Catching HUGE Roosterfish in Costa Rica By: Salt Life Team Member, Capt. Willy Atencio

The number of rocky points and underwater structures around Drake Bay, Costa Rica make the perfect habitat for Roosterfish.  This magnificent species is only found from Baja, California to Peru.  They are beautiful, hard-fighting game fish 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. Today, I’m here to tell you about several methods we use to catch some of the largest Roosterfish in the game. Buckle up, because the Roosterfish are sure to bite.

There are many methods to catch Roosterfish.  In the 20 years I have fished for them in Drake Bay, I have found that free-lining live bait has proven to be the most effective.  On our boat, the Reel Escape, we use a 7-foot medium/heavy-spinning rod, 80 lb. braided line on a reel with a very strong drag, and 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 to hold on tight, 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 Roosterfish time to eat the live bait for around 8-10 seconds. Since we are exclusively using a circle hook there 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, Roosterfish will also hit 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 70+ pound 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 topwater bait is a blast.  We cast large topwater plugs in bright colors right next to the rocky points.  Roosters will aggressively hit these plugs, often missing them and coming back over and over.  At times you will see two or three fish chasing the same plug.  This is a heart-pounding sight every angler needs to experience!

The third method we use to catch Roosterfish is trolling.  Although typically not as fun as using live bait or casting topwater plugs, this method can be very beneficial as well.  We troll ballyhoo on the outriggers along the shoreline and rocky points. 

Regardless of how you fish for this incredible, exotic game fish, catching them always gets your adrenaline pumping.  In the Drake Bay area, we are not only blessed with great numbers, but with very large fish as well.  We have no doubt that a new world record is possible in the Southern Pacific Region of Costa Rica. What are you waiting for? Hop on a plane and come fish with us on the Reel Escape. Let’s set a new record for Roosterfish in Drake Bay!


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