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.
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.
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.