Newport Beach angler may face fines for endangered species catch

NEWPORT BEACH — A fisherman could face up to $1,000 fine and six months in jail for landing a five-foot-long black sea bass last weekend at the Balboa Pier in Newport Beach. Amateur angler Jon Apothaker hooked and landed the huge catch Jan. 3, attracting a crowd of spectators, Internet exposure and the California Department of Fish and Game. Black sea bass is an endangered species protected by the State of California. As Apotheker wrestled the still-breathing fish ashore, passersby told him it might be a protected species, Apothaker told the Daily Pilot. The angler claims he did everything in his power to revive the fish. A man on the beach let him use a pair of pliers to remove the hook , and a young girl with a bucket ran back and forth from the surf with buckets of water to pour over the bass' gills, the newspaper reported. Apothaker and a surfer spent the next 45 minutes in the water trying to get the fish to swim on its own, the Daily Pilot reported. Eventually, the fish drunkenly swam off. When he got back on the sand, the police were waiting to question him about the catch. The giant fish washed up dead on the shore Sunday, according to Newport Beach Animal Control. "If we find there is a violation, then we will forward it to the district attorney's office,'' California Department of Fish and Game Lt. Dan Sforza told the newspaper. "If caught, the law requires you to immediately release them.'' Apothaker said he has learned that, "in hindsight ... even if the fish in dying on the surface and has hooks on it, it's best to leave it there to die,'' the Daily Pilot reported. "Once the sea bass hits the sand, it becomes illegal.''