A 10-minute battle with a lunker-sized rainbow trout might soon land Payson angler Eric Smith in the Arizona Game and Fish record books.
All Smith must do for his 7-pound-15 3/4-ounce fish to become eligible for A.G. & F's yearly "Big Fish" award is to fill out the proper paperwork and submit it to game officials.
When that is complete, the trout is almost a shoo-in to be a record.
The current record for a rainbow caught in an urban lake is a 5-pound-8-ounce fish hooked by Gene Zale Nov. 29, 2005 at Mesa Red Mountain Lake.
Smith landed his monster Jan. 3, 2006 at Green Valley Park while fishing with friends and fellow Payson Regional Medical Center employees Bruce Hatfield and Jeff Stump.
After hooking the fish, Smith wasn't sure what he had at the end of the line.
"I thought it was a log or that my line was hung up," he said. "When I saw it was a trout, I was shocked."
Being a seasoned angler and a frequent visitor to GVP, Smith knew what it would take to land the record-setter.
"I would pull him and then let him run, pull him in and let him run," he said. "It was a tug of war."
Arizona Game and Fish Urban Fishing Program Manager Jeff Swanson believes Smith's strategy paved the way to landing the monster.
"Too many fishermen get excited and try to pull them in too quickly and they lose the fish," he said. "I don't know Eric, but it sounds like he's a good fisherman."
Smith's tense battle with the lunker also drew a good deal of attention from onlookers.
"I yelled to Jeff to come see what I had and all of a sudden there was a crowd watching," he said. "It was exciting."
After Smith finally landed the whopper, he weighed and measured it at 25 inches long.
"We thought it was a record," he said.
In catching the fish, Smith used a hand-tied fly he's dubbed "a wooly burger by Eric Smith" as bait.
The catch of such a large, mature fish in a GVP lake surprised veteran anglers and biologists who have long believed most species die out during the hot summer months.
Swanson reasons, however, it is possible the fish had survived for some time in the lake.
"There is a remote possibility the main lake is deep enough that there is a cooler zone where he could have lived (through the summer)," he said. "But then again, our (trout stocking) supplier from Colorado has been putting some big fish in (urban lakes).
Payson Parks and Recreation Director Bill Schwind said GVP fishing record books are not kept, but there's no doubt Smith's catch is the largest trout to ever be taken out of the lake.