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First White Seabass Hatchery Fish Caught


In June, Randall Holman caught a 28 1/2" white seabass -- one of the most important catches made off the Southland coast in years. Why? Because Holman's fish was the first confirmed catch of a legal white seabass from Southern California's ongoing white seabass hatchery program.

For nearly ten years, the California Department of Fish & Game's Ocean Research Enhancement and Hatchery Panel has worked in concert with several organizations in capturing, breeding and raising thousands of white seabass. Before the fish are released at 6-8 inches in length, each one is implanted with a microscopic tag to allow tracking of its movement and growth should it be caught in the future.

Upon review of Holman's fish, officials determined that it was released in 1994 from the grow-out facility in Channel Islands Harbor.


WON article from 7-9-99 on the "FIRST LEGAL"
WSB caught with a Coded Wire Tag

WON Staff Writer

HUNTINGTON BEACH - The $100,000 United Anglers/Yamaha California Anglers Sportfishing Tournament (C.A.S.T.) is designed to attract new members to the conservation group, and as of last week about 1,000 anglers had signed on for the 100-day tournament.

However, the C.A.S.T. tournament has brought a new awareness to the importance of finding fish with the tiny binary coded tags imbedded in the cheek of hatchery born white seabass.

The publicity surrounding the tournament piqued the interest of a commercial thresher shark fisherman when on June 19 he caught the first-ever legal white seabass of over 28 inches while trolling a rigged mackerel while looking for threshers one mile off the Malibu Pier.

Randall Holman, a Lucky supermarket butcher who holds commercial fishing licenses for shark and lobster, hooked the barely legal white seabass on a fluke, and is not entered in the C.A.S.T. tournament. Yet he heard about the event and how the angler entered in the tourney who catches a white seabass with the oldest binary tag will win an 18-foot Parker center console with a Yamaha outboard.

After making some calls on where to bring the fish' head, he brought the fish head to Pierpoint Landing, one of the 30 official C.A.S.T. sign-up/weigh-in stations on the coast. The head was transferred to the Carlsbad hatchery where the white seabass' head was scanned. It indeed had the 1/4-inch wire tag, which showed by its tiny markings that the 6-pound fish was released from Channel Islands Harbor's growout facility at eight inches long in 1994.

The fish does not qualify as an entry in C.A.S.T. because Holman was not entered in C.A.S.T., but nevertheless it is historic because it is the first-ever legal white seabass raised in a hatchery that was released and recovered several years later as a legal fish.

"Although hundreds have been caught by fishermen, most of them by the DFG in trawls for studies, none with the tags in them have been legal-sized," said Tom Raftican, president of United Anglers of Southern California which oversees the dozen or so white seabass growout facilities on the SoCal coast.

"This is truly a significant event after all these years of raising and releasing coded white seabass. We feel that we've finally come full circle. Although it won't count in the C.A.S.T. tourney, it was the awareness brought about by the tournament that brought this fish to be scanned."

The question now is only how many more tagged fish will be caught in the 100-day tournament that began May 29. The Western Outdoor News/C.A.S.T. Leader Board has been updated this week, and results of the first week of the C.A.S.T. Kids competition with a $5,000 Rollo Heyn Memorial Scholarship up for grabs, will be available. It began July 4.

WON readers should be reminded that you can sign up at any time during the 100 days, and all fish caught in all tournaments are eligible in the C.A.S.T. competition.

There are a number of ways to win one of the three boats, long range trips and tackle worth $100,000. You can compete whether you're on a partyboat, a private boat or fishing from the beach. The way you can't compete is if you don't sign up, either for $15 or $40, depending on whether or not you are a current United Anglers member, which costs $25 a year.

"There are 30 weigh stations in Southern California available to sign up and/or weigh in your fish in six categories with prizes in each category" said United Anglers President Tom Raftican. "Entrants can weigh in fish caught in any other events, so while you're competing in one tournament and catch a big fish, you can simply enter that fish in C.A.S.T. at an official weigh site."

The eligible species of fish are bass, barracuda, halibut, tuna and yellowtail. Of course, there is the special category for white seabass in which the angler who weighs in the white seabass with the oldest tag or coded wire in its head will win an 18-foot center console Parker with 115 hp Yamaha outboard and Pacific Edge bait tank.

The June 15 catch of a legal white seabass with a coded wire tag serves as a reminder that anglers entered in C.A.S.T. who catch legal white seabass during the 100-day tournament should save the fish's head and deliver it to one of the weigh stations. The head then will be transferred to a facility where it will be scanned to see if it contains one of the tiny coded wires implanted by hatchery personnel. Most people in the hatchery program figure a fish in the 30 to 35-inch class will have the oldest tag imbedded in its cheek.

Of course, the other way to win in C.A.S.T. is to catch the biggest fish and just weigh it in. Each category has great prizes through third place. The biggest tuna earns an angler a Royal Star 8-day trip, the biggest yellowtail a Bongo's charter trip, biggest calico bass gets a Dreamer charter, the top barracuda is worth a Capt. Hook II charter and the biggest halibut is worth a GIII Yamaha skiff with 25 hp 4-stroke outboard and bait tank.

The grand prize is a beautiful 18-foot Century center console with 115 hp Yamaha, Pacific Edge bait tank and trailer. The winners of the five fish divisions are put into a grand prize drawing.

According to Raftican, the winner of the boat then gives up his first place prize which is given to the second place finisher, the second place prize is given to the third place finisher and third place prize is handed to the fourth place finisher.

There's a few rules to follow, of course, but the No. 1 rule is this: You have to enter before you weigh in that lifetime catch. There would be no worse feeling knowing that 10-pound bass won't be in contention because you didn't sign up.

Call United Anglers at (714) 840-0227 to sign up, or do so at one of the 30 sign-up/weigh-in stations or mail in your entry by filling out the form that will appear in several issues of WON during the course of the event.