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Roosterfish (Nematistius pectoralis)
- Size 20 to 40lbs
- Food Value Low
- Game Qualities Excellent
- Habitats Inshore, Nearshore, Flats
Roosterfish are a prime example of exoticism in sport fishing. These relentless and erratic fighters are quickly gaining popularity with anglers worldwide, especially among fly fishing enthusiasts.
The voracious predators boast seven long black dorsal filaments that flair up spectacularly above the water as they repeatedly skip across the surface during hunting. They're schooling pelagics, but feed mostly in shallow flats up to 60ft deep and are known to chase their prey no mater what, even if it means beaching themselves. This also means they can be caught from the shore.
Roosterfish can grow up to about 6ft and can weigh in at over 130lbs. Even though the official IGFA record stands at 114lbs, a possibly record shattering behemoth was set free off Las Arenas.
The average catch will be between 20 and 40lbs, but fish over 50lbs are frequently caught, even off the beach.
This beast probably took hours to boat. Caught aboard Sea Star I in Tamarindo, Costa Rica
When & Where
Roosters are native to eastern Pacific waters, ranging from Mexico (where most of the largest fish have been caught) down to Peru including the Galapagos Islands, with Costa Rica, Panamá, Colombia and Ecuador hosting renowned fisheries. Cabo San Lucas, La Paz and Puerto Vallarta are known as excellent hotspots in the Baja waters.
The immediate tropical zones boast year-round abundant presence of Roosterfish, whereas Mexican fisheries will see peak inshore action during the spring and summer.
How to catch
This species is easiest to find trolling around areas that allow the fish access to deeper waters. However, the most memorable battles will be fought over shallow flats, the fish being extra aggressive there, presumably because it's where they feed.
If trolling or sight casting from a boat, a number of larger live baitfish will work. These include smaller skipjack tuna or jacks, ladyfish, mullets, rainbow runners, herrings or halfbeaks. If casting from the shore, plugs or poppers get the job done with rapid retrieval jerks, as they can be cast farther. However, it is very likely that the fish will just follow the lure a little and then lose interest.
Much like other flats species, Roosters are not at all shy about grabbing flies, and various types will be effective. The technique is as with similar fish - keep the fly moving with fast strips, as the chase will be over if it stops. Live chumming will be good for getting the fish closer to the surface and jump starting a feeding frenzy.
Once hooked, the violent initial run with rapid direction changes will be shadowed only by the insanely hard pulls Roosters are known for. A helpful factor in this will be that they, unlike some other Jacks, don't generally dive for rocky covers that can cut your line. This is why light tackle will often be enough to land the big ones.
Sometimes the beautiful stripes will make for another striking detail. Playa Ocotal, Costa Rica
Good to eat?
Smaller fish can taste good; larger ones not so much, but are often sold in local markets to unsuspecting customers.
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