A 30-year-old man from Corona Del Mar was spear fishing off of Dana Point last Friday evening when he caught a truly gigantic fish: a giant sea bass, in fact. He also caught a lot of flak from fellow fishermen — and a misdemeanor citation with a potentially serious fine and possible jail time. The giant sea bass is considered “critically endangered,” meaning that it is close to extinction, and therefore is a protected species in California.

Officials from the Department of Fish and Game say that the man speared the giant sea bass, also known as the black sea bass, at around 7:30 p.m. at Salt Creek Beach. A concerned citizen apparently saw him catch the giant fish, took a photo, and notified a passing California Highway Patrol Officer, who detained the fisherman until a DFG warden could arrive.

The young man explained to the DFG warden that he did not know that giant sea bass were off-limits or endangered.

“Ignorance of the law is no excuse, especially when poaching state-protected species,” said a representative of DFG’s Law Enforcement Division. “Giant sea bass are endeared my many ocean enthusiasts because of their size and docile nature.”

According to reporters from Southern California Public Radio, it is not unusual for other fishermen to take an active role in preventing others from taking protected fish. In a similar story that took place a few years ago in San Diego, a fisherman expressed the general outrage that someone would spear a giant sea bass, saying “He makes us look like a bunch of idiots.”

Although it’s true that taking a protected fish results only in a misdemeanor citation, the fines could be substantial — estimates range from $680 to $2,000. Jail time could also be a possibility.

Whenever you’re faced with a misdemeanor citation or arrest, it’s important to understand the full consequences before you plead guilty. In a situation in which you receive a ticket, paying that ticket is considered pleading guilty. It may seem like it’s not a big deal to be charged with a misdemeanor or infraction, but keep in mind: Any criminal conviction can have short- or long-term consequences you may not realize.

Source: KPCC Southern California Public Radio,, “OC man cited for spearing giant sea bass, a protected species, off Dana Point,” Don Frances, June 6, 2012