Isla Parida, Chiriquí (PA)
Just by looking at a roosterfish (Nematistius pectoralis), you can immediately tell how they got their name. Their trademark dorsal fin resembles a giant mohawk or the comb of a rooster. Beyond the dorsal fins, the rest of the roosterfish body is unique as well.
Many roosterfish are taken on poppers and stickbaits worked along sandy beaches. But according to experienced fishing guides, large roosters are found more often in deeper waters and prefer live bait rigged with a circle hook.
Roosterfish are an endemic species of the warmer coastal waters of the East Pacific from Baja California to Peru. The biggest roosters weigh more than 60lb.
Roosterfish are caught in warmer tropical and subtropical waters such as the Pacific Ocean from Central America up to California. Some of the best locations are Guatemala, Panama, Costa Rica and Mexico. They are generally not found outside of the Eastern Pacific Ocean.
The best way to catch roosterfish is with live bait. Slowly troll a line with a larger baitfish on it. Roosterfish might apprehensively nibble at the fish before hooking on, so don’t reel in prematurely. A recommended bait is skipjack tuna, although any bait per the recommendation of the local bait shop will work.
If you prefer to use lures over live bait, many recommend using loud poppers on the backside of waves. Others recommend lures that skip along the top of the water. Lures aren’t the recommended way to catch roosters, but it’s possible and they will attack lures if they’re aggressive.
Roosterfish are generally accepted as only an okay fish to eat. Their meat is darker than most fish meat and can be tough, so it’s more of an acquired fish taste and not for those who are on the fence about eating live caught fish. Many people just opt to catch and release roosterfish.
Most state and national governments have loose restrictions, if any at all, on roosterfish since they are not an endangered or overfished population as of right now. Make sure to check local restrictions regardless.
Regulations vary by location, so make sure to stay up to date with the regulations in your area of fishing if you plan on fishing without a charter.