The angling world has been split once again this week following the claimed capture of a huge 42lb 8oz Norfolk Broads pike.
The photograph of the massive specimen was sent to Angling Times, with captor Craig Humphries insisting he caught the predator from a boatyard on Hickling Broad in the final days of the river season.
However, despite Craig being adamant the image is genuine, many expert pike anglers claim it has been subjected to computer manipulation.
And although photography experts believe the image reveals another huge Broadlands pike, doubt remains after the captor could not send the original digital image – something that would have removed any shred of doubt.
“I took the photo on the balcony area of the houseboat and the fish was returned to the water quickly, and unharmed to swim for another day,” said Craig.
“I take a great deal of pride in the way I handle fish I catch and allowing such a magnificent creature to die for the sake of a photo would never enter my head. I guess the negative comments about it being fake are normal.
“I’ve used a program to take the photo off the camera, but all I have done to the image is rotate it, crop it centrally and try to brighten/clean it up. Subsequent to that, all I have done is give it a name and make a back-up on to a USB stick for safe keeping,” he insisted.
One man who believes the catch is genuine is John Goble, the angler who banked the record Broadlands pike weighing 45lb 8oz at the same time last season.
“I went straight down to congratulate Craig and shake his hand,” said John.
“I’m chuffed for him. It’s definitely a 40lb pike and a different fish from the one I caught. I believe it’s a fish that another angler I know caught as a thirty a few seasons ago. I knew my pike wasn’t the only giant pike in the Thurne System,” he added.
But internet forums went into meltdown just days after Craig’s photo was posted on the Go Fishing website, with many claiming the fish is just yet another elaborate hoax.
“I’m really not sure about it – I must be getting increasingly sceptical in my old age after having seen so many hoax fish,” said AT columnist and former British pike record-holder Neville Fickling.
“I’ve never seen a pike that big with so few spots, it’s very unusual. If it does turn out to be a hoax then the truth will out in the end, it always does. I don’t think wanting to be certain of the truth is necessarily a bad thing,” said Nev.
Another angler who remains to be convinced is Stephen Harper, a leading authority on Broadlands pike and the man who caught John Goble’s fish a number of seasons ago as a thirty-pounder.
“My first thoughts on seeing the photograph was that, for a 42lb Thurne pike, this fish is a very unusual shape, and I must admit, my suspicions were immediately aroused,” said Stephen.
“The head of this pike, although big, looks very short and the overall body shape is most unusual compared to other Thurne fish in excess of 35lb. It’s also very unusual, but not impossible, for a Thurne pike of this size to appear ‘out of the blue’, with no previous history. Usually, these big fish have been caught before at lower weights and are known fish, which this fish is not.
“I would be very interested in seeing more photos of the fish, especially the original digital images from the captor’s camera. It would be fantastic if there are two 40lb-plus pike swimming in Broadland,” he added.