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Old 03-17-2007, 12:34 AM   #1
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Default 36-pound striped bass in the Laguna Beach surf.

Fisherman catches huge striped bass from Laguna Beach surf
Joe Russo caught a 36-pound striped bass in the Laguna Beach surf.
Register columnist
[email protected] Joe Russo did not want to lose this fish.

He was fighting something big in the surf last year and lost it without knowing what it was and didn't want the same thing happening again.

"Please don't come undone" he kept pleading.

Russo of Garden Grove was surf fishing early Sunday evening, killing time before he had to pick up his girlfriend at the airport.

After having no luck in Newport Harbor, Russo relocated to a favorite spot on the surf in Laguna Beach. Ten minutes passed without success, so he tied on a blue mackerel Crocodile lure to his 14-pound-test line.

While retrieving his second cast, he noticed the wake of a fish swimming toward the lure.

"And sure enough, it just nailed it," Russo said.

He set the hook and the fish immediately made a 30-second run straight out to sea.

"Then I guess it was 20 minutes," Russo said. "I'd gain line and it would take line out. I'd gain line and it would take line out.

"I just followed it down the beach to keep it in front of me."

It took him 100 yards south.

Nearby, David Bement of Mission Viejo was sitting on the beach with his wife, watching the sunset.

"She looks over at him and says it looks like he's got something," Bement recalled. "Then she asked why don't I bring my rod. I told her I wasn't all that interested in catching perch because that's all I ever see people catching."

After a while, Russo was still battling, the fish putting a nice bend in the rod.

"He sure is milking that perch," Bement quipped to his wife.

Obviously, it was not a perch. A bat ray maybe? Russo had no idea but was thinking 20-pound white seabass.

The fish was 15 yards out when he identified it.

"The dorsal fin came out of the water and the top part of the fish, and I could see its stripes," he said. "That's when I realized it was a striped bass. Then I was really getting nervous because I didn't want to lose it...because I knew how rare it was."

By then, Bement was among a crowd of people watching the fight and taking photos.

Russo tried beaching the fish a couple of times, but the receding waves would drag the fish back out.

"A bigger-sized wave came in and I ran up and pulled it up onto the beach with the wave," Russo said. "As the water receded, I just grabbed him, put my hand under the gill plate and dragged him up the beach."

He landed the fish just before sunset and needed to get to the airport, so he put the fish in the trunk and didn't weigh it until 2 1/2 hours later.

The striper went 36 pounds, 11 ounces.

"That's pretty much the holy grail for most surf fishermen, especially one that size," Russo said. "I haven't heard of anything over 30 being caught in our area."

A few stripers are caught off our beaches every winter but are usually less than 10 pounds. Occasionally there's a 15-pounder. Frank Selby of His and Her Fly Fishing in Costa Mesa remembered a 26-pounder.

Bill Hogan of Hogan's Bait and Tackle in Dana Point recalled a 20- or 22-pounder but said "a 36 is the biggest I've heard of."

"That's a big fish anywhere," Selby added. "It doesn't matter where you catch it."
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Old 03-17-2007, 10:43 AM   #2
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Old 01-02-2008, 07:27 PM   #3
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