NEW BEDFORD, Mass. — After a tight campaign, could the race for Massachusetts governor come down to a fish story?

Democrat Martha Coakley, trailing Republican Charlie Baker in recent polls, called on her opponent Friday to answer “legitimate questions” about a story he tearfully told during the campaign’s final televised debate about a struggling fisherman who regretted pressuring his football-playing sons into a hard life at sea.

Baker later acknowledged that the conversation with the New Bedford fisherman – who has not been identified or located – occurred not during the current campaign but sometime during his unsuccessful run against Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick in 2010.

On Friday, Baker insisted that the story was true but that he likely got some of the details wrong.

Coakley visited the state pier in New Bedford, one of the nation’s busiest fishing ports, and said Baker needed to clarify the story.

“Now we are hearing, as he walks the story back, well, maybe it wasn’t New Bedford, maybe they weren’t football players, so we are really left wondering what this story was about,” said Coakley, the state’s attorney general.

While not accusing her opponent of lying or crying crocodile tears, she suggested the story could have been an “amalgam,” adding: “I think he should answer those questions.”

The controversy erupted from a seemingly innocuous question near the end of Tuesday’s debate.

Asked when they last cried, Coakley answered that it was earlier that day at the funeral of a friend who died of leukemia, the same illness that killed her mother. When it was Baker’s turn, he choked up while recounting the story of the fisherman.