A 33-year-old fisherman who caught a British-record carp now regrets ever catching the fish after vicious online attacks and death threats were directed at him from rival fishermen, according to The Sun and The Telegraph.
Tom Doherty was making his second visit to RH Fisheries, a pay fishery that bills itself as “the premium U.K. venue for big carp.”
Doherty had been fishing the 10-acre lake for three hours when the monster carp took his bait. After a 20-minute fight, he landed the 70-pound, 4-ounce carp that had been nicknamed Big Rig.
If approved, it would be a British record for carp, beating the current record-holder by 2 pounds, 3 ounces.
As soon as word of the catch got out, other anglers began criticizing the catch.
At issue is the carp’s origin. Some claim the carp was hand-raised to its current weight and then placed into the fishery as a record-breaker and therefore can’t be verified as a national record by the Angling Trust.
Instead of a record, anglers were labeling it as a personal best, or PB.
“If this fish was in the Olympics it would definitely be Russian!” one commenter wrote on the RH Fisheries Facebook page. “Not the catchers fault though FairPlay on your new PB Tom.”
Another wrote, “Imported carp … Means nothing … Go catch yourself a true English fish not a bloated tourist.”
But that was mild compared to the threats he received.
“There have been death threats made; I don’t understand the mentality of these people,” Doherty told The Sun. “I am sponsored by a couple of different companies, and certain things have been said to them.
“People have threatened to rape my wife and kid – even though I don’t have a wife. I’ve not seen any threats myself; they have just gone to my sponsors. I don’t know how many.
“It happened within 24 hours. I think it is going to get worse. I have not yet claimed it as a record. It will get worse when that happens.
“I am keeping a low profile for the time being and hope it will blow over.
“I don’t want it to ruin my fishing. There have been comments about the threats on my personal Facebook. My mother tells me to ignore them.”
While several commenters defended Doherty’s catch, the critics accused fishery owner Rob Hales of exploiting fish-farming methods to promote his lake and even of rearing Big Rig in France before importing it.
Hales told The Sun the fish was 39 pounds three years ago when he started growing it as a project. He admitted it was stocked two months ago and it was slightly bigger then than it was when Doherty caught it.
He also said he purchased the fish from a U.K. fish farmer and that it grew to its current weight in the U.K.
“Some people feel it should grow naturally to that weight,” Hales told The Sun. “The reality is it has been legitimately caught. I wanted to do it as a sense of achievement – to grow Britain’s biggest fish.
“It is a bona fide British record. The threats Tom has received are shocking. All the lad has done is gone and caught a fish.”
But it sounds as if he wish he hadn’t.
“The divide this has caused has overshadowed it,” Doherty said. “Part of me regrets catching it. I just wish it was not so controversial.”
It is presumed the fish was released after getting weighed, which could mean more controversy down the road.
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