A County Down angler has told how he was denied an Irish record for the largest pike ever caught — because his weighing scales are not certified.
Harry Stevens from Downpatrick landed the monster 46-pound fish recently while fishing on the River Erne at Enniskillen.
The current Irish record for a pike is 42 pounds and was caught on the River Barrow in Co Carlow in 1964.
The problem for Harry is that his scales, which were bought in Argos for €10, have not been approved by the Irish Specimen Fish Committee.
Their rules state: “Fish must be weighed in the presence of independent, reliable witnesses on a properly certified scales, for example a shop scales or an official club scales which is covered by a certificate from the Weights and Measures Officer.”
So Harry is left holding an unofficial Irish record pike.
He said: “Unfortunately for me my scales aren’t registered. I primarily fish for small fish like roach and bream.”
It was while staying in a chalet at the Killyhevlin Hotel that Harry first locked horns with the huge pike. He and Harry junior, his 24-year-old son, were reeling in small fish when the pike started biting.
Harry then attached a wire trace to his 20 pound breaking strain line and the pike snapped that off as well.
After improvising with a new trace, Harry hooked the pike and struggled with the giant fish for 30 minutes before he could land it.
“I was shaking like a bloody leaf after it. I was totally exhausted, just like the fish,” he recalls.
Then he had to get into the river and lift it out.
“I had to get my feet wet for that one.”
He had a large landing net at home but does not think it would have been of any use to him.
“I would have needed a crane to get that thing in,” he said.
“It was just totally out of his world. I have never seen a fish like that in my life.”
And having looked his massive opponent in the eye he put it back into the water to live and fight another day.
Harry’s record may be unofficial, but he doesn’t care.
“I’m just pleased to have caught it,” he says. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime fish.”
And he means it; he has no ambition to catch it again, even if he had the certified scales that would make the record official.
He reckons that pike could be up to 30 years old and the stress of being caught again could kill it.
“I have caught it once. I’m happy enough,” says Harry.