Nothing could have prepared veteran Rim Country angler Dennis Zubek for the surprise he hooked while fishing the main lake at Green Valley Park.
"The fish is being called an ‘albino cross' and it's the only one ever taken out of Green Valley Park," he said. "It might be the only one ever caught in the state."
Landing the rare fish, which occurred about 9:30 a.m. Dec. 30, spurred Zubek to start a research project to learn the background and species of what he had caught.
"I first took it to Bashas' to have it weighed and measured and the butcher told me he'd never seen a fish like it," Zubek said. "No one at (Payson) Parks and Recreation knew anything about the (species), so I called the Arizona Game and Fish Department."
From state game officials, who are responsible for stocking the lake with catchable-sized trout, ubek learned the cross albino, which weighed 1.24 pounds and was 13-1/2 inches in length, is actually a species of trout and probably came from a fish hatchery near La Jara, Colorado.
The fish has albino-like appearance and also a pinkish strip that runs the length of the body.
Zubek called wildlife technicians at the Colorado hatchery who had, on Oct. 17, stocked Green Valley Park with about 450 pounds of rainbow trout.
"They told me the albino cross is also called a golden trout and they are being bred in Colorado for sight fishing, because they are so easy to see in the water," Zubek said. "The technician said ‘maybe five goldens were loaded into his truck' when it (traveled) to Arizona to stock (urban) lakes like GVP.
"Although they (the hatchery technicians) didn't know which Arizona lakes the goldens had ended up in, they guessed at least one had gotten into GVP."
The golden that found its way from Colorado into the Payson lake, is "probably the one I caught," Zubek guesses.
The Payson angler's catch is a first for the local fishing program, but there's no place in state fishing history books for the fish.
Since no goldens are known to have been caught in Arizona before, there is no category or division for them in AG&F record books.
Zubek's caught the rare fish with a low-tech method.
"I was using one of those small pocket fishermen that my wife, Dee, had given me for Christmas," he said. "I have probably $5,000 in other fishing equipment, but I caught this on a one of those compact rod and reels you see advertised on television."
After hooking the fish Zubek frantically reeled the golden in thinking he might have a hard-fighting carp at the end of his line.
"But then I saw it jumped like a trout and I knew I had caught something really different," he said.
Since landing the fish, Zubek has kept it on ice, with plans of taking it to a local taxidermist to have it mounted.
"Who knows, I might never catch another one like it," he said. "I've fished for more than 40 years, but this was the most unusual catch I've ever had."