Brian Fagan of Poway rocks kayak world with 74.2-pound white seabass
By Rich Holland
January came and went with big storms and plenty of wind and giant swells, yet kayakers who went for it had a great a month fishing La Jolla for yellowtail and white seabass and it’s hard to say anyone had a better month than Poway’s Brian Fagan. On Thursday, January 28, not only did he catch his first tanker (a seabass over 50 pounds), Fagan rocked it with one of the biggest white seabass ever taken from a kayak, a 74.2 pounder that was officially weighed at Dana Landing in Mission Bay.
KayakFish got in touch with Fagan Monday morning February 1 while he was picking up after the big blow the day before to get his story.
“Around New Years the yellowtail bite was going insane and there were some white seabass being caught, too,” says Fagan. “Then we had some big storms, but then from the 10th to the 15th the bite went crazy again with even more white seabass. I said, well, I am going to keep going.
“There have been a lot of big swells. Luckily in La Jolla, depending on the swell direction, even when you see big waters hitting the rocks up by Windansea, you can always get out,” notes Fagan. “Going in can be scary.”
Fagan says when he decides he’s going to hit it in his kayak, a 13-foot Hobie Revolution, he’ll call his buddies to see if they want to go, but he’s going to go no matter what. For Thursday’s dawn patrol he headed out solo in the dark.
“I launched about 5,” says Fagan. “Launching in the dark there are times when the moon is out and you ca see perfectly. Sometimes it’s so dark you think you are a moron out there. When a dolphin or seal splashes near you it can startle you pretty good until you see it’s just a seal.
“I made bait at quarter to 6 and got a dozen perfect 6-inch greenbacks, pedaled out to my spot and sent a bait down on a dropper loop,” adds Brian. “As usual, the bite came right at the gray, just before it got light.”
Fagan has been fishing La Jolla from his kayak for eight years and caught many white seabass and yellowtail from his Hobie.
“I’ve caught a lot of seabass over 40 pounds, but never one over 50,” he notes, saying he pinned the little greenback mackerel to a ringed 1/0 Gamakatsu circle tied to 40-pound Seaguar fluorocarboon on 65-pound braid. “The bait was down there about 5 minutes and I felt a tap tap and I thought a little calico bass was messing with my bait. I reeled real fast, missed the fish, and within a minute the taps happened again.
” I reeled again and hooked up. For a few minutes the fish didn’t move, it felt like bottom,” adds Fagan. “Then the fish took off and that was a great thing to feel.”
He said it wasn’t a big sizzling first run, just a steady cruise with the kayak in the tow.
“The steady run and the fact I couldn’t lift the fish made me think I had a black seabass on, I have caught a dozen of them,” recounts Fagan. “The fish took me around a boat that had been out there all night. I asked them if they had hooked any black seabass. When they said no, I told ’em that’s what I got.
“About 30 minutes later, I still thought it was a black seabass, it was just too heavy, so I didn’t even ready the gaff. Usually I take the tennis ball off the tip,” Brian says. “When the fish got to color, I just remember going numb. My first thought was that it reminded me of an aquarium, like I had just been dropped in a tank with this huge fish.
“I reached for the gaff, took off the ball, the fish came up right next to the boat and I stuck it perfectly right behind the gill just below in the stomach,” says Fagan. “Then I guess adrenalin kicked in because the fish was in the kayak and I don’t even remember pulling it into the boat. I’ve had back surgeries and usually I am really careful about lifting.
“With the tail of the fish at the tip of the bow of the 13-foot Revolution, the fish’s head was just under my chin,” he adds. “With the fish on the Mirage drive, it made it completely unusable.
“I brought a paddle, and being the kayak fishing addict I am, I figured, what the heck, they’re biting, so I dropped down again,” recalls Fagan with a laugh “Of course I was down a minute and got lit up again. It took off the same way again, so again I thought it might be a black, but that’s the way the other fish acted, so…
“I have to say that while I was fighting it, I wondered what I was going to do with another fish,” he admits. “About 40 minutes later it was a black, I revived it and said, okay, that’s enough.”
He asked kayakers in the area if they thought the fish was over 50 pounds and they all said it was easily bigger than his goal fish. Fagan still had to get back into the beach at the launch, balancing a huge fish in his lap and paddling.
“Lucking the waves were only little 2 footers,” he says. “I got inside but right when I got in a couple feet of water the kayak turned sideways.
“It was the fish or the kayak and I grabbed the fish and held on!”
Fagan said he normally doesn’t weigh fish in, but when another angler went goggle-eyed at the sight of the white seabass and told him he had to weigh it, they went to his house nearby and did the stand on the bathroom scale without the fish, get on the scale with the fish trick.
“He says, ‘Dude, there’s something wrong with the scale, it says the fish is over 70 pounds! You have to go to Dana Landing and weigh it'”, recalls Fagan. “So I took the fish over there, they were real nice and gave me a cart to use. We put it on the scale and it weighed 74.2 pounds. I got the fish I wanted.”
Editor’s Note: Consensus in the kayak community is that Fagan’s fish is the second biggest white seabass taken from a kayak, just behind a 75 pounder caught by Dennis Spike at the Deep Hole.