Roosterfish, with their distinctive, tall, spiking dorsal fins and curved black/blue markings, fuel the imagination and spur the wanderlust in many anglers looking to travel and catch exotic, hard-fighting and often high-flying species.
These predatory fish are found in the eastern Pacific Ocean from the Gulf of California to Peru, most commonly off Ecuador. They are favorites in many Central American fishing resorts.
Considered an inshore species, roosters are found in the surf, over sandy bottoms, and in moderate depths. According to the International Gamefish Association (IGFA), they’re not particularly far-ranging, with maximum movement estimated at about 300 miles.
The dorsal fins are usually retracted in a deep groove along the fish’s back but rise when the fish is excited, such as upon hook-up or when chasing smaller prey species. Those curved blue/black stripes originate from just behind the fish’s head with another sharply curved stripe behind the first dorsal fin and running along the flanks to the base of the tail.
Anglers catch them trolling, casting baits and lures, or fishing live bait, typically from a boat although they can sometimes be caught along the shoreline. Roosterfish are said to be tasty, giving them commercial value.
The IGFA maintains the records for the biggest roosterfish reported and verified. Photos are available for most world record catches but some, especially related to catches many decades ago, were not provided or retained.
Roosterfish All-Tackle World Record
Abe Sackheim holds the world all-tackle record with a 114-pound behemoth of a roosterfish, caught June 1, 1960, off La Paz, Baja California, Mexico. Sackheim’s roosterfish was 64 inches long with a 33-inch girth. He was using a Miltcraft rod matched with a Penn 250 reel. The line was 9-thread Ashaway. He was trolling an unspecified bait. This fish is also the 30-pound line-class record holder.
All-Tackle Length World Record Roosterfish
Chuck Bahan was trolling a live bonito off Los Buzos, Cambutal, Panama, when his 53.54-inch world record fish hit. The catch came on Dec. 17, 2019. Bahan was equipped with a Star rod and Accurate reel spooled with 80-pound monofilament (brand not specified) line.
All-Tackle Length Fly World Record Roosterfish
The length record for fly fishing is held by Richard H. Rygg with a 51.97-inch roosterfish caught Aug. 9, 2021 off Cerralvo Island, Mexico. Rygg was wielding a Sage rod paired with a Hatch reel. The line was 20-pound Seaguar. The type of fly he was flinging is not specified.
Male Junior World Record Roosterfish – 82 Pounds, 9 Ounces
Juan Felipe Adum is the male junior world record holder with an 82-pound, 9-ounce fish caught Jan. 5, 2019, off Salinas, Ecuador. The rooster taped out at 54.33 inches long with a 34-inch girth. Adum was using a Penn rod and a Daiwa reel spooled with 30-pound Momoi line. He was trolling bait.
Female Junior World Record Roosterfish – 68 Pounds, 6 Ounces
The female junior world record is held by Maya Thompson. She caught her 68-pound, 6-ounce roosterfish on Aug. 6, 2015, while fishing out of Tropic Star Lodge, Pinas Bay, Panama. Thompson’s fish was 52.25 inches long and had a chunky 36-inch girth. She was fishing with a Rods by Dru and Shimano reel setup. The line was 50-pound Momoi. She was trolling a bonita when the record fish bit.
Male 20-Pound Tippet Fly Fishing World Record Roosterfish
Phil “Pancho Villa” Arklin has the distinction of having the heaviest fly-caught roosterfish in the record books with a 20-pound tippet fish caught Aug. 16, 2005 off Isla Tortuga, Costa Rica. This 62-pound, 4-ounce brute slurped in a B.B. Runner. Arlin was using a custom-made fly rod matched with an Abel reel. The line was 10-kilogram Rio. The fish measured 51.5 inches long and had a 32-inch girth.
Male 80-Pound Line Class World Record Roosterfish
Only three roosterfish weighing more than 100 pounds are in the record books. The 80-pound line class record is held by Jeffrey Reinhardt, with a 105-pound, 13-ounce rooster caught June 27, 2008, off Zihuatanejo, Mexico. This fish was 58 inches long with a 36-inch girth. Reinhardt’s equipment included a St. Croix rod with a Shimano Stradic reel and 50-pound PowerPro line. He was casting a Yo-Zuri Surface Cruiser lure.
Female 20-Pound Line Class World Record Roosterfish
Anne Purkis caught an 88-pound, 2-ounce rooster to claim the female 20-pound line class record. Her fish was 58 inches long with a slender 31-inch girth. She was trolling a mullet off Palmas de Cortez, Baja California, Mexico, on May 27, 1982, when her record rooster decided to bite. She was using a Sabre HW 861C rod matched with a Daiwa 30H reel. The line was 20-pound Maxima.
Male 130-Pound Line Class World Record Roosterfish
Miguel Barrenechea holds the 130-pound line class record with a roosterfish that weighed in at an even 100 pounds. The fish was 54 inches long with a 32-inch girth. He caught the fish on Jan. 12, 1954, off Cabo Blanco, Peru. Barrenechea was using a Harnell rod with an Ocean City reel. The line was 39-thread Ashaway. He was fishing with a Sierra lure (precise lure not listed).
Female 30-Pound Line Class World Record Roosterfish
Lily Call owns the 30-pound line class record with a 99-pound roosterfish caught Nov. 30, 1954, while fishing off La Paz, Baja California, Mexico. The fish measured 59.50 inches long and sported a 35-inch girth. Call was using a custom-built rod teamed with an Ocean City reel. The line was 30-pound Gudebrod. She was trolling a Sierra Mackerel lure.
Editor’s Note: Anglers interested in supporting sport fishing worldwide should consider buying a membership to the International Game Fish Association (IGFA). Salt Water Sportsman is a strong supporter of the IGFA and their mission. IGFA members receive access to the IGFA World Record database, historical videos, a monthly International Angler digital publication, and discounts on tackle and charters from IGFA partners.