Catfish eaten before being verified can’t qualify for record

COVENTRY, Conn. (AP) — Uncertainty about the species of a massive catfish that was eaten before it could be vetted by authorities in August has led Connecticut to withdraw its awarding of a new state record.

Connecticut Fish and Wildlife wrote in a Facebook post on Monday that because it was not able to examine the actual fish, authorities cannot confirm it was a white catfish.

“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,” state Fish and Wildlife wrote, adding that it is not disputing the weight of the catch that was made on Aug. 21.

Ben Tomkunas, 25, of Coventry, who caught the 21.3-pound (9.66-kilogram) fish, said he gave it to his grandfather the morning after he caught it and it was eaten.

“I can’t believe that they think it’s OK to do this to someone,” Tomkunas told the Journal Inquirer. “It’s such an embarrassment.”

It can be difficult to distinguish between white catfish and channel catfish, which are generally larger.

The previous state record for a white catfish was a 12.7 pound (5.76 kilogram) fish. The International Game Fish Association has recorded the world record for a white catfish catch to be 19.3 pounds (8.75 kilograms) for a fish caught in 2005 in California.

Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection spokesperson Will Healey urged anglers to keep any potentially record-breaking fish until authorities have confirmed its species. He acknowledged, in an email to the Journal Inquirer, that the initial announcement of a new state record was premature.