How to Catch the Prized Roosterfish

The roosterfish, which swims the warm waters from the Gulf of California to Peru, is a highly prized gamefish; not just because it possesses incredible swimming strength and tenacious fighting abilities, but also because it is so oddly beautiful.

Its striking body colors are matched only by its deeply grooved dorsal fin, which stands erect when the fish is excited, or ready to attack prey. And the moment that distinctive dorsal emerges from the surface is when anglers get into trouble, according to veteran saltwater guide and brand ambassador Capt. Alex Graham.

Graham, along with his partners, operates SEA KAYAK Adventures headquartered in the village of Mal Pias/Santa Teresa on Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula. “When they see that fin come up behind their topwater lure, many anglers set the hook too early,” he said. “Or, worse, they just freeze up altogether.”

The guide, who’s earned the nickname “The Roosterfish Whisperer” among clients and locals, fishes from a 14-foot kayak and targets roosters with a sporty 7-foot, medium action spinning rod strung with 30- to 50-pound braided line and a 6-foot fluorocarbon leader of equal strength. And whether the roosters are schooled offshore or hunting for disoriented baitfish among surf-beaten rocks, throwing a topwater is his preferred approach.

“I fish a lot of Heddon Super Spooks, but recently Creek Chub’s new Chug-A-Lug has become a top choice, especially in the Red Head, Sweet Purple and Funny Bone patterns.” At 7½ inches and 4 ounces, the Chug-A-Lug casts long distances, he explained, and its deeply cupped face causes a commotion that brings roosters up from below. And that’s the instant anglers often lose focus.

“You want make a fast retrieve along the surface and give the lure a hard pop every second or third turn of the handle,” he said. “And whatever happens, keep that cadence going until the fish actually takes the lure. I have to constantly remind clients to stay calm when that dorsal fin shows. The fish might stalk the lure for a while, or even take a slap at it. But the second you stop or even slow down, the fish is gone.”

Keeping your cool while perched on a small plastic boat in the Pacific Ocean — as you try to annoy a fish that could go 80 or 100 pounds? Yeah, that’s a problem. But a good one to have.

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