SAN DIEGO – What a way to save a day! Kevin Nguyen of Placentia was returning from a fruitless offshore trip to The Corner for bluefin tuna on July 26 when, on a whim, he stopped his family’s Boston Whaler center console at the Point Loma kelp and baited a leftover sardine on a 25-pound rig he’d tied to target small bluefin.
He and his family didn’t have long to wait. “Suddenly my rod went off,” he says. “We kept fighting it, and at first we thought it was a stingray.”
The fish – he could tell it was large – swam away from the kelp to open water. Then, 5 minutes later, it flashed silver and they all knew they had something much better than a ray. It was a white seabass.
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“It turned around 4 or 5 times,” Kevin says. “We saw it and it was huge, really big!”
Kevin’s brother Anthony Nguyen stuck it with a gaff. A second came in and they lifted it into the boat. Kevin couldn’t believe what he’d caught, by far the largest seabass he’d ever seen.
“It was 62 inches in length from the head to the fork,” he says. “We were very happy, laughing, in my entire life I never expected to catch that kind of big fish. A once-in-a-lifetime catch!”
Kevin credits the Owner Mutu light circle hook he used with keeping his catch secure during the fight. The reel was an Accurate Boss Extreme 600 Narrow spooled with 80-pound Suffix braid and 25-pound Seaguar Blue Label fluorocarbon. The rod was a Phenix PHD760H, 7-foot 6, rated for 20- to 60-pound.
A few days earlier, Kevin had hefted his brother’s 85-pound bluefin without breaking a sweat. The thick white seabass was much harder to lift.
It wasn’t until later when Kevin was already carving up his prize catch that someone suggested he take it to one of the sportfishing landings with a certified scale. IGFA white seabass records are impressive. Until recently, the all-tackle mark was 83 pounds, 12 ounces, set by Lyal Baumgardner off San Felipe, Mexico, in 1953. That fish was surpassed by an 88-pound fish caught by Ricardo Reyes Martinez in late April. He was surf-casting for snapper on the Pacific side of Baja in a region southwest of La Paz. His catch is pending IGFA certification as the new all-tackle record.
Missing out on a potential world or state record didn’t faze Kevin Nguyen. “I brought it to my friend, a professional, and he said in all his life he’d never seen such a fish before. And I just said, ‘We’re lucky.’”