A Corona Del Mar man has been cited for illegally taking a protected giant sea bass while spearfishing off the Orange County coast, state officials reported Tuesday.

The California Department of Fish and Game said Scott Andrew Carlton, 30, was diving at Salt Creek Beach near Dana Point on Friday evening when he speared the fish, commonly called a black sea bass, a species given protected status by the state.

Authorities said a concerned citizen took a photo of the man and his catch and notified a nearby California Highway Patrol officer, who detained Carlton and alerted Fish and Game officials. Illegally taking a giant sea bass is a misdemeanor.

Prior to the 1950s, large numbers of giant sea bass could be found in the waters off Southern California, but most of the large creatures were harvested for their value as photographic trophies.

Known for their docile behavior, the slow-moving black sea bass lives mostly near the shoreline in deep rocky environments and can weigh up to 500 pounds and grow to lengths of seven feet.

This story was reported by Times Staff Writer Dan Weikel.