, an angler caught and released an alligator gar that many believe might have rivaled, if not topped, the existing state record, a 302-pound fish caught in 1953.

Blog--Records-- GarMight this have been a new Texas record alligator gar?

Bob Frye is the editor. Reach him at 412-838-5148 or See other stories, blogs, videos and more at

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Bob Frye is a storyteller with a passion for all things outdoors. He hunts, he fishes, he hikes, he camps, he paddles, backpacks and snowshoes depending on the season. If he’s not an expert at anything, it’s because he’s passionate to try a little bit of everything.