For Hawke's Bay fishing buddies Bruce Ryan and Michael Lange it may well have been the catch of a lifetime.

Back in February they hauled in a snapper — a mighty snapper at a "secret" fishing spot just north of Wairoa which hit the scales at 12.2kg, or 27 pounds in old weighing money.

Ryan is 76 and has been fishing "for a long time now" and Lange is 64 and has been fishing the best spots in the Bay, and around the rest of the country, for about 40 years.

"It was the biggest snapper I've ever seen," Lange said.

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"When I ran down to the shoreline to pick it up I just couldn't — I had to drag it up the beach."

Ryan agreed.

"Yes, have to be the biggest."

They were sparked into telling the tale of their monster catch after reading recently about the 8.1kg snapper Jason Williams hooked after surfcasting off Marine Parade late last month.

Ryan said they were delighted at Williams' catch, as along with the couple of snappers they had pulled in back in summer it showed there were still some fine fish "out there".

However, while they had indeed hauled in the "catch of a lifetime" on their 20-hook contiki, they could not take all the credit — even more so as the chap who had set the line was at the time at Wairoa Hospital — getting a fish hook removed from his foot.

"So it was half ours I suppose," Ryan said with a chuckle.

"It's been pretty good lately — as long as they keep the trawlers away it should stay that way," Lange said.

The pair, along with another couple of local snapper-seekers, had enjoyed some good results at the secret spot (although the locals know it well) and baited up and sent out their contikis.

Their mates put theirs out first and as they were sending theirs out further along the beach one of them came to see how they were getting on, but erred by walking through the surf.

One of the outgoing hooks struck his foot and began to pull him out.

He used his knife to cut off the tracer.

"Good thing he didn't cut the line itself," Ryan said.

They alerted his mate and they helped him to their car and off to hospital he went to get the hook removed.

"When we pulled our line in we had a 20-pound snapper on, so that was good," Ryan said.

"They weren't there, having gone to hospital, so we pulled theirs in for them and there it was ... the big one."

And "no" he said firmly, echoing the honour among fishing folk, there was no question of he and Lange claiming it.

"Their line, their fish, but we did pull it in for them," he added with a smile.

They had thought initially about releasing the giant snapper but discovered the hook had gone too far into its gullet and could not be drawn out.

He agreed with Lange about the present state of the Bay for recreational fishing.

"There do seem to be some good numbers out there."

Ryan said he struggled to hold the great fish for a photo later in the evening, but eventually managed. So, while he did not get to keep the snapper, he has its portrait.

While the resulting image was not too strong, the memories most certainly are.