The Art of Catching a Roosterfish  | Great Days Outdoors

Roosterfish fishing is a thrilling and heart-pounding experience

What is a Roosterfish? This magnificent species is only found from Baja, California to Peru. They are beautiful, hard fighting gamefish that get their name from the “Rooster” like comb comprised seven long spines including the dorsal fin. Roosterfish are generally caught around or on top of submerged rocks in 50-150 feet of water. The beauty of the landscape around the waters that Roosterfish are caught in is certainly part of the allure or crossing them off your fishing bucket list.


Reel Escape Roosterfish

Method 1: Free-Lining Bait

There are many methods to catch Roosterfish. In the 20 years I have fished for these fish in Drake Bay, Costa Rica, 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, and a reel with a very strong drag coupled with a circle hook. If your bait is fresh and lively you generally will not need any additional weight to reach the Roosterfish. When the Roosterfish 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 Roosterfish time to eat (around 8-10 seconds) the live bait.

Because 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 a dead bait using the same method. Depending on the strength of the current you may need to add a little weight to the get the bait further down in the water. Once hooked the Roosterfish 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 1-hour fight before being carefully released back into the ocean.


Method 2: Topwater Bait

While catching Roosterfish, using live bait is the most productive method for numbers, catching one on a topwater bait is a blast. We cast large topwater plugs in bright colors right next to the rocky points. Roosterfish will aggressively hit these plugs often missing them and coming back over and over. Often times, you will see 2 or 3 fish chasing the same plug! This is a heart-pounding sight every serious fisherman needs to experience.

Catching Roosterfish


Method 3: Trolling

The 3rd method we use to catch Roosterfish is trolling. Although typically not as fun as live-baiting or casting topwater 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.  In addition to the great Roosterfish fishing, Mahi Mahi, Blue & Black Marlin, huge Pacific Sailfish, Wahoo, Big Eye and Yellow Fin Tuna, and several species of Grouper and Snapper are plentiful in our waters. If you would like more information about fishing for Roosterfish or any of the other species in Costa Rica, contact us at or check our website at


Until Next Time…Tight Lines,

Captain Willy Atencio


More Information:

Fish Drake Bay

US 855.372.5322

CR 8824.3036

Winner of the 2017 Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence Rating


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