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Eric Prictson Photo of Eric Prictson
Gordo Banks Pangas
Email: gordobanks@cabonet.net.mx

Technique For Roosterfish 

Common name : Pez gallo, papagallo
Scientific name : Nematistius pectoralis
Size : 10 to 30 lb. average, but can reach 100 lb.
World Record : 114 lb., taken out of La Paz, Baja in 1960
Range : Eastern Pacific, ranging from Gulf of California to Panama
Distribution in Baja : North to Magdalena and throughout the Sea of Cortez.
Found Inshore-onshore, along sandy stretches of beaches
with rock outcroppings mixed in.
Description:  Gray back, silver body with two pronounced
diagonal stripes. Pectoral fin long and sickle shaped, dorsal
fin very elongated and supposedly has a likeness to a rooster's comb, hence the common name. Tail fin is deeply forked as is typical of all members of the jack family.   Commonly taken on live bait, with mullet and sardinas their favorite.   Rarely taken on lures, but when feeding will hit surface jigs. One of the top gamefish found in Baja, a furious fighter with unequaled stamina, unpredictable slashing moves, jumps and long screaming runs. Due to its distinctive first dorsal spines it can easily be identified.   Sportfishermen typically release these fish after taking a few  photos to remember them by, but local residents do enjoy eating them, meat is very dark but is used in stews or machaca, which is a process of drying the flesh with salt to preserve it.


