One of the most exotic of all sport fish, the Roosterfish is found along the eastern Pacific Ocean from southern California to Peru, including the warm waters around the Galapagos Islands. This fish rarely travels north of Baja California, Mexico, but is widely distributed throughout all Mexican waters from the Gulf of California to Panama, including offshore islands. Inhabiting moderate depths of water and near shore locations, these fish are also rather convenient as well as exciting.
As members of the jack family, Roosterfish have bodies very similar to amberjack but are easily distinguished by a characteristic, spectacular “rooster comb” atop their heads. This peculiar feature maintains the same gray and white alternating shades basic to the back, top side, and large forked tail. Lower sides of the body lighten to shiny silver then become solid white along the underside. Four thick, dark bands begin vertically between the eyes and then continue along the top, the second crossing from gill to gill; while another connects the pectoral fins. The fourth band begins at the base of the first dorsal fin and continues laterally towards the tail. Dark and light stripes are also found alternating on the “comb”. These beasts average between 15 and 20 pounds in weight, reaching over 100 pounds and up to four feet in length; but catches weighing over forty pounds are not uncommon. Multiple Roosters heavier than 80 pounds have been taken in Costa Rican waters. The current IGFA record for Roosterfish is a 114-pounder, caught off La Paz, Baja California, Mexico.
Roosterfish are assumed to spawn near shore, with populations growing larger from late spring to early summer. They are frequently found along sandy shores and beaches at depths up to 100 feet; predominantly during warmer seasons when water temperatures are higher than 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Juveniles are typically found close to shore and in tidal pools, while adults hunt in loose groups of similar sized fish, and may often be spotted under working birds. They prefer sandy bottoms, bays, and sections of mild surf. Roosters feed in packs rather than, less accurately, “schools”, often chasing sardines and other shiny baitfish out of the water and onto the shore.
This greatly prized game fish chases live bait on the surface with great reckless abandon. Once hooked, it makes strong, long runs, pulling extremely hard, like few others. They are edible, but value as a food source is not highly regarded. However, this only encourages catch and release, which allows others a chance to battle this fish.