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Arizona Angler Shatters State
Rainbow Trout Record

September 29, 2006

Harold Wright of Sun City decided to cast just one more time while fishing at Willow Springs Lake on Friday, Sept. 29, and caught the fish of a lifetime: a new state record 15.6-pound, 32.5-inch rainbow trout.

Wright's fish shatters the previous state record rainbow weighing 12.3 pounds caught from Tempe Town Lake in 2002.

In a way, Wright can thank his son for the getting him in the right place at the right time -- he had not planned to go fishing last Friday. "My son called me up Thursday and said, 'You want to go fishing?' and I said, 'Okay, why not.'"

Wright explained that he and his son, Jake, usually fish Willow Springs along the Mogollon Rim a few times a year, but after "turning the golden age of 55," he bought a home in Sun City and has been busy remodeling it, so he had not had an opportunity to get out for some time.

Wright fished near the dam, and both he and his son caught a few good ones. He used green-colored Power Bait on 6-pound test line with a 4-pound leader and a 1-ounce slip sinker. He said the large slip sinker lets him cast a long way to reach the deeper portions of the lake, and the lighter leader allows the bait to float up off the bottom.

"About 11 o'clock, we decided it was time to go, but wanted to make just one or two more casts before leaving," Wright said. "I cast out and was just putting the rod down when it hit. It didn't hit hard or anything, but when I set the hook and felt the big fish, I said 'holy-moly.'"

It was quite a fight on the light fishing line. "It almost stripped all the line off the reel twice. I didn't try to horse it. I just tightened the drag a little and hoped I could tire it out."

The monster fish put on a show and jumped out of the water a couple of times. "I was looking down at my reel and didn't get a really good look at the fish when it jumped, but my son did and said, 'Dad, that's a really big fish.' I felt lucky just to see it but knew I'd never land it," Wright said.

The Wrights didn't have a net. Another angler fishing nearby brought over a net, but it was a small trout net that was not nearly big enough for the huge fish on the end of his line. After a 30-minute fight, Wright finally eased the big fish into shore and his son reached down and grabbed it by the gills.

Wright brought the big fish to the Arizona Game and Fish Department headquarters to be weighed. Department biologists say the fish could be as young as five years old, but is probably seven-plus years of age. He is having the record rainbow mounted.

Curiously, Wright checked the solar tables for the best fishing times on Sept. 30, and the best times were 5 a.m. and 11 a.m. "I guess you never know. I was just in the right place at the right time," Wright said.

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