My money is on the guy slinging it over his back heading off the pier. Second shot seems like you mind if I take a picture with your fish kind of pic. That shot is actually a screen grab from a video that shows the guy head off the pier with the fish and stopping to receive congratulations as he passes by other anglers on his way out.
28.35. WHITE SEABASS.
(a) Minimum size: Twenty-eight inches total length or twenty and one-half inches alternate length. (b) Season: Open all year.
(c) Limit: Three, except that only one fish may be taken in waters south of Pt. Conception between March 15 and June 15.
There doesn't seem to be a "Methods of take" reg. for White Sea Bass. Even if the fish was snagged, I don't think it would be considered illegally taken.
(1) I had not seen the video before but it does bring up another question. The day I was at the pier a couple of weeks ago the fence at the end stopped anglers from fishing the end area where the demolition of the restaurant is taking place. It's hard to see but it appears that fence was up while these guys are at the end. Given no fellow anglers are shown, and there are always many anglers at the Newport Pier, especially at the end, it would appear they were already breaking the law by fishing at the end (although perhaps he would say he had to follow the fish to the end).
(2) Unfortunately, snagging is allowed although it is primarily intended for multi-hook bait rigs intended for bait. The regulations do not do a good job of distinguishing between snagging for Sportfish species such as white seabass and species like sardines and herring. And, unfortunately in my opinion, bait rigs like Sabikis have become the main rigging for many anglers.
The following two provisions define to me (1) what is actually angling (the fish voluntarily takes the bait or lure inside its mouth) and (2) why there is a problem ((any number of hooks and lines may be used in all [most] ocean waters). UPSAC brought this problem to the Fish and Game Commission many years ago with basically no response.
1.05. ANGLING. Angling means take of fish by hook-and-line with the line held in the hand, or with the line attached to a pole or rod held in the hand or closely attended in such manner that the fish voluntarily takes the bait or lure inside its mouth. All know there has been ongoing controversy with anglers snagging salmon that have entered freshwater areas.
28.65. GENERAL. Except as provided in this article, fin fish may be taken only on hook-and-line or by hand. Any number of hooks and lines may be used in all ocean waters and bays except:
(a) San Francisco Bay, as described in Section 27.00, where only one line with not more than three hooks may be used.
(b) On public piers, no person shall use more than two rods and lines, two hand lines, or two nets, traps or other appliances used to take crabs.
(3) There has long been a history of people snagging fish on both the Newport and Balboa piers (among others). People line up usually near the surf area, cast out heavy lines with large treble hooks and colored pieces of cloth, and snag whatever they can. I am sure those fish are then sold illegally.
In the video it appears the angler is fishing the inshore area but later the fish is shown at the end of the pier. Perhaps he hooked it inshore and followed it around the fence to the end? It is strange that the type of angling rig or bait is never shown although he makes a big deal out of his various rods/reels. Nor is the type of rig shown at the the end of the video when they bring the fish up to the pier. Why? It is hard to say or prove if this was a snagged fish but there are certainly a lot of unanswered questions (which will probably never be answered).
A snagger waiting for a fish to show.
The large spotfin croaker shown below from the Balboa Pier is one of those snagged fish.
I don't know the answer although I have sent a note to my friends at DF&W. Perhaps we will hear an answer.