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How to Land Your Rooster

Roosterfish are stubborn and will fight until exhausted. Even then they prolong the fight by keeping their body sideways against the resistance, and making it tough to gethem close to the boat. 

By keeping the boat in gear, at the slowest forward speed, helps to keep the rooster planed up on the surface. You can then gradually pump the rod in short strokes and he will be there soon enough. Do not try and rush it. A rooster which is not tired out enough can easily break the line when close to the boat. They do not give up until they are thoroughly expended.

Another common mistake is having having the drag too tight when the rooster is getting close to the boat. It is best to have a lighter drag and hold the spool with your hand to increase tension when needed. If he makes a quick run, it is easy to release your hand and point the rod right at the fish as he swims down or out.

Below is a decent video taken by Mark Denison's fishing partner as Mark catches his fish, Able from Puerto Vicente lands it by tailing the rooster, with the photos following. Then Abel tags it and makes the release.


The proper way to support your rooster

Immediately after it appears the rooster is secured, release the drag and put on the clicker for a conventional reel, or open the bail on a spin rod. What appears to be a secured fish sometimes does find a way to break free, and will snap a line or break a rod if not given some slack. Plus, a slack line gives the person handling the fish the ease of maneuvering it to get the hook out, without fighting tension from the rod. 

1) You can tail a small or medium rooster, or grab the inside of the mouth and the outside of a gill plate for a larger one. But, only go for the tail if treble hooks are used. A nasty injury can occur with your hands near the mouth of an uncooperative fish. 
Cheva is using the proper technique to land a rooster. 
Holding the leader tight, keeping the head above the 
water, he grabs the tail with his dominant hand.

2) A “tailer” gaff, with the handle made of anodized aluminum, and a strong plastic coated stainless steel cable, works well. But, they are rarely seen on boats in Latin American countries. However, they are highly recommended to handle large fish.

AFTCO Tailer Gaff

3) A good net such as used for king salmon on the Kenai River in Alaska is probably the best all around method for securing and releasing a large rooster, with minimal harm done, but again, they are very far and few between in the Latin American countries.  The use of a net stresses the fish less, and depending on how the fish is handled in the boat, there is less possibility of damaging the jaws or the vertebrae. But, the confidence of using a net can be a detrimentmental by an inexperienced person. If a fish is brought in too “hot”, one swipe and a miss, and snap goes the leader. Call it a long release.

 But, good nets are not usually available in areas where the roosterfish abides. There is a very good chance your guide or captain will not have one on the boat. He will rely on tailing the rooster by hand. 

 If the rooster is not thrashing, by gently lowering him to the vertical, a quick photo or weight measurement can be taken with a Boga Grip.

4) Very few guides have a Boga Grip. They are usually brought by the client. 

There have been a lot of discussions on the internet boards lately about studies, which may have been scientific or not, about the use of Boga Grips to weigh a fish or  helping to land it for the purpose of a photo. There are claims other species, such as bone fish and a few others, have been damaged by the use of lipping a fish, or the use of a Boga Grip. To my knowledge, when done carefully, none of this has yet to be proven. 

A Boga Grip is still very good device to hold a fish immobile and to keep him from thrashing around, causing further damage to himself. Just hold the rooster underneath the body with one hand, and use the Boga Grip to keep the fish calm.

And, no matter what argument or theory a person wants to point out about the flaws of one system or another about landing the fish, they all forget the alternative: “Get the gaff!” 

Photo of Mike Horvath by John Lorenz in Puerto Vicente Guerrero. Note 
the deckhand also has a hand supporting under the pectoral fins.