Canada Takes Gold in Inaugural PanAmerican Roosterfish Tournament!
With all the excitement of a World Cup soccer match, 37 anglers from Canada, the United States, Mexico, Panama, and Costa Rica descended on the Golfo Dulce for the first PanAmerican Roosterfish Tournament. The event was hosted by the PanAmerican Delegation, USA Angling, and FECOP, the Costa Rican representative in the PanAmerican Delegation. The inaugural event was held at Crocodile Bay Resort in Puerto Jimenez, Costa Rica.
The format was Olympic style and the delegation’s purpose is to organize tournaments throughout the Americas. The organization hopes to add sport fishing to the PanAmerican Games, combine with European events and eventually be added as an eligible sport in the International Olympics.
Contestants who arrived early to pre-fish experienced great action. Jtodd Tucker, a professional bass fisherman from Georgia, took a rooster estimated at more than 50-pounds the day before. The bite was slightly off, at least by Costa Rican standards, once the actual competition started, however. With the catch and release format each fish scored one point for every inch of length measured from the tip of the head to the fork of the tail. This method was chosen because it is less stressful than weighing the fish and allowed for quicker releases back into the water.
The Canadian team took a commanding lead early in the two-day event with a total of 147.5 points. Team Mexico was second with 81 points. Day Two saw Mexico win the daily with 201 points, followed by Team USA with 178 points. But Team Canada’s second day tally of 125 points was enough to earn the Gold Medal with an overall total of 272.5 points. Mexico won the Silver Medal with 199 points, just edging out Team USA (198 points) which settled for Bronze.
Two all-female teams (Costa Rica and USA) competed in this first-ever roosterfish event. Neither finished in the top standings yet both showed their male counterparts they are quite capable of competing on this level. The tournament also allowed all the teams to share conservation ideas that will benefit the fisheries in their respective nations.
“We were just a group of friends who thought it would be fun to enter a tournament,” explained Canadian angler Mike Haunton. “And we won! We have already joined the Costa Rican sport fishing and conservation group as well as the Canadian organization and haven’t even left Costa Rica yet.”
PanAmerican tournaments will be held in Canada, Mexico, Panama and again in Costa Rica in 2019. The September Costa Rican event will target tarpon.
Costa Rica Local Fisherman Profile – The Osa Peninsula’s Little Big Angler
Tosh Craig pictured below with Roosterfish
The Golfo Dulce was a big mirror of crimson as the morning fireball rises over the mountains of Panama and painted the sky like a beautiful canvas. The only sounds were the jungle behind Puntarenitas slowly coming awake, the soft slapping on the shoreline of gentle waves and the gurgling of a top-water popping lure being worked by an 13 year old boy. The serenity of this setting is cheerfully interrupted when a 25 lb roosterfish crashes the lure and it is game on.
I grew up in a small fishing community in Florida very much like Puerto Jimenez. Miles of isolated beach and mangrove estuary was my playground. Monster snook and baby tarpon were just a cast away. Of course that was 100 years ago and today that stretch of beach is lined with condos. Never in my life, have I had anyone bring back so many childhood memories as when I sat down and had a conversation with (then) 11 year old Tosh Craig.
Tosh lives and breathes fishing. From the time he busted out of his walker as a baby, he has been fishing. It doesn’t hurt that his father Cory Craig of Tropic Fins is one of the most talented fishing guides in Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula, but when dad is busy with customers, Tosh goes fishing. He is either on the beach casting the surf break alone or with his fishing buddy Anthony Araya, or you will find him on the public pier in town fishing with the other locals. Over time he has become proficient with handline, spinning, conventional, and fly fishing gear which means he is right at home fishing the style of the “locals,” or next to an adult tourist sporting a $1000 fly rod.
The check marks on his bucket list would impress even the most seasoned angler. Sailfish, dorado, tuna, a 40 pound rooster, 20 pound cubera snapper, and a 15 pound Colorado snapper taken on a handline. Next on the bucket list is a marlin. Of the array of species he has tackled, roosterfish is his favorite. Available from a boat or the shoreline, roosterfish are one of the most sought after inshore gamefish Costa Rica has to offer. Considered table fare for locals, Tosh chooses to release all the roosterfish he catches.
Tosh and Cory are often up before the sun on the beach casting. “My dad likes to fish for snook, but I would rather catch roosterfish,” explained Tosh. “They are stronger and fight better.” His favorite method is to use live bluerunners. He has to catch his own and uses a small white jig and if successful casts his live offering out beyond the surf. If live bait is not available he throws poppers on a handline. A slick surface is preferred and the best opportunity for that is early morning.
