Roosterfish are one of the most sought after inshore game fish in the world. They are aggressive, posses incredible fighting power, and make for beautiful pictures. The only thing negative to say about them is that their dark red meat is not generally considered to be very tasty, but that is also a good thing as it motivates anglers to continue practicing catch-and-release for future anglers. When hooked roosterfish usually don’t take to the air but prefer long, powerful runs. Often times when you think you have this inshore bruiser beat it will see the boat for the first time and take off on another scorching run peeling off all that hard-fought line you just gained on him.
It would be stating the obvious to say that the defining characteristic of the roosterfish is their unique dorsal fin. Made up of seven spines, it resembles the comb of a rooster and is how they got their name in both languages (they are called ‘pez gallo’ in Spanish). The majority of the time the dorsal fin remains at rest in a deep groove along the top of the rooster’s back, but when excited it will raise it to appear larger and help herd bait fish they are after. Roosterfish feature two dark, wide stripes diagonally along their flanks and another that runs along their sides to the base of the tail. These bands range in color from dark blue to purple to black which add to it’s beauty in pictures. Roosterfish are also very unique in that their swim bladder makes contact with their inner ear, which enhances their ability to hear. They are the only known fish to have this feature.
Most roosterfish in Central America are in the 30-50 lb range, but several times a year we see 70+ lb monsters. The all tackle world record is a 114 lb 0 oz monster caught back in 1960 in Mexico. By law roosterfish in Central America are not catch and release and locals will eat them, but 99% of roosterfish we catch on sport fishing charters we release to be caught another day.
What Do Roosterfish Eat?
Roosterfish are an aggressive and predatory inshore species. They primarily feed on other small fish like sardines, mullet fish, small bonito, and blue runners. They’ve been known to chase bait for a long time as if trying to herd them towards a reef or beach.
Best Ways to Catch A Roosterfish
Any captain here will tell you that the best way to catch roosterfish in Central America is with live bait. They can be caught on poppers, swim baits or with spoons, but the tried and true method is slow trolling with live bait like blue runners or lookdowns. If live bait isn’t available or if you simply prefer to be casting lures, some of our favorites are Yo Zuri crystal minnows and bull poppers. Color patterns that mimic their natural prey of sardines, bonito, and mackerel are good ideas.
Where to Fish for Roosterfish
Roosterfish are unique in that they are only found in the warm Eastern Pacific waters. Their range is from southern California to Peru, but their numbers are most prevalent here in Central America where they can be caught year round. Roosterfish are caught in the surf and over sandy bottoms, but they really seem to love rocky islands and reefs the most. They can also be caught near river mouths if bait is present, though they are not typically seen in brackish water like snook. Roosterfish are not migratory, typically they travel less than 300 miles in their lifetime, so good catch and release practices will ensure their survival and a long lasting bite for years to come. Two of the best countries in the world to catch them are right here in Costa Rica and Panama thanks to the combination of rocky islands and reefs, river mouths, and plentiful baitfish.