THE OUTDOORS : Outdoor Notes / Rich Roberts : This Is One Time Tuna Leads to Something Much Bigger

The fortunes of fishing work in funny ways, even for spearfishermen. Tom Murray of Huntington Beach went diving for tuna and came home with a 65-pound yellowtail, which he will submit as a world record for spearfishing.

He battled the fish for an hour before finally wrestling it into submission and killing it with a knife, just as in the movies.

Murray, 35, was free diving--using snorkel gear only--with three Long Beach friends on a rare, calm day at Cortes Bank, 96 miles south of the Long Beach lighthouse last Friday.

“I was really interested in tuna,” said Murray, who owns a scuba-diving shop in Long Beach. “We saw some bluefin over 5 feet long. Got shots at ‘em but missed ‘em all.”


Near the end of the day, one friend, Jim Dexter, had taken a 32-pound yellowtail and Mark Lamont had 3, ranging from 26 to 30 pounds.

“I hadn’t got anything,” Murray said. “Then I was down for the last time at about 25 feet when three yellowtail came at me kind of aggressively. The fish were at about 20 feet. Two went over me, and I waited for the third to come up and shot him from about 10 or 12 feet from the end of my gun. It was a real lousy shot, an inch below the dorsal.”

The fish went down into the kelp at 80 feet. Murray followed him as deep as 50 feet, letting out his 320 feet of line.

Then the fish surfaced and towed Murray about 100 yards before tiring. Murray started pulling in his line and finally got close enough to wrap his legs around the fish, just as the spear shaft fell out.


“I wasn’t about to let him go,” Murray said. “I had a 60-foot tether attached to my belt with a buoy on the end and a fish stringer on the buoy, I was kicking and thrashing trying to pull the fish stringer to me. I got the stringer through its eyes and then got my knife out and killed it.

“We still didn’t realize how big it was. We have a 60-pound scale on the boat that bottomed out.”

Murray weighed the fish at John Dinsdale’s Mariner’s Point in Huntington Harbour. It measured 52 inches.

The all-tackle world record for California yellowtail is 78 pounds, taken by Richard Cresswell at Rocas Alijos off Baja California June 27, 1987.

Murray said his spearfishing record was verified by the Underwater Society of America in San Francisco. Steve Crooke of the Department of Fish and Game in Long Beach said the state record is 60 pounds, but as of Tuesday he hadn’t seen the paper work recognizing Murray’s catch.

Said Murray: “Those other two (yellowtail) were about the same size, so there are two more potential world records still out there.”

One match, more than 3,000 acres: That has been the toll of the Angeles National Forest fire north of Sylmar this week.

At first three deer hunters were arrested, but a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department investigation later determined that the blaze was started by the 10-year-old son of one of the men.


The blaze started at about 1:30 p.m. Sunday at Sand Canyon Road and the Santa Clarita Truck Trail. Deputy Richard Edwards of the Sheriff’s arson-explosives detail said the boy was on a daylong outing with the three hunters, six other children and two women. They were well off the road but not at a campsite.

“He was striking matches from a matchbook from his parents’ vehicle,” Edwards said. “One of the lighted matches he threw into a small, makeshift fire ring that had some loose grass in it. He continued to play in the area, and when he returned there was a fire starting to spread.

“Being 10 years old, he was scared to death and wandered away as if nothing had happened. Somebody else noticed it and reported it.”

When deputies arrived, Edwards said, the three hunters attempted to flee. One surrendered and the two others were flushed out by a sheriff’s helicopter, according to Lt. Ed Chenal of the Santa Clarita substation, who also said that none possessed deer tags.

All three were held overnight until the incident could be sorted out. One problem was that none spoke English. The boy probably will not be prosecuted, Edwards indicated. “His parents weren’t taking the blame,” Edwards said. “They were denying any knowledge of it. We were able to put it together with the kids.

“He’s very upset. It was just an accident. It didn’t appear they were being neglectful. The key to it is public education and conscientious behavior when they’re out there.”

But, Edwards said, “If you maliciously or recklessly start a fire, it’s against the law.”

The felony conviction has a maximum penalty of 16 months to 3 years in prison or a year in county jail.


Briefly Notes

Three Redding men caught by Department of Fish and Game wardens after shooting a deer out of season east of Shasta Lake were ordered to forfeit their weapons and perform 33 days of community service. They also were put on 3 years’ probation, during which time they can’t own a firearm or exercise hunting privileges. . . . Two Shasta County guides were fined $385 each after taking the wrong guy on an illegal spring turkey hunt. The hunter was an undercover warden. . . . Louise Ann (Angel) Bowles of San Jose has had the 950-pound, 8-ounce marlin she caught off Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, last May verified as a women’s world record for 80-pound line.