The Kremlin released video of the 60-year-old leader netting the fish and hauling it into the boat.
"Vladimir Vladimirovich, be careful, she can bite," an aide warned.
"I will bite her myself," Putin said, planting a kiss on the fish's head. “She is a beauty.”
Opposition members openly mocked the photo op, questioning the reported size of Putin's catch and intimating the whole thing was staged.
"A pike that heavy just could not swim," tweeted pro-opposition journalist Oleg Kashin. "She would sink to the bottom! In fact this pike was made from granite."
"It's certainly a large pike, and President Putin can be justifiably proud of catching it," said fisheries management consultant Dr. Bruno Broughton. "Historical records of pike weighing about 46 pounds 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."
Putin has admitted in the past the wildlife stunts are just that. Photos and videos showing the president as a rugged outdoorsman -- tagging whales, riding a horse while shirtless, and even guiding Siberian cranes in their migration -- were set up.
"Yes, I know, they were caught before," Putin said, referring to a 2011 incident in which he was shown frolicking with an endangered snow leopard, "but the most important thing is to draw public attention to the problem."
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