A monster 1m grass carp is back lurking in Lake Tutira after being released by an angler who hadn't fished the lake for a decade because it stank.
Ashley Perfect, a 52-year-old Otaki College biology teacher, landed the carp in a 45-minute early-afternoon struggle while fishing with wife Jody and their children on January 21.
Perfect knows the lake well - the former Colenso High School pupil learnt to fish at Lake Tutira, about 40km north of Napier with his Matahoura grandfather in the 1980s.
Quite why the supposedly vegetarian carp took the tiny Mrs Simpson fly that Perfect had just bought in Napier will be a mystery to many anglers.
Without scales or measuring tape, and not keen on eating it, Perfect put it back to fight another day.
The carp's proportions in the photographs taken by Perfect's wife show the angler struggling to hold the large carp which he estimated to be 1m long, and upwards of "30 pounds" – maybe even 15kg or more.
"I've caught trout over 20 pounds in the South Island before, this dwarfed any of them, it was the longest I've ever fought," he said as he recalled why he'd given up on the lake for about 10 years, and how he was welcomed back just minutes after he let fly upon his return.
"I called in with a school group when we used to go up to Lake Waikaremoana about 10 years ago," he said.
"There were dead fish and eels around the edge of the water. It stunk."
Carp had been introduced years ago to help clean it up, and Perfect said his father, in Napier, had told him it had "cleaned up a lot".
The lake was made famous in the waiata Tutira Mai Nga Iwi, composed by Wiremu Te Tau Huata (Ngati Kahungunu).
On the day of his monster catch, the lake was in "pretty good nick".
So was the grass carp, which had bitten like a trout shortly after the fly hit the water.
"When it went out on the first run it took all the line out ... I couldn't stop it. It just had too much power.
"I was worried there wasn't a lot of backing left," he said. "If it had kept going I would have had to let it go. I wasn't going to break the rod."
He didn't know what it was until the fight was almost over, but remembered telling his wife: "If it's a brown (trout) it's going to be a North Island record…at least."
He would have been more than happy with a trout on the day, but the target species wasn't biting.
Grass carp average 60-100cm, but can grow up to two metres and 45kg.
They are cultivated in China for food, but were introduced to New Zealand for aquatic weed control.