Nematistius pectoralis

About roosterfish in Baja, Mexico

Roosterfish are quickly rising to the top of the must-catch fish list for many anglers - and with good reason. Roosters are charismatic warm water predators that can grow to over 100 pounds (although the fish you’ll encounter are more likely to be in the 20-60 pound range). They’re accessible in shallow waters from the beach or cruising pangas, but catching one is no easy task - making them a worthy challenge to any angler.

Roosters get the name from their distinct dorsal fin that expands upward like a comb. Their bodies are built for speed, but equally for agility as they turn on a dime when chasing prey, rejecting your fly, or fighting the flex of your fly rod.

Roosterfish in Baja

Where to fish for roosterfish

Roosterfish are found only in the coastal waters of the Eastern Pacific Ocean - from Baja Mexico south to Peru. Roosters are rarely found in water deeper than 60 feet, cruising the sandy beaches in search of baitfish species such as sardines (and mullet for the larger roosters).

Anglers target roosterfish throughout their range, but the Sea of Cortez is the best place to go after them with a fly rod. And with rare exceptions, East Cape is the only place to target them from the beach with a fly rod. Depending on the seasonal migration, however, we also target roosterfish in the Pacific Ocean from Cabo north toward Magdalena Bay.

How to catch a roosterfish

To catch a roosterfish demands the best of both your patience and your skill as an angler. How quickly can you move? How accurate can you cast? And how fast can you strip?

If fishing inshore from a panga, we target Roosterfish by either locating schools of cruising roosters (as seen in the video above), or by locating the balls formed by baitfish as they attempt to evade predation.

We cast flies in baitfish patterns ahead of cruising fish, or toward the ball if a school of roosters is actively feeding. After an accurate cast, we strip the flies as fast as possible to attract this voracious predator.

Beach fishing is different only in that we’re fishing with the ground beneath our feet. The task is the same. We use ATVs and patience (sometimes a lot of patience) to locate Roosters cruising the shoreline or actively feeding within casting distance of the shore.

It’s then a race to get to a casting position ahead of the fish and throw a fly in its path to get its attention. And then strip, strip, strip as fast as you can.

Considering how voracious Roosterfish can be when feeding, you would think making the cast is most of the battle. But we can’t count the number of times a feeding rooster has chased our fly only to inexplicably abandon the hunt at the last minute. At which point the process starts over again.

Roosterfish have excellent vision and a 6th sense for when something isn’t quite right.

A big rooster won’t ‘take’ your mullet pattern as much as it will hammer it. And when you hook a big roosterfish, get ready to hear the click click click of the reel’s drag. Roosters are notorious for reluctantly coming to within landing distance of the beach or panga, only to run again - sometimes stripping as much as 300 yards of backing from the reel.

Landing a big roosterfish is no small feat. It takes determination, stamina, strength, and also a little know-how. But we’re a guide service to help you along the way. Be prepared to be amazed by the speed at which these fish move.

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    The best times to target roosterfish in Baja

    Roosterfish reside in the water around the Baja Peninsula year-round. But some months are better than others if you’re planning a fishing trip with roosters as your main target.

    For East Cape fishing, we prefer May and June. But they can be caught throughout the year along the pacific, from Cabo to Magdalena Bay.

    It’s important to call us early if this is the fish you want. We’re here to help you plan everything, from the best times of year to come, to the best locations to fish.


    What gear do you need to target Roosterfish?

    Our gear set up for Roosterfish is very similar to what you might expect on a tarpon fishing trip. Your fly rod must be sturdy enough for the long battle to land a powerful, heavy fish.

    We prefer casting 9 foot, ten or eleven weight rods with matching reels and line weights. Your reel should have a reliable drag system, and be loaded with 300 yards of 50-pound backing for long the inevitable long runs.

    Choose a sinking-tip intermediate line that is geared for tropical waters and spooky fish with excellent eyesight. Fluorocarbon leaders and tippets from 20 to 40lb test will do the job.

    If you have your own gear, great. If not, don’t worry. Just let us know ahead of time and we’ll make sure to have the right fishing gear available for your trip.


    Roosterfish will test you. Demand the most out of you as an angler.

    But when you do finally catch one… the turquoise waters of the Sea of Cortez, along with the sun-parched browns of the Baja desert, the vibrant skies of the sunrise, combined with a roosterfish’s dorsal comb and silver chromed and dark blue banded body make an amazing photograph to go home with.

    A memento of what just might be the angling fight of your life.


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