Fishing Record Fish

Arkansas Angler Releases What Could Have Been the New State-Record Brook Trout

“They knew it was unusual for giant brook trout to be in that river, and they believed it was a state-record fish"
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megan gray with a large brook trout
Gray has been fly fishing Arkansas' waters since she was 5 years old. Megan Gray

When Megan Gray isn’t running the court as a point guard for the Hendrix College women’s basketball team or studying to complete her biology degree, she’s chasing oversized trout in Arkansas’ famous waters. Gray was wade-fishing for trout with her boyfriend, Oliver Naumann, Sunday in the Little Red River when she hooked into a potential record-setting brookie.

It was cold and the pair weren’t having any luck in their first spot, so they moved upriver near a dam and started catching small rainbows. After about 30 minutes of fishing, Naumann told Gray he thought he could see a huge brook trout in shallow, air-clear water.

“I waded over to Oliver, and we could see the fish holding in current down about two or three feet,” Gray tells Outdoor Life. “I thought, dang, I better try to catch that one, because it was big and brook trout there are not common.”

She changed over to an unweighted orange egg pattern fly and tried to tempt the trout.

“I cast and cast and cast, but the fish didn’t act interested at all,” Gray says. “I thought it might have been asleep. But on about my eighth cast to it, the egg fly just disappeared, the fish then moved, and took off. I started screaming and yelling for Oliver to get the landing net.”

Gray fought the trout close to the net in Naumann’s hand. But the fish took off again. She battled the brookie back toward Naumann a second time and he netted it.

brook trout in a net
Gray's brook trout caught the attention of other anglers nearby. Megan Gray

At that moment, well-known White River guide Duane Hada was walking past on his way to another area of the Little Red River. He was accompanied by a retired Arkansas Game and Fish Commission employee. They stopped to watch the unfolding action.

“They were awestruck at the size of the brook trout,” Gray says. “They knew it was unusual for giant brook trout to be in that river, and they believed it was a state-record fish.”

That part of the Little Red River is catch-and-release only, so Gray couldn’t weigh the trout. None of the anglers had a measuring tape, but by holding the fish against his rod, Hada calculated the brookie Gray had caught was 17.38 inches long. They estimated the fish’s girth at 15.38 inches and that it weighed 5.5 pound pounds.

The current Arkansas brook trout record is 5 pounds, which means Gray’s trout would have been a new state record if it hadn’t been released.

Gray and Naumann shot photos of Gray posing with the trout in the net, which her dad posted to Facebook. There’s no question it’s a brook trout, and a huge one by any standard.

“After I unhooked it and let it go, it just held stationary in the river current on bottom for a while,” Gray says. “I watched it, then looked away, looked back, and it was gone.”

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Gray is a veteran fly angler and learned the sport from her father, Michael. She caught her first fish on the fly at the age of five. Since then, she’s caught rainbows up to 12 pounds and brown trout to 15 pounds—all from Arkansas rivers with fly fishing tackle.

“I felt good about releasing that big brook trout,” she says. “I’m glad that someone else may catch it, too.