With a half moon lighting the calm surf, Joseph Ali figured he would go lobster hunting Monday night at the end of the Huntington Beach Pier.
After more than an hour free-diving through the barnacle-covered pilings, the Huntington Beach resident came to the surface hugging a nearly 18-pound monster "bug."
"It's the biggest lobster I've caught in my life," he said of the spiny crustacean.
For Ali, 27, whose parents own Zack's Pier Plaza, going out alone in the 53-degree water to hunt among the pilings did not warrant a second thought.
When he closed up shop, he suited up, jumped in and started kicking toward Ruby's.
After bagging four regulation-size lobsters, Ali noticed what he thought might be part of the old pier. He explored the underwater structure and swam toward the underside for an average-size lobster he saw scurry in.
When he peered into a hole, he saw the 17 3/4 pound monster and knew he had to snag it. He kicked back to the surface and prepared for the grab.
"I took a couple deep breaths and then bam, straight for the hole, and I grabbed him with one hand," he said.
As Ali latched on with his left hand, he found that the 26-inch-long lobster wasn't going to be taken without a fight.
"When I gabbed him from the top of his head, he bucked into my face so my mask came off," Ali said. "I had to drop my light, and I had to grab him with my body and swim him to the top."
Bear-hugging the creature to the surface, Ali said it would barely let go of his wet suit. With his mask gone and cuts on his hands from the 1 1/2-inch tail spikes, he wrestled it into his bag and headed home.
Ali said he was "amped," and when he showed the catch to family and friends, his mom commented that she "doesn't even have a pot big enough to cook it."
According to the California Department of Fish and Game website, a lobster over 5 pounds is considered trophy size.
"There are records of male California spiny lobsters weighing over 26 pounds and attaining lengths up to three feet," the website said.
Ali's catch may not be a record, but he doesn't mind. He just can't wait to eat it.