The mightiest catch

Retired Glendale Unified administrator Michael Livingston set the world of sport fishing abuzz this week after hauling in a yellowfin tuna that weighed in at 405.2 pounds, likely a world record.

"It is the experience of a lifetime," Livingston said. "You talk about instant celebrity — I have people calling me from Australia."

More than 100 people Monday crowded around the fishing hook scale at Point Loma Sport Fishing in San Diego to see the yellowfin tuna — which measured 85 inches from nose to tail and 61 inches in girth — hoisted into the air.

"You could see the excitement," Livingston said. "When they jacked that fish up and it was over 400 pounds, it was unbelievable."

The catch has been submitted to the International Game Fish Assn. for official review. It is expected to be confirmed as an all-tackle world record, smashing the previous record of 388 pounds set in 1977.

The 63-year-old Sunland resident began fishing as a boy, and continued to make regular fishing trips during a 35-year career as a teacher and principal at Crescenta Valley and Glendale high schools.

Livingston set out Nov. 26 from San Diego on the 80-foot Vagabond, part of a 10-day big-catch fishing expedition destined for waters west of Magdalena Bay, Mexico. The trip proved fruitful — the fishermen onboard landed several 200- and 300-pound tuna, known as "cows" and "supercows," respectively.

But none were as big as Livingston's fish, hooked on Nov. 30. It took nearly three hours to reel in, and several men to pull aboard.

Vagabond Capt. Michael Lackey "taped out" the tuna, a process used by fishermen to calculate weight based on the fish's length and girth, on the spot, giving it a conservative estimate of 397 pounds.

"We knew we had a giant fish, but the tape is a good estimate, not a perfect science," Lackey said.

Using his satellite phone, Lackey called his wife and several other boat captains to tell them about the catch. The news hit the Internet, and when the boat docked Monday, a crowd was waiting.

"It was amazing," Lackey said. "I have never seen anything like it … He is just an outstanding person; it couldn't have happened to a better guy."

Livingston's prize fish is being refrigerated in San Diego waiting to be mounted. He plans to hang it on a wall in his home. Until now, he said the biggest fish he had caught was 100 pounds.

Some fishing rod companies offer cash prizes to fishermen who reel in record-setting fish with their equipment. Livingston caught the 405-pound tuna with a no-name 51/2 -foot rod purchased for $20 at a fishing expo, which he then modified with the help of a friend.

But the catch could help give a boost to a sport that has struggled during the economic downturn — and that is enough for him, Livingston said.

"The impact on the whole industry is just unbelievable," he said.

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