The opposition in Russia thinks there's something fishy about President Putin's latest macho photo op.
The 60-year-old president was pictured last week hauling in an enormous pike caught on a fishing trip in Siberia.
Video footage of the president, who has previously appeared in photo ops showing him engaging in outdoor exploits such as riding a horse with a bare torso and shooting a tiger with a tranquiliser dart, showed him dressed in the obligatory camouflage jacket and hat while hauling in a pike which the Kremlin claimed weighed 21 kg (46 pounds).
In the film Putin raises the pike on camera as an aide warns: "Vladimir Vladimirovich, be careful, she can bite."
"I will bite her myself," says Putin before kissing the pike on the head and putting it in a plastic container adding: “She is a beauty.”
The photo op proved too much for some Russians to swallow, however, with online satirists and commentators immediately questioning whether the incident was staged and, crucially, whether the pike weighed what the Kremlin said it weighed.
"Wonder who planted that fish for Putin to catch," said a caption placed under two online pictures, one of Putin holding the fish and the other showing Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev emerging from a river in a wetsuit with a satisfied look.
Seasoned professional fishermen and amateur anglers took to the internet to post images of their own catches which looked bigger, but inexplicably, weighed less. “This pike weighs no more than [26.5 pounds],” one commentator noted. “Unless it swallowed a bar of gold.”
Leading UK fisheries management consultant Dr Bruno Broughton was also sceptical about the claimed weight telling The Independent: "It's certainly a large pike, and President Putin can be justifiably proud of catching it.
However, the fish probably measures about 34-36 inches and could, at most, weigh 20lbs.
Historical records of pike weighing about 46lbs reveal that such leviathans would measure at least 48 inches and, in all likelihood, be longer than 50 inches... several orders of magnitude larger than this one."