Jonathan Apothacker feared he was on the hook this time, facing six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
All because he caught a fish -- a really big, and endangered, fish.
"I had nothing to do with gaffing the fish, or beating it over the head. The only thing I performed was the rescue," Apothacker said.
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Prosecutors didn’t see it that way. The scene was captured on half a dozen home-video cameras, then posted on YouTube.
The Valley Village man contended he went after the fish because his line broke in its mouth, not knowing it was a giant black sea bass.
Videos show boater John Brady using a hook to grab the 150-pound bass.
Apothacker then dragged the fish ashore next to the Balboa Pier and tried to cut a hook out of its mouth as a crowd gathered around him.
Authorities said at that point he broke the law -- giant black sea bass must be immediately returned to the sea.
"Once the fish landed on the surface of the water it was about 40-45 minutes between the time it was dragged on shore, left on shore and then returned to the water,” said Deputy District Attorney Yvette Patko.
Both Brady and Apothacker pled guilty to an infraction on Wednesday. They must both do 120 hours of community service cleaning beaches or working for the Department of Fish and Game.
"It's the wrong way of making a point," Brady said. "There's other ways of going about it other than wasting tax payers dollars on an issue like this."
Apothacker's attorney said other fishermen have posed with giant sea bass and not been charged with a crime.
"If you don't know what it is…just leave it alone and call fish and game," Apothacker said.
About a week after the incident, a dead giant sea bass did washed ashore, prosecutors said.
But Apothacker maintained that the last time he saw this fish, it was swimming away.