The fifth grader at Corcovado bilingual school also loves to surf and play guitar. Sounds like a recipe for future lady killer, so mom keep your eyes open. For now the most important thing to him is fishing. Doesn’t matter where or what kind of fish as long as it’s a challenge. His favorite place to fish is the beach in front of his house running to Puntarenitas. His long term goal is to be a fishing Captain like his father. “Really, I just fish whenever I can”. He smiled.
FECOP strongly encourages parents to get their kids fishing at an early age and teach them the importance of precious marine resources and responsible (sustainable fishing). To learn more about bring your kids on a fishing trip to Costa Rica read this article
Costa Rica really hit the jackpot when it comes to sportfishing. From the river mouths to the bluewaters and way inland, the country is bursting with monster gamefish. But of all the fish out there, it’s the Roosterfish Costa Rica anglers are really proud of.
Funny, then, that there’s no Roosterfish tournament in Costa Rica. But now there is. On November 16 this year, Golfo Dulce’s Crocodile Bay Resort will kick off the first International Roosterfish Tournament. Teams will travel from the US, Canada, Mexico, Panama, and of course, Costa Rica itself to take part.
Who is organizing the event? Why Costa Rica? What can we expect in years to come? We got in touch with some of the organizers to find out. From what we heard, it sounds like the teams are in for a treat!
What’s the Big Deal with Roosterfish?
Roosterfish are one of those species that can get you hooked from the first time you see them. They’re unlike anything else out there. Their wild mohawk and blue shimmer scream for a camera. Try catching one, and it’s the reel that starts screaming.
Roosterfish fight hard and don’t give in easy. The way they move is erratic, bordering on berserk. They have enough power to break your line and burn your drag if you’re not careful. They’re made even more interesting by the fact that you can’t catch them in the US. It’s easy to see why some anglers spend their lives chasing Roosters around Central America.
You can catch Roosterfish all the way from the north of Mexico to the south of Peru, but very few fisheries compare to Costa Rica. Sure, Baja might have the world record, but Costa Rica has some real monsters, too. And that’s just part of what makes the area unique.
Why Golfo Dulce?
“We catch Roosters everywhere here” – says tournament organizer Todd Staley – “We catch them on the reefs. We’ve caught them in over 200 feet. We’ve caught them in the middle of the gulf away from the shoreline.”
This will come as a surprise to anyone who has tried Roosterfishing farther north. In Mexico, Roosters are only really caught along the surf line. Most anglers wouldn’t think of targeting them in more than a couple of fathoms of water. Not so in Costa Rica, clearly.
The fish don’t lack for size, either. According to Beau Williams, Crocodile Bay’s General Manager, Roosters can hit 100 pounds or more in Golfo Dulce. Sure, these aren’t your everyday catch, but on any given week they pull in plenty of fish in the 40-60 lb range.
What draws Roosterfish to the gulf? Several things, says Williams. “It generates an abundance of bait fish that Roosters prefer – sardines, mullet, goggle-eyes, blue runners, moonfish, and bonita.” He also points to the mix of sandy beaches and volcanic rock outcroppings. This all adds up to year-round Roosters. Sure sounds like a good place for a Roosterfish tournament.
The PanAmerican Delegation: Big Fish, Big Dreams
So who exactly is organizing the tournament? The people behind the event are the PanAmerican Sportfishing Delegation. They organize tournaments all across the Americas. They have two Bass tournaments, a Snook Tournament, and as of this year, a Roosterfish Tournament.
The Delegation’s aim is to get sportfishing recognized in the Pan American Games. Eventually, they even want to see it in the Olympics. For now, though, they’re happy putting on tournaments and building friendships through fishing. That’s exactly what they’re doing in Costa Rica.
The PanAm Delegation has partnered with FECOP, a Costa Rican non-profit which focuses on protecting the country’s fisheries. This is where Staley came in. He has worked with FECOP since it was first created in 2008. He also worked at Crocodile Bay for the best part of 20 years. This made him the perfect man to help set up the event.
Staley brought the tournament committee to Golfo Dulce and showed them around several resorts in the area. Crocodile Bay came out the clear winner because of its size and easy access to Puerto Jimenez Airport. It also has a large fleet of well-maintained, near-identical boats. This gives each team the same chance of landing a winner.
The committee found the spot for their tournament. It was time to get the teams together. It didn’t take long for the word to spread. A dozen teams from five countries signed up and will be heading down to Crocodile Bay in search of the biggest Roosterfish Costa Rica has to offer.
Catching Roosterfish Costa Rica-Style
One of the many things that makes Costa Rica great is the country’s dedication to responsible fishing. Billfish and Roosterfish are catch-and-release only and circle hooks are the norm on most boats. Local groups like FECOP work hard to keep the fishing sustainable, especially during tournaments.
In keeping with this, the PanAmerican Roosterfish Tournament is entirely catch-and-release. The fish won’t even be weighed. As Staley explains, “we’re not weighing the fish because they have to be out of the water and it’s too much of a strain on them.” Instead, teams will measure each Rooster they catch and submit their top ten every day. The healthiest fish will also be tagged to help scientific study into their movements.
