Fly Fishing for Rooster Fish with Katka Svagrova
Baja California, is the second-longest peninsula on the planet, extending out into the Pacific Ocean from the southern end of the US state of California. Baja offers you beautiful white sandy beaches with crystal clear water, breath-taking landscapes, Mexican culture accompanied with typical Mexican cuisine and most of all the epic Rooster fish!
Rooster fish, locally known as Pez Gallo is a member of the Jack family and are indigenous to the waters of the eastern Pacific, from Baja California to Costa Rica and Peru. You can catch fish from 1lb to 100 lb. The Rooster fish is known in the fly-fishing world as one of the most unique and most rewarding fish species to catch. The body is marked with zebra-like stripes, these along with the spectacular dorsal fin makes them look incredible. The prime time for rooster fish at Baja California is from the end of May until mid-July when the big fish are cruising shallow beaches and searching for baits. Most of those fishing for them just drive the beaches on their ATV’s trying to spot that fish of a lifetime.
We were lucky enough to experience an extraordinary trip to Baja California last May where we had a successful week on the east coast of the Baja Peninsula and I would like to share some tips with all of you, which I strongly recommend you trying to follow in our footsteps;
- Find your own spot far away from other people.
Don’t listen to other people about the usual ‘famous spots’. We tried to do just that on our first day, ending up in the first beach bar, drinking the local Pacifico beer as the hoards roamed the beeches on their ATV’s. Sometimes it felt as if we were fishing at Disneyland.
- Try something new!
Rooster fish feed on sardines, needlefish and mullet in schools along the beaches. Most people use the common mullet or sardines patterns in a range of sizes from 1/0 to 4/0 , depending on the size of the target fish. The most useful colours are light tan with white, light blue with white, or light olive with white. Almost all fish we cast the regular flies to, ignored every try. It was time for a change! So we tried the Fulling Mill Softy Minnow Blue Water 4/0 and the miracles began.
80% of the fish we caught that week were caught on that gummy fly. The other ones were caught on Beechy’s Garfish 2/0. I think that the Gym Sock mullet pattern in 4/0 size would also be a killer pattern here, certainly worth a go if you’re heading to Baja.
- Treat them with respect!
When you get a chance to play, do not forget to handle them with respect. Over the last couple of years the fishing pressure on Baja beaches has rapidly increased. It´s a must for all of you to keep the roosters in the water as much as possible. A quick shot with the camera is alright for sure, but don’t be silly and bring the fish ashore. You should know that Rooster fish have a unique swim bladder going all the way up into the inner ear, which makes them able to amplify sound when they hunt their prey. It messes them up really badly when the bladder is filled up with unwanted air. Before releasing make sure they’re balanced and that they can swim away without any problems. Sometimes, especially with bigger fish, it can take longer before they will manage to handle themselves. Just keep them constantly in the water and gently support them so that they catch their breath again.
- Hire a guide. No one will know better places than the local guides. It is always worth it to spend a few more dollars to get a real chance to be connected with some serious shots on rooster fish.
- Do not share exact spots you found on social media! It will help to protect their population for upcoming generations.
- Enjoy the time on the beach! Driving the ATV on white sand beaches with your friends, drinking local Pacifico beer with squeezed lime or Mexican Margarita with tequila, eating fish tacos with guacamole on every corner and the most beautiful sunsets will make for such an extraordinary experience, no matter if you get your first rooster fish or not!