The biggest-ever English pike has been claimed from a Lake District trout fishery - but the captor released it without taking a photograph.
Jeff Dandy, who admits he did not realise the significance of the catch, said his main concern was returning the 46lb 1oz beast safely.
Had the weight been confirmed, it would be the biggest pike ever caught in England and would be just 10oz shy of the 20-year-old British record from Llandegfedd Reservoir in Wales.
Jeff, who is a competent pike angler despite favouring fly fishing, said he was not aware of the magnitude of the capture.
The Barrow-in-Furness rod told Angling Times: “I am absolutely genuine. I didn’t want any publicity - I’m not interested in that. My big concern was getting that fish back in the water. I can understand the doubters but somebody is going to catch it again.”
Top pike angler Neville Fickling said: “Esthwaite has produced pike to 37lb in the past. It’s gone through a bit of a lull but is now producing big pike again, so it’s not impossible for a fish like that to turn up.”
Esthwaite fishery manager David Coleman doesn’t believe Jeff would have made up the story: “We had a pike wash up dead earlier in the year that was well over 35lb.
“There are always going to be doubters, but we told Jeff to bring his scales in and we checked them against a set of Reuben Heatons and they were smack on. He’s an honest guy and I have no reason to doubt him.”
Jeff presented a floatfished roach from a boat and tamed the pike after a 20-minute battle using 30lb braid, a Shimano Baitrunner and a Fox Pikemaster rod.
He said: “It fought like absolute stink but when we got it to the boat and netted it I knocked the unhooking mat in the water in the panic and it floated off before I could get it back. To cut a long story short, we basically wanted to get the fish back in the water as quickly as possible.
“I was with my boat partner who’s in his sixties and I’m 56 - we’re not fishy-tale people!
“I’m kicking myself now. We did have a phone with a camera on it, but I didn’t actually realise at the time that it was near the record.”
Jeff, who said the fish was not bloated and looked immaculate save for a mark left by the hooks on its left jaw, added: “I’ve nothing to prove it so I’ll just have to catch it again - that’s going to be my mission.”