How to Catch Roosterfish from Shore

I’d like to preface this article by saying I don’t consider myself an expert when it comes to catching roosterfish. After all I grew up fishing on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, where the nearest roosterfish is about 2,000 miles away. My success with catching roosterfish from shore has simply been a combination of fishing amazing locations in Costa Rica, some good luck, great timing and hundreds upon hundreds of casts.

It all started in 2015 when my wife, Lauren, booked us a month at a random AirBnB jungle cabina on the beach along the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. At the time we had no idea that this cabina was located directly in front of prime territory for jack Crevalle, cubera Snapper and the most prized fish of all – the roosterfish.

What occurred during that trip was so memorable that we’d go on to book a total of nine weeks over the course of two years at that cabina – with another 5 weeks planned for the winter of 2019.

Catching giant roosterfish from shore has been the apex of my surfcasting career, and I’m excited to share with you how I like to target these amazing fish.

Best Locations for Roosterfish

For me, roosterfish fishing has been similar to fishing for giant bluefin tuna, in the sense that it can take great patience and many hours to get a bite. Where I surf cast in Costa Rica the roosterfish roam miles of shoreline, following schools of baitfish such as Sardines and Mullet. My best success with roosterfish has occurred when Sardines and Mullet were plentiful in the surf.


During my first stay along the west coast of Costa Rica in 2015, mullet appeared in the surf every day for about a week straight after the full moon.

It was during that one week that I caught three giant roosterfish with the largest being in the 70-80 pound range. The other three weeks I caught plenty of jacks and mackerel, but there were no roosterfish, and very few mullet.

In December of 2017, I learned a shortcut to roosterfish success. Targeting inlets and rocky points became more reliable than trying to hunt down roosters along the open beach. Sardines, mullet and other baitfish would congregate at inlets and around the rocks. Armed with this new knowledge, this coming January when I return to Costa Rica, you can bet I will be investing the majority of my fishing time around inlets and rocky points.

Best Lures And Baits For Roosterfish

Throughout my time spent fishing in Costa Rica, I have met several local fishermen who primarily use live sardines and mullet when targeting roosterfish.

I would have to admit that live bait seems to be the most effective.

However all my success with roosterfish has been with topwater artificial swimming lures and poppers. Oddly enough, where I fish in Costa Rica I have not encountered situations where roosterfish follow the lure without biting (which is apparently common in many spots). Conveniently the roosters have readily attacked artificial lures right in the surf.


The two lures I like best for roosterfish are the 6.5 inch slow sinking transparent Canal Magic Swimmer, and the 2 ounce ghost white Tactical Angler Bomb Popper. The retrieve for both of these lures is very simple.

For the Magic Swimmer all you need to do is cast the swimmer out and reel it straight back in at a moderate to quick speed. For the Bomb Popper, simply cast it out and retrieve at a medium speed, while pumping the rod, which will throw a lot of white water into the air. Roosters will absolutely hammer both of these lures when retrieved in this manner.

The Best Rods, Reels and Tackle For Catching Roosterfish From Shore

I am somewhat limited with rod selection because I have to bring all my gear on flights, boats and taxis. Therefore my best rod for roosterfish has been the 8’6″ Tsunami Travel rod which breaks down into three pieces for easy travel.

When paired with a Van Staal VR175 spinning reel, this rod/reel combination can easily handle any roosterfish I have come across so far. The VR175 has a fully sealed drag, which is important because I often have to dive beneath waves and fully submerge the reel in saltwater and sand.


The VR series of reels from Van Staal will work flawlessly even when submitted to these harsh angling conditions.

I have also caught roosterfish using the Van Staal 150 class reels. When fishing a 150 class Van Staal I pair the reel with either a 7’ 3-piece Offshore Angler Ocean Master or St. Croix Tidemaster Inshore 7’6” 3-piece travel rod. The smaller setups can absolutely handle big roosterfish, plus the lighter setups make catching smaller species like sierra mackerel and jack crevalle more fun. In addition the smaller setup can be fished from a boat.

For line, I will use 30 pound moss green Power Pro braid when fishing sandy beaches, and 50 pound moss green Power Pro braid when fishing around rocks. For leader I will use 30 pound Seaguar blue label fluorocarbon when fishing sandy beaches, and 50 pound Seaguar blue label when fishing around rocks.

I connect the leader to the braid using a slim beauty knot, and I will use a 175 pound Tactical Angler clip to make switching lures quick and easy.

In Conclusion

Roosterfish are incredibly beautiful, strong and elusive creatures. Catching one is not easy and will most likely require a lot of time and patience. However the hunt is definitely worth it.


Once hooked roosterfish will go on drag sizzling runs, and often launch themselves straight clear out of the water.

