Lie detectors winkle out fishy tales

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Fishermen who claim a share of a pounds 50,000 prize have been told that they must pass a lie detector test to check that they are not exaggerating.

The firm organising the contest, Normark Sports, imposed the rule after its insurers said that they were worried about tall stories in the search for the record catch of a predatory fish, using a plastic lure, between next June and December 1999. John Mitchell, the managing director of the Devon-based company, said: "This is a safeguard for us but also a safeguard for winners.

"I would not want a legitimate claimant not to win, or to win a smaller amount of money, because of a fraudulent claim." But he was quick to stress that most anglers would not lie in order to win.

"I would emphasise that the vast majority of British anglers are completely honest," he said.

Colin Scull, of the British Record Fish Committee, agreed. "I have been involved in angling all my life and I do not think there is a more honourable bunch of people than anglers."

But some anglers are prone to exaggeration. In 1987, taxidermist Roy Whitehall was awarded the British record for a 43lb 12oz pike. But fraud was discovered when a man recognised the fish as one he had caught and sent for stuffing, which had been stretched. Mr Whitehall still ended up a winner when the fake fish was sold for pounds 4,200 at auction.

Another famous fraud involved a Swiss angler Jurgen Notzli, who in the Eighties bought huge fish and "caught" them in his garden pond.

Lie detectors are not new in fishing, though. A United States competition, the "Crappiethon", used them to test anglers claiming $25,000 (pounds 16,500) for catching fish specially marked with plastic tags.