         Roosterfish patrol the shoreline searching for schools
of baitfish, they will coral mullet and sardinas into tight balls
and then attack. Slow trolling live bait close to the shore is
the most productive technique for hooking into these fish,
with mullet being the favorite bait and sardinas second on
the list.
         They prefer sandy beaches that include some rocky
structure in the proximity. Typically they are found within
100 yd. to 200 yd. off of the shore, and when the baitfish
are abundant it is common to see the roosterfish actively
feeding, they will work right in the heavy surf and occasional
even end up on the bare sand while chasing bait. This is an
very impressive sight to witness the roosterfish in a feeding
frenzy and really gets an angler itching to get their rod and
try their luck at hooking into one of them.
         Equipment that is most suited for use from boats are
medium action bait rods, rated for 20 to 50 lb. line and that
are 6 to 7 feet long. Matched with a quality high speed reel,
with conventional casting type preferred. Penn 500 s & 535 ,
Shimano TLD 15-20, Diawa SL50H or similar models, all can
be good choices. Monofilament lines are standard, with the
majority of anglers using 20 to 50 lb. test, 30 lb. seems to
be the most popular strength of line for trolling bait.
         Ordinarily a 4 to 6 foot length of mono leader is used,
with 50 to 80 lb. preferred. It depends on the clarity of the
water and how aggressive the fish are, when the water is
crystal clear it is better to use the lightest leader in order to
attract strikes, but when the roosters are particularly
abundant and the water is stirred up and not too clear then
an angler can use the leaders up to 100 lb. Roosterfish do
not have sharp teeth but never the less they can wear
through lines and do have a barbed gill plate. The most
successful anglers with the highest hook up ratio typically
use a 50 lb. leader and 30 lb. main line. There is always the
chance of hooking into another species such as sierra,
pargo, jack crevalle, amberjack or cabrilla when you are
fishing close to the shore line. It gives an angler better odds
not to have a big snap swivel on your line because this will
spook the larger more weary roosters, but instead just run a
medium sized black ball bearing trolling swivel that has no
additional clips and is in the 75 lb. to 125lb. size.
         Short shank bait hooks are best and the size used
depends on the type of bait being trolled. With sardinas
hook sizes of # 1, 2, 1/0 & 2/0 can be used. When using the
larger baits like mullet, mackerel or caballito you should tie
on a 4/0 to 7/0 hook. In order to help present the bait as
lively as possible you should tie on your hook with a loop
knot such as the two wrap hangman's knot or a uni-loop
knot. It is important to always have a lively bait on that can
be seen swimming as naturally as possible. Baits should be
trolled between 50 and 70 feet behind the boat, if you have
your bait out too far it can be harder to set the hook due to
all the stretch in the mono line. More often than not an
angler will see the roosterfish come up on and boil on the
trolled bait, they will typically circle and whack at the
offering before actually crashing on it and sometimes this
can take quite a while, but it is important to be patient and
let the fish take the bait and swim away with it before
setting the hook too soon. Other strikes can be so
aggressive that all an angler can do is switch the reel into
gear and set the hook right away. When a roosterfish really
has decided to take the bait they usually will head down
towards the bottom and often will come at the boat while
they are swallowing the bait, this makes it difficult to get a
good set and an angler has to be alert to where the line is
heading in the water, if it is coming towards you all you can
do is reel like mad and keep the line as tight as possible.
These fish do not have that tough of mouths so it is not
necessary to set the hook too extremely hard but instead
just firmly and at a 45 degree angle, two or three times,
always being ready to reel any slack as fast as you can.
Right after feeling the hook they will usually make their
longest run and frequently they will jump and shake their
head during the fight as they try to get rid of the hook. At
times they can be seen feeding in an area but will not swim
towards the trolled baits or they are in an spot where the
waves are too high to risk maneuvering the boat, this is
when it can prove affective to cast a live bait to the feeding
fish and entice them into striking. It is always a good point
to remember that if you do have a strike and you end up
missing it as you try to set the hook, to throw the reel back
into free spool and be ready for the roosterfish to turn
around and come back for a second try, more often than not
they will return. If your bait has been weakened or has died
you can twitch it and then steadily reel it in to give it some
lively action and by doing this you can often coax the fish
into taking the bait.
         It is important to always stay alert and keep a close
eye on your bait, mullet particularly, they will actually jump
into the air and become very agitated when a hungry
roosters comes close and this is always a tell tale sign that
something is most likely about to happen and for the angler
to be ready to go into action.
        The best chance for locating larger Roosterfish is
typically from May through July and usually peaks right
about mid June. This is when huge schools of migrating
mullet move inshore along local beaches and attracts the
roosters as well as other gamefish. When the surf picks up
the bait becomes scattered, which makes them more
vulnerable from the attacking fish. Usually the fish will be
more actively feeding when there is a decent size swell
running. Average size of the fish in this early summer
season can be 30 to 40 lb. and every year there are
specimens that weigh 70 to 90 lb. taken. At other times of
the year when the water conditions are to their liking
roosterfish will go on the bite, but these are usually smaller
fish in the 5 to 20 lb. range. Although at any time of the
year the big ones can show up and are always unpredictable
this way. They prefer the water to be clean and ideally close
to 75 degrees. A small roosterfish will attempt to eat a bait
that is practically as large as they are, but this can prove to
be impossible to actually hook them and in the process can
empty the bait tank in short order.
        At other times the roosters will hit trolled rapalas and
on the higher speed dorado, tuna and wahoo type lures. Jet
and lead heads that are dressed up with hoochie type squid
or octopus skirts are one of their favorite and have account-
ed for many quality fish, but the general rule is if you have
live bait, use it before trolling artificials, but when the bait is
not available or has run out for the day go ahead and try the
lures, they seem especially affective when there is only
minimal amount of baitfish in areas close to the beaches.
       The largest schools of roosterfish that are encountered
are generally of smaller fish and during the winter or spring-
time, the largest fish come in early summer but do not
always run in big schools. When a run of roosterfish is in you
will notice that the local surf anglers go into full action, with
a mix of handlines and rods they chase the feeding fish up
and down the beaches throwing all types of hardware and
bait at them. Best success off of the beach is usually on
mullet, which are snagged with big treble hooks or caught in
throw nets and then cast back out to where the fish are seen
feeding. Experienced lure fishermen can often out fish the
anglers that are using bait. This is generally when the surf
gets big and the fish can only be reached by casting 70 to
100 yd. Some of the more serious surf fishermen use
graphite composite rods that are 10 to 13 feet in length,
with high capacity spinning reels equipped with a fast
retrieve ratio, they give just the right amount of leverage to
reach the surface feeding action and are relatively light with
medium to heavy back bone. Heavy surface lures like
RANGERS in the 4 to 5 oz. size prove most affective and the
technique is to cast out as far as you can into the boiling fish
and then reel as quickly as possible, it is impossible to reel
too fast for these fish and this way they never do get a very
good look at your lure. When the fish can be seen working
bait very close to shore and the surf is not large other
casting lures such as Crocodiles and Hopkins can work, the
best size being 2 to 3 oz. and in the various chrome color
          Fly fishermen also have enjoyed a good share of
success on roosterfish when using three to six inch surface
flies in the sardina and mullet patterns. Techniques can vary
greatly but typically include trolling flies in order to locate
the schools of fish and then casting to them, also slow
trolling mullet as teasers and chumming with live sardinas
are popular methods. These fish are quick and like to attack
fast moving objects, so it is important to remember to strip
your line in at a swift pace. There are frequently sierra
mackerel in the same inshore waters as the roosters and
with their razor sharp teeth it is necessary to use a section
of wire leader connected to your fly, lure or bait. Other
species in these same inshore waters that have also been
taken on the fly include pompano, pargo, needlefish, jack
crevalle and cabrilla. They can all be enticed to hit a fly if it
is presentation is right and the conditions are favorable. Ten
weight fly rods are the most commonly used but some
anglers prefer a lighter nine weight or the heavier eleven.
Anglers using 20 lb. tippet have landed roosterfish weighing
up to 40 lb. and jack crevalle close to 25 lb. These fish are
extremely powerful and accustomed to living inshore in the
rough surf environment, and their endurance will test even
the most skilled of anglers,and particularly on fly equipment.

Till next time,   Eric Prictson


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