I tell people that the fight of a rooster is like combining the powerful tail beats of a giant striped bass, with the scorching runs of a bluefin tuna, and on occasion, the acrobatics of a tarpon.

When landing a roosterfish be extremely cautious because these fish are all muscle and it can be very easy for them to beat their tail or shake their head, resulting in a hook in your hand. Use pliers and try to keep the fish wet and in the water for a quick and successful release.

Best of luck if you decide to give catching roosterfish from shore a try. Roosters are not an easy fish to find and fool, however the time and energy is absolutely worth it.


This article was contributed by an ANGLR Expert

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Ryan Collins


I got started fishing on Cape Cod, Massachusetts when I was in kindergarten. Over the years I’ve worked at a bait shop, commercial fished, and ran fishing charters. In 2011 I launched, an online community that teaches people how to fish on Cape Cod. Over the past few years the website has expanded with hundreds of videos, podcasts, forums, articles and reports. We even have a TV show on NBC SportsBOSTON! Fishing has been a blessing. Just being out there is enough for me - catching a fish is just a bonus.

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12 replies
  1. Michael Leone
    Michael Leone says:

    Hi Ryan. Great article. These are bucket list for me (along with big Tarpon). I’m headed to CR (Nosara area) in late April. I was there two years ago and did some wading and surf fishing from some rocks, but mainly with light tackle with spoons and I only caught a few small snappers and similar. This time I’m planning to try for Cuberas and Roosters from the rocks using much bigger setups and baits. I’m mainly a bass fisherman here in FL, but I plan to bring a Penn Battle 2 4000 reel and hopefully a 7’6″ medium heavy / fast action rod. Do you feel that will work well for throwing 2 oz poppers and 6 inch swimbaits? Any suggestions on the type of leader knots you used for these monsters? I’m worried about my lame knot typing being a reason why I lose one of these, so I was thinking of going straight braid to avoid any drama. But just in case, what leader knots did you use? Also, and maybe most importantly, do you recommend a specific time of day or conditions? I’ve heard first light is best for shallow beach fish and sunset is good for cuberas with poppers. Any other feedback you can offer? Thanks in advance!

    • Ryan Collins
      Ryan Collins says:

      Hey Mike, I’m glad you found the article valuable! Thanks for reading.

      The Penn Battle II 4000 is a good little reel, however you’re going to want something bigger for roosterfish. I would recommend the Penn Battle II 5000 which can hold 300 yards of 30lb moss green power pro braid ( and use a Slim Beauty knot to connect to a 3ft-4ft 30lb Seaugur Fluorocarbon leader (

      The 7’6″ medium heavy/fast action rod will probably work. That would also work well from boat and kayak. However, most surfcasters fishing from rocks prefer a longer 9ft-10ft rod because you’ll get far greater casting distance. Just figured I’d let you know.

      In general, sunrise and sunset are always great times to be surfcasting saltwater. There are many exceptions, of course, but in general that is best. Also be sure to pay close attention to the tides. Specific spots will fish better during specific stages of the tide.

      Gluck, stay safe, and have fun! 🎣

  2. Terry Blampied
    Terry Blampied says:

    Can you recommend a reel and size that’s not a van Staal or Stella please . Off to Costa Rica in February

    • Ryan Collins
      Ryan Collins says:

      Hey Terry, I would recommend looking into the Diawa Saltist or the Tsunami SaltX. Whatever reel you choose, I’d recommend making sure it is a sealed reel. That way you don’t have to worry about water or sand getting into it. Tight lines! 🎣

  3. Matthew Bettinger
    Matthew Bettinger says:

    Hey we just got back from CR (Ocotal beach) . We got rooster but near the national park. BIG cubera snappers on topwaters at night. The colors the locals seem to prefer are mainly white with whatever secondary color but primary I caught most of my fish on was in fact white. Tuna and dorado from the rocks is crazy to me because down in Texas we run 80 miles to catch the same fish! We will be back. Oh yeah no sailfish but I saw a 180lb one that was caught while we were down there. Amazing.

      • Denny
        Denny says:

        What area of the pacific side of Costa do you mostly fish / stay? We will be returning to an area we visit every year here Jan 15th to the 27th. We like an area north of Santa Teresa. I was wondering if you were near this area or further north in the Tamarindo area, or even south down on the Oso peninsula.

        • Ryan Collins
          Ryan Collins says:

          Hey Denny, I was further to the south, fishing the Golfo Dulce from the Osa to Zancudo, down to Bahia Pavon and Pavonnes. The surfcasting in this area can be epic, but it can also be really, really slow. Offshore fishing is a bit more consistent if you can find the right boats and captains. I hope you had a good time near Santa Teresa!


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