Unofficially scaled at 80 pounds!
BY PAUL LEBOWITZ
DANA POINT – Kayak angler Brian Beam of Mission Viejo is having the time of his life. On Saturday, Beam cashed in on his first legal white seabass, a fish of a lifetime scaled at an unofficial 80 pounds. In the informal world of kayak fishing, a new all-time record.
“I’m feeling blessed and humbled,” says the lifetime angler who only picked up kayak fishing a year back.
Beam was fishing with his good friend James Loud of San Clemente. They launched at the Dana Point ramp at about 6 a.m., picked up some excellent bait at the receiver, then headed out the harbor mouth with a nary a sense of the history that would be made that day.
The red tide was still in, so the pair headed for the color line, the place where the dingy reddish brown water started giving way to green.
“Thirty minutes out of the harbor I saw what looked like the Fourth of July on my fishfinder,” Beam says. “It lit up like fireworks.”
They’d found the bait, and underneath, Beam recalls the biggest returns he’d ever seen on a fishfinder.
“I fly-lined a sardine out, and within 30 seconds got one of the fiercest strikes I can remember from my kayak,” Beam says. “I had to be careful. I was using 30-pound test.” Some anglers would say he was on bass gear, a Shimano Tranx 400 HG saltwater baitcaster backed with 40-pound braid. The reel was mated with a Shimano Terramar Inshore rated 20-50. The leader? Thirty-pound pink Seaguar fluorocarbon. A tiny #2 Mustad Ultrapoint bait hook was the business end.
“It was the first time you threw something in the water,” points out wingman Loud.
“I dropped a bait and that’s all she wrote,” Beam responds. “To me that’s winning the lottery.”
A 45-minute battle of endurance followed, with the fish towing Beam a mile and a half south to Capo Beach. He was clear out of sight of Loud, who was still looking for his own hook-up.
Beam brought the still unidentified fish up near the surface several times. Each time it would dive to the bottom fast and ferocious. “We played that game for 30 minutes and I never could see what it was,” Beam says. He was full of adrenaline and focused on not losing his prize. It helped that he was on a Hobie Mirage Outback pedal drive kayak, as he was able to follow the fish when it ran. Beam says his spool never got more than halfway depleted.
Finally, the fish came up sideways, 4-feet down, and Beam got a good look. “I thought it looked as long as my kayak,” he says. “I didn’t have the gear to land something large, just a rope attached to a falling-apart carabiner.” That’s when he keyed his VHF, asking his wingman Loud to come over to lend a hand.
“A lot of credit is owed to him,” Beam says of his friend. “He played a vital role.”
For his part, Loud says, “Are you kidding? It is awesome to be a part of this.”
By the time Loud arrived, the fish was exhausted, floating at the surface. There was no need for a gaff. With his rod tucked between his legs, Beam reached over with the rope, threading it through a gill and out the mouth.
“I cut the ever-loving heck out of my hand,” Beam acknowledges. It was a small price to pay for such an indelible victory.
Interestingly for such a mature white seabass, it retained well defined color and prominent stripes on its body. “The more I learn the more exciting this gets,” Beam says.
When they returned to the harbor, they found there was nowhere to take the massive fish that had a certified scale. “It was unfortunate timing with the COVID shelter in place order,” he says.
Instead, they took it home and weighed it on a bathroom scale. The needle fluctuated between 79 and 81 pounds, so they called it 80. Beam is sure it was an undercount. The fish was measured at the dock at 59 inches, just under 5 feet long, but they didn’t think to measure its girth.
The prior kayak record white seabass, a 75 pounder caught by kayak fishing pioneer Dennis Spike in May 2000, also never saw a certified scale. It was weighed in 3 large chunks. There is no certifying body for kayak fishing records. They are all unofficial, enshrined in community memory, as befits an informal sport that celebrates rugged individuality.
Beam isn’t concerned about celebrity or notoriety. He’s grateful for the experience, one that validated his “golden rule” to learn something new every time out. He figures his most recent lessons learned were essential in winning a tough battle with a fish of a lifetime. Those are understanding how baitfish move in the water column, how predatory fish track baitfish and at what water depth, and natural-looking bait presentation.
But the best part for Beam was sharing his success. “The fish brought some families together,” he says. “We used this opportunity to help feed families in need. It brought the community together.” That’s a fitting finale.