A Roosterfish ready to swim off and fight another day.
How will the teams be fishing? That’s up to them. Tournament rules say up to 30lb line and no treble-hooks with natural baits, but other than that, anything goes. We asked Staley for some of his top tips for bringing in big Roosters and he gave some sound advice:
“Here’s my analogy of a Roosterfish: They’re dumb as a rock to a live bait. You can fool them with a popper, or a jig, or an artificial. No-one’s found the holy grail yet on the fly. Fish all the columns of water – don’t just concentrate on the surf or the surface. Try it deep, try it on the surface – they’re gonna be someplace.”
A Big Deal Locally?
It sounds like everyone involved is going to have a blast, but what does it mean to the town? Many tournaments pass the local community by, especially when they’re organized from abroad. Williams says that isn’t the case here, though.
“The locals in this area are extremely excited to have an international tournament,” he says, explaining how the tournament trail has largely missed the south of the country. “While many experienced captains in our area have also fished professionally in Quepos for their Billfish tournaments, they are very excited to get Puerto Jimenez on the map.”
Staley also says that Golfo Dulce’s Rooster fishery doesn’t get the attention it deserves. That’s part of the reason for the tournament: “There’s plenty of other Sailfish, Marlin, and Dorado tournaments in the country,” he says, “Nobody’s really doing an all-Roosterfish tournament.”
So how involved is the local community? Not hugely, at least for this year. Staley is sticking to his golden rule of “keep it simple, stupid.” This is the tournament’s first year, after all.
That’s not to say they’re not involved at all. There will be a presentation by the head of the local fish board and a performance put on by the local school. The captains and crews will also be from the area, but the Costa Rican teams won’t – it would be a little unfair if some teams were fishing their own backyard, we guess.
“The Pan-American Delegation was formed less than 2 years ago.” Explains Staley. “It’s in its infancy but hopefully it will take off.” He says that organizations in Europe have had a lot longer to get going and that the PanAm is still catching up. If that’s the case, they’re catching up fast. They already have four tournaments in three countries, fishing both saltwater and freshwater.
This is the first PanAmerican tournament held in Costa Rica, but it won’t be the last. If everything goes well, we could also see a Tarpon tournament sometime next year. The delegation is a long way from their Oolympic dreams, but they’re making a solid start.
November 14-19, almost 50 competitors will comb the Golfo Dulce on a dream Costa Rica Roosterfish adventure. They will put back all the fish and take away prizes for their countries instead. If nothing else, it sounds like great fun. We’re hoping for even more, though: more tournaments, more fishing friendships, and eventually, maybe even angling Olympians.
Have you ever caught a Roosterfish? Ever visited Golfo Dulce? We’d love to hear your experiences, so let us know in the comments below!
Experience the thrill of the roosterfish, one the worlds most extreme fighting fish (pound for pound) in Costa Rica’s inshore waters (catch and release species)
Unlike pelagic species, roosterfish are found inshore and can be targeted year round in Costa Rica. Roosterfish average 10-15 lbs but individuals in the 40-60 lb range are not uncommon in Costa Rica’s Pacific waters. These fish are caught inshore cruising reefs and are voracious predators. Roosterfish are considered to be one of the strongest and most exciting fighting fish in Costa Rica. Their meat is dark and not good eating and this is definitely a catch and release fish. These fish can be caught from the shoreline during changing tides near drop-off points on lures including poppers but live bait trolling seems to be the most productive method to experience a fight with these bruisers. Not only are these fish aesthetically pleasing to the eye…but unlike other inshore fighting fish they will take to the air on occasion making the experience that much more exciting for the angler. If you are going to photograph this fish, do it quickly and release as soon as possible. Especially with larger/heavier individuals as being out their buoyant environment is hard on the fishes internal organ structure.
The roosterfish, Nematistius pectoralis, is a game fish found in the warmer waters of the East Pacific from Baja California to Peru. It is the only species in the genus Nematistius and the family Nematistiidae. It is distinguished by its “rooster comb”, seven very long spines of the dorsal fin.
Photo by Bryce Johnson
The roosterfish has an unusual arrangement of its ears: the swim bladder penetrates the brain through the large foramina and makes contact with the inner ear. It uses its swim bladder to amplify sounds.
Roosterfish can reach over 1.6 m (5 ft 3 in) in length and over 50 kg (110 lb) in weight. The weight of the average fish hooked is about 20 lb (9.1 kg). The fish is popular as a game fish, but it is not considered a good eating fish. The roosterfish is a catch and release species.
