When Tom Yacovella peered over the side of his 12-foot Sea Nymph at the potential record-setting brookie below, he said a quick prayer.
"I said, 'God, just let me get this one in the boat and I promise I'll be good,'" he said with a laugh.
Minutes later, Yacovella's prayers were answered as he eased the 5-pound, 4-ounce brookie to the net. At just 21-inches, the football-shaped female had a massive girth of 15 inches.
He caught the monster June 7 on Raquette Lake in 24 feet of water on a three-and-a-half-inch Rapala. Yacovella described the fight as "vicious" and said he is still amazed he was able to boat the fish by himself.
The fish has been certified by the state and appears to have broken the former state record set by Jesse Yousey in 2006 by five ounces. An official state announcement is pending.
While Yacovella has 52-plus years of brook trout fishing experience under his belt, he said he never thought he'd hold one of the most coveted freshwater records in the state.
In fact, he didn't set out that spring day to set a record - only beat his personal best of a four-pounder.
But, as fate would have it, the Utica-based wildlife artist and avid outdoorsman managed both.
For Yacovella, it was the ultimate culmination of a lifelong love affair with native brookies.
"I'm still in shock, it seems surreal," Yacovella said. "I absolutely love brook trout. I think they are the purest strain in the Northeast."
Although humble about the feat, Yacovella is most certainly deserving of the big fish. Those who know him are well aware of his attention to detail - a fact evident in his artwork as well as his outdoor pursuits.
In a recent discussion about the record fish, Yacovella quoted French chemist Louis Pasteur, who said "chance favors the prepared mind."