A smoked fish dinner sadly wasn't on the menu for a helicopter pilot who caught a barracuda in his monsoon bucket.
Jay Bryant of Northland Helicopters was helping put out a massive scrub fire in Matai Bay on Monday when he saw the fish "flopping away" on top of the water beneath him.
The fire had blazed through 10 hectares, threatening several Far North homes, before it was brought under control.
Bryant was part of a team of three helicopters working with monsoon buckets to quell the flames.
"We were just on the fires putting water on them and I saw a barracuda flip flopping on the top of the water and scooped him up."
Bryant thought he'd show off his catch by dumping the fish through the monsoon bucket's valve to the crews working below - but it got stuck.
"I was going to deliver it to the guys on the fire line but he wouldn't go out the hole.
"The fish got jammed in the hole and the bucket wouldn't seal again so I had to get someone pull him out."
By Monday January 2 the fire, thought to be lit by a stray firework on New Year's Eve, was well under control Bryant said.
"Basically we were just damping down, putting out hotspots."
Bryant landed and freed the fish and someone took a photo of the unlikely fisherman with his catch.
Rather than take the fish home to eat, Bryant dumped it in the nearby scrub because he suspected it had been sick and barracuda are "full of worms anyway".
It was the weirdest thing Bryant had ever scooped up in his bucket, but he'd caught plenty of jellyfish and plastic bags in his time.
Bryant said he was glad the fire was able to be controlled before it did any damage to people or homes, but said it was a shame it appeared to be man-made.
People who deliberately breach a fire ban in the Far North can expect to be charged with arson and get a bill for the cost of extinguishing the blaze, a senior rural fire boss has said.
A prohibited fire season was announced for the Far North yesterday as ground conditions dried out and elevated the fire risk, meaning no fires can be lit.
Northern principal rural fire officer Myles Taylor said rural firefighters had been working since Boxing Day on fires, many of which had started with non-permitted fires.
Today, crews remained at Matai Bay where they were ensuring there were not more flare-ups.