Rooster Fish: Catching and Understanding Rooster Fishing in Costa Rica 2023

The Roosterfish is renowned in Costa Rica for its thrilling fight and distinctive dorsal fins. It’s a fast and elusive fish that provides an exhilarating catch for anglers of all experiences.

If you are looking to catch Roosterfish in Costa Rica, but don’t want to worry about choosing the perfect location or getting the right equipment, book a Roosterfish charter trip with Capullo sportfishing charter, located in Guanacaste Province, Costa Rica.

For more information call: +1 506-8569-3516

 From US or Canada you have to dial +11 506 8569 3516

Table of Contents

What is a Roosterfish?

A Roosterfish, known as ‘Papagayo’ in Spanish, is an in-shore game fish notable for the seven dorsal spines on its back that closely resemble the comb of a rooster. The Roosterfish is a part of the Nematistiidae family, unique for being its only living member. Scientifically, they are identified as Nematistius pectoralis.

What does a Rooster Fish look like?

The most notable feature of a Roosterfish is its ‘rooster comb’ of seven dorsal spines that erupts from its back. Additionally, their shiny bluish-gray body is accented with black stripes that gracefully curve at the top and streamline towards the tail.

Below are two images of Roosterfish after being caught on the Capullo sportfishing charter:

How big do Roosterfish get?

Roosterfish have a total length between 48”-63” (122-160 cm) and a body height of 13”-16.5” (33-41.9 cm). Their overall weight typically ranges from 25-80 lb (11-36 kg). The average weight of a roosterfish is around 20 lb (9.1 kg). However, some have been known to weigh over 50 kg (110 lb) and measure over 1.6 m (5 ft 3 in) in length.

The largest roosterfish ever recorded was caught by angler Abe Sackheim in La Paz, Baja California, Mexico, weighing in at an impressive 114 pounds.

Where can RoosterFish be caught?

Roosterfish can be found in the eastern Pacific Ocean, from the Gulf of California to Peru, including the Galapagos Islands. They predominantly inhabit coastal areas no more than 65 feet below the waves.

Highlighted in yellow is where Roosterfish can be caught in the image below:

What are the best places to catch roosterfish in Costa Rica?

In Costa Rica, roosterfish inhabit coastal areas like sandy bottom areas, sandbars, and reefs no more than 65 feet below the waves. They are also found in the inshore waters, surf zones, and around river mouths. Juvenile roosterfish tend to live in separate areas such as bays and lagoons.


Do you need a boat to catch Roosterfish?

While Roosterfish are inshore fishes and can often be caught from the shore, having a specialized boat can improve the odds of a successful catch. Contact Capullo Sportsfishing Charter and uncover secret roosterfish fishing spots off of the Guanacaste coast.


What is the best time to catch Rooster Fish in Costa Rica?

The best time to catch Rooster Fish in Costa Rica is during the peak fishing season from December through April. During this period, the fish are more active and abundant, making it easier for anglers to have a successful catch.

Some veteran anglers might prefer the summer months to avoid crowds and reduced fishing pressure, but the December to April window remains the most recommended for optimal roosterfish encounters.

How to catch RoosterFish?

Roosterfish are voracious predators, hunting fish like bonitos, mullets, herrings, and anchovies in waters about 13 feet deep. Employing lures and baits that mimic these fish will increase the odds of a catch.

Roosterfish can be caught using live bait such as hardtails (blue runners), mullet, and bonito or using lures including poppers and stick baits. The best method or technique to catch a Roosterfish is slow trolling live baitfish near structures, especially around reefs, rocky headlands, and sandy bays. When casting lures, choose turbulent waters (where Roosterfish feed) to increase success. The fly fishing technique can also be used to catch Roosterfish.

What Equipment to use when fishing for Roosterfish?

  • 7-foot conventional boat rod
  • Spinning rod with medium to heavy action
  • Fly fishing rod
  • Shimano Talica
  • Accurate BX500
Line and Backing:
  • 65-pound braid or spectra backing
  • 30 to 40-pound monofilament mainline
  • 40 to 60-pound fluorocarbon leader
  • 5/0 or 6/0 circle hooks
  • Live bait such as bonitos, sardines, moonfish, and blue runners
  • Artificial lures like poppers, stickbaits, and swimbaits
  • Generally not needed if live bait is used
Additional Equipment:
  • Downrigger for fishing baits at depths of about 30 to 50 feet
  • Strong treble hook for lures when required.

What are the best lures to catch Roosterfish?

  • Swimbaits
  • Poppers
  • Stickbaits
  • Nomad Chug Norris popper
  • GT Ice Cream lure
  • Roberts Ranger lure
  • Rapala-type plugs
  • Rapala Magnum
  • X-Rap 14
  • Ranger
  • Whistler
  • Bounder

Are Roosterfish hard to reel in?

Yes, Roosterfish are known for their impressive strength and aggressive feeding. If you hook one of the end of your line, you can expect a long and hard fight. Smaller Roosterfish are known to jump out of the water when hooked.

Are there catch and release laws for Roosterfish in Costa Rica?

There are strict laws on Roosterfish and all Roosterfish caught must be released as they are a protected species in Costa Rica. 

Capullo boats in Tamarindo.


How fast do Roosterfish swim?

They are known for their high-speed chases when hunting their prey.

Where do Roosterfish breed?

Roosterfish lay their eggs in less-depth areas near the coast where they feel more protected.

How long do Roosterfish live?

The typical lifespan of the Roosterfish is 20-35 years.

What do Roosterfish eat?

The roosterfish diet includes a variety of fish of different sizes. Below is a short list that names a few:

  • Bull or copper fish
  • Other smaller roosterfish
  • Mullet fish
  • Sardines
  • Real koi fish.
  • Cephalopods

Do roosterfish have teeth?

Yes, Roosterfish are equipped with sharp teeth on both their jaws.

Can Roosterfish be eaten?

Roosterfish aren’t typically consumed by people due to their preference as a sport fish. After being caught, they’re most often released back into the water.


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