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Conventional Gear Methods

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Extreme Roosters

 Roosters on the Costa Grande -

On the Pacific Ocean side of mainland Mexico is a stretch of 150-mile coastline called Costa Grande (The Big Coast). The Costa Grande starts just north of Acapulco, continuing up through Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo, and terminating near the industrial port of Lazaro Cardenas. With the 10,000-foot Sierra Madres forming a scenic backdrop only a few miles away, and the Pacific Ocean lapping the beaches, the narrow plain that makes up the Costa Grande is a veritable tropical paradise.

 The Costa Grande is composed of a series of crescent shaped bays, terminating when the rugged coastal mountains dip down and touch the Pacific at intervals of a few yards to several miles.

 These secluded bays have pristine beaches of white sand, dotted with coconut palms. Many feel this coast has some of the finest beaches in all of Mexico. The entire stretch of Costa Grande is fairly isolated, with development at only a few locations, allowing a person to cruise for miles along the shoreline and see very few inhabitants.   

 For roosterfish, it is another story. The coast is virtually a magnet for them. These hard fighting exotic game fish are here year round and enjoy their own sort of paradise. They have everything they could possibly need. Rocky points, sandy beaches, numerous rivers forming small deltas, an incredible bait supply, small inshore islands, and warm tropical water.

 With all this abundance the one thing they do not have is an abundance of fishing pressure. While it is true that fishermen do fish for them for a few miles in either direction from Ixtapa / Zihuatanejo, the rest of the secluded coast rarely sees any sort of a fisherman targeting the roosters. Inshore species like the roosterfish are generally only secondary targets after the fishermen have spent a few days going after the more popular offshore species like the sailfish, tuna, and marlin.

Dan Leo is the owner of the private boat "Dancin". He lives in New York but breaks up his time to come to the Costa Grande several times a year to fish on his 23 foot Grady White. Of course he has caught many a sailfish and marlin but, for a great day on the water, and some of the finest scenery in the world, his real thrill is pursuing the roosters.

Roosterfish like to feed right in the surf break and prefer a rocky point at the contact line where it gives way to the sandy beach. There is always a better food supply around the rocks, and it is a great ambush location. For the fisherman, this creates a bit of a dilemma because to catch the fish, you have to get the bait to where he is. And our surf can be nasty.

I had a long time local panga captain once tell me that "when you fish alone for pez gallo, it is not if you are going to end up with your boat rolled over on the beach, it is only when."

Birds are always a great indicator of the presence of roosters. Note the fly line and fly going into the zone.

To minimize this risk of having his well-equipped Grady White on the rocks, Dan employs two people. One, whose sole function is to run the boat, and another to rig the baits, set the rods, and handle the cockpit. It is a very good combination that works well, because 5 fish days are common on this boat, and we are talking nice fish of 30- 40 pounds or more.

Dan prefers to use a slow trolled live bait, with the most common being the 6 to 10 inch goggle eye scad (called cabailitos in Baja). He runs four rods - one rod on each outrigger, and two rods on downriggers. The boat is rarely fishing in water over 18 feet in depth so the downriggers are set to run at about 8 feet (the depth at the surf line). When the rooster takes the bait and the line is released from the clip, this momentarily creates slack in the line, allowing for an automatic drop back that is usually just right for a good hook set.  This system, using 15 to 20 pound test line and a short piece of 40 pound fluorocarbon shock leader, combined with a small circle hook, has accounted for many fish over 40 pounds and a few larger than 50 pounds.

A typical day will start in Zihuatanejo Bay with the purchase of the live bait from one of the local fishermen.  The bay itself is an incredible fishery and it is no problem to obtain bait here year round. Just after daylight they head out to areas that are not normally fished by the local panga fishermen and the "day" clients. A one hour run, either north or south, and they are essentially in virgin waters.

 The skipper will first get in close to the beach and the deckhand will start setting out the lines. The Dancin’ is all set up and the lines are positioned correctly by the time they approach the first rocky protrusion. When the roosterfish takes the bait, the skipper heads the bow out to sea and continues at his 2.5-knot speed. Dan points the rod at the fish, while winding in the line to take in any remaining slack, and lets the circle hook do the rest. When the fish realizes the easy morsel he just ambushed has been replaced with a hook in the corner of his mouth, he explodes.

The lighting fast runs, combined with brute strength and a bad attitude, make for a memorable fight for any angler. As the fish is brought to the boat, his namesake comb is fully extended with the black stripes on his body contrasting against the silvery sides, confirming that they are one of the most beautiful game fish in the ocean.

While watching the boat position in relation to the breakers, the skipper also keeps watch for roosterfish swirling on bait out ahead of the boat as they troll the shoreline. When one is spotted, a well placed cast from the bow with a live bait will chalk up one more released pez gall

 Helpful hint: By turning a fish upside down, it disorients him. This makes for an easier and safer hook removal for the release. By keeping the fish calm, the stress factor is less, and the release will be much more successful. This holds true for all fresh water and salt water species.

 What months are the best times to fish for the roosters on the Costa Grande of Mexico? Most people like the rain season, which runs from late May to early October. But, in my opinion, any time from early June to late December is excellent, especially when the blue water comes in close and the inshore water temperature averages about 82 degrees.  If you come to the West Coast of Mexico to enjoy the scenic tropical splendor and you want be the only fisherman for miles, plan on reversing the trend of what is "normal” in these waters - instead of targeting offshore species, spend most of your time near the beach. Target the hard fighting roosters of the Costa Grande.

Ed Kunze 

Another great conventional gear method is to troll a deep diving lure, as shown in the following photos of clients fishing with John Lorenz of the Bahia de Tortuga Fishing Lodge, and hour and a half south of the Ixtapa/ Zihuatanejo airport in Puerto Vicente Guerrero.