Catching Big Roosterfish

The number of rocky points and underwater structures around Drake Bay, Costa Rica are the perfect habitat for roosterfish. This magnificent species is only found from Baja, California to Peru. They are beautiful, hard fighting gamefish that have a rooster comb, which is seven long spines comprising the dorsal fin. Roosterfish are generally caught around, or on top of, submerged rocks in 50-150 feet of water.

There are many methods to catch roosterfish. In the 20 years I have fished for these fish in Drake Bay, I have found that free-lining live bait has proven to be the most effective. On the Reel Escape we us a 7 foot medium/heavy spinning rod, 80 lb braided line on a reel with a very strong drag with a circle hook. If your bait is fresh and lively you generally will not need any additional weight.

When the roosters are active, we tell our clients to be ready and hold on because the bite can be ferocious. With this live bait method, we keep the bail open (keeping one index finger on the line) when the fish bites we allow the rooster time to eat the live bait for around 8-10 seconds. Because we are exclusively using a circle hook their is no setting the hook, you simply close the bail and start reeling. Not setting the hook is a very foreign concept to any angler who grew up Bass fishing. The urge to jerk the rod up when you feel a bite is often irresistible. When you set the hook fishing for roosterfish, virtually 100% of the time the results are a lost fish, or as we say in Costa Rica, Sancocho.

When the bite is hot, roosters will also hit a dead bait using the same method. Depending on the strength of the current you may need to add a little weight to get the bait further down in the water. Once hooked the rooster will dig, violently shake his head and make several runs after seeing the boat. A roosterfish in the 70lb+ class will give any angler a good one hour fight before being carefully released back into the ocean.

While catching roosterfish using live bait is the most productive method for numbers, catching one on a top water bait is a blast. We cast large top water plugs in bright colors right next to the rocky points. Roosters will aggressively hit these plugs, often missing them and then  returning for them over and over again. Often times, you will see two or three fish chasing the same plug. This is a heart pounding sight every serious fisherman needs to experience!

The third method we use to catch roosters is trolling. Although typically not as fun as live baiting or casting top water plugs, this method can be very productive as well. We troll ballyhoo on the outriggers along the shoreline and rocky points. Regardless of how you fish for this incredible, exotic gamefish – catching them is a blast. In the Drake Bay area we are not only blessed with great numbers, but with very big fish as well. We have no doubt that a new world record is possible in the Southern Pacific Region of Costa Rica, so come fish with us on the Reel Escape and set a new record for roosterfish!

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