FRIENDS… last week we had a Satellite Tag recovered in Costa Rica. Talk about a needle in a haystack. The odds of recovering one of these tags after popping off are “one in a million.” However, thanks to great friends, a great team and world-wide support we got it.
A Pop-Up Satellite Archival Tag (PSAT) that was originally deployed on a Roosterfish while fishing the coastal waters near Quepos, Costa Rica has been found and returned to us!
This PSAT was is part of a larger project evaluating Roosterfish behavior and movement along the Central American Pacific coast. It was deployed during our visit to Marina Pez Vela and our tagging group was joined by Mr. Gray Ingram and Mrs. Camilla Ingram, and sponsored by the Ortiz family and employees at Marina Pez Vela.
After being deployed for 60 days the tag popped off and was now floating in the water. Incredibly the tag was recovered by a local gentleman Mr. Emiliano Vasquez while he was kayaking the coastal waters of the Gulf of Nicoya, near Paquera, Costa Rica. Mr. Vasquez described seeing something unusual in the water and once he pulled the tag out of the water he recognized the importance of what he found. He immediately decided it needed to be returned to its owner. After finding the contact information embedded in the tag he made arrangements to return it to one of our local representatives, Christian Bolaños of Gray Taxidermy. Mr. Vasques was thrilled to learn the importance of his effort and the fact that we will learn more about game fish, in particular the Roosterfish. For his effort we rewarded him $250.00 a pair of Costa Sunglasses and Gray FishTag Apparel.
What makes this story even more remarkable is how the tag got back to our office in Florida. While once again visiting Costa Rica, this time in Los Sueños Resort & Marina, Mr. and Mrs. Ingram met with our representative Christian near Los Sueños. A few words were exchanged before they had to rush to the airport and head back to the US. The Ingrams excitedly returned it to our office in Pompano Beach the next day. Talk about full circle!!
These are the kind of stories that make our program so unique and worthwhile. The large Gray FishTag Research network, all the supporters, Charter Captains and Mates, marina personnel and friends in general, all pulling together making the program move ahead. We could not do this without all the help and we are forever grateful. Stay tuned for the most detailed analysis ever, of a Pacific Roosterfish. By getting the actual tag back, we are now able to get a complete and total picture of all its activity.
Thank you all again and we are looking forward to many more stories alike!!!
Costa Rica Chosen to Host International Roosterfish Tournament
The PanAmerican Delegation recently sent representatives from the USA Angling team and the Mexican Sport Fishing Federation to choose a location for the First International Roosterfish Tournament. They scouted out several locations in Costa Rica and decided Crocodile Bay Resort, Costa Rica would be the best venue to hold the event. (www.crocodilebay.com)
The PanAmerican Delegation is made up of fishing organizations from Canada, United States, Mexico, Central and South America. They hold tournaments in various countries promoting the sport as well as conservation with the goal to one day place sport fishing in the Pan-American games and eventually in the Olympics. FECOP, the sport fishing advocacy group is the Costa Rican representative of the PanAmerican Delegation and will co-host the event.
“First we picked the area of Costa Rica which we felt had the most productive inshore fishery with more available area to fish,” said Ben Blegen captain of the USA Predator Fishing Team. “We decided Southern Costa Rica had more to offer.”
Next, they had to find a location that could easily house a big group and move them around with ease once they arrived in the country. “Crocodile Bay’s close proximity to the regional airport, the ability to house everyone in one location and the on premise private pier were all a big plus in making our decision,” explained Blegen.
The event will be held November 16 until 19, 2018 with open ceremony dinner on the 16th, tournament fishing on the 17th and 18th. Blegen went on to explain the it is not a money tournament put rather anglers will compete for bronze, silver and gold medals and fish for their country of residence. For example if you live in the USA and enter the tournament you will be assigned to fish on the USA team.
This will be PanAmerican’s first roosterfish tournament and first tournament the organization has held in Costa Rica. They are planning to add a tarpon tournament in Costa Rica to the agenda in 2019 as well.
“People’s first comments were, how do we fish a roosterfish tournament when we don’t know how to fish roosterfish,” explained Blegen. “I tell them the Costa Rica team took the bronze medal in the Black Bass tournament last February on Lake Okeechobee, Florida competing against some professional bass anglers, and there is no bass fishery in Costa Rica.”
The tournament will be a catch and release format with each team consisting of 4 anglers. The cost includes one-night lodging in San Jose, in country air transportation to Crocodile Bay and airport transfers, 3 nights at the resort will all meals, two days of tournament fishing, and fishing license. Price is $1250 per angler quad. $1300 triple in room and $1375 double in room.
November is historically a great month for large roosterfish. The tournament is open to all anglers. Costa del Mar sun glasses has already committed to enter two women’s teams from the US. Individual anglers who do not have a full team can participate and will be placed on a team by drawing at the opening dinner. All Penn tackle provided, or you can bring your own.