What is a Roosterfish?

J.L. Drede
J.L. Drede
Veterinarian with a puppy
Veterinarian with a puppy

The roosterfish is a fish of the Nematistiidae family with the scientific name Nematislus pectoralis. Its habitat is wide, and this fish can be found in the Atlantic along Mexico, Panama and Costa Rica, and in the Pacific from California to Peru. It is a very popular game fish for sport fishermen, but its poor taste limits its commercial appeal. Those who have eaten the fish describe its meat as "leather like" and nearly inedible. Most who pursue the fish consider it to be a catch and release fish for this very reason.

The most notable characteristic of the roosterfish is its large dorsal fin that is made up of seven large spines that resemble a rooster comb. A smaller dorsal fin extends from the middle of the body to its tail. The large dorsal fin of the fish does not always stand erect, and it usually only reaches its maximum length when it is either threatened or chasing after prey. It is usually blueish gray in appearance with four black bars curving down its body.

Roosterfish can get very large, adding to their popularity as a gaming fish. Catches in the 20 to 40 pound (9 to 18 kg) range are most common, but fish weighing 80 or even 100 pounds (36 to 45 kg) or more have also been reported by fishermen. At its maximum size the fish will weight up to 110 pounds (50 kg) and grow to up to 5 feet (1.5 meters) in length. Fishermen who have caught the fish report that it is extremely strong and puts up quite a fight in its attempts to elude capture.

The fish is most often found by fishermen who are near beaches, as the fish itself prefers sandy shores and tends to inhabit surface waters from zero to 65 feet (20 meters) in depth. Larger catches tend to be found in deeper waters though. Volcanic rock outcrops are also favored sports for fishermen who pursue the fish. It can be fished year round in most areas where it is common. Its most common prey is smaller fish such as the mullet, so many fishermen say that fishing with live bait is the best way to lure out roosterfish for catching.

Scientific studies on the roosterfish have found that it can travel great distances during its lifetime. One tagged specimen was reported to have traveled over 800 miles (1,287.4 km). They are sometimes seen in schools, with their rooster combs poking out of the water, but are just as often seen roaming alone.

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    • Veterinarian with a puppy
      Veterinarian with a puppy