Roosterfish, Nematistius pectoralis

The Roosterfish, Nematistius pectoralis, is one of the true exotics of the world, with a common Spanish name is papagallo and known locally as pez gallo, is a species in the Roosterfish or Nematistiidae Family, known as papagallo in Mexico. There is only this species in the genus Nematistius, and it is found in Mexican waters of the Pacific.

The Roosterfish have elongated compressed bodies that are bluish gray in color with silvery reflections. They have four dark bars, one between their eyes, one across the rear part of their head, two obliquely curved black bands on their sides, one of which extends down the center of the caudal base. Their head is pointed and features simple teeth. Their first dorsal fin has seven spines the last six of which are very elongated; the second dorsal fin has one spine and 25 rays. Their anal fin base is much shorter than their dorsal fin base. Their caudal fin is deeply forked; they have long and curved pectoral fins that are longer than their pelvic fins.

The Roosterfish are a schooling species found along sandy shores at depths up to 60 feet. They can reach up to 1.91 meters (6 feet 3 inches) in length and 52 kg (114 pounds) in weight with the current I.G.F.A. world record being taken in waters off La Paz in 1960. A Roosterfish Weight from Length Conversion Table has been included in this website to allow the accurate determination of a fish weight and a return to the ocean unharmed. They are voracious ambush predators feeding on small fish. They prey on a variety of long slender fish (ladyfish, mullets, halfbeaks, and herrings) and have been known to swallow a 51 cm (20 inch) ladyfish whole.

In Mexican waters the Roosterfish are found in all waters of the Pacific with the exception that they are absent from the extreme northern portions of the Sea of Cortez.

The Roosterfish is an easy fish to identify due to its unique “rooster comb” and thus cannot be confused with any other species.

The Roosterfish are a targeted species of recreational anglers as they are exceedingly strong and can make long runs. They can be caught via trolling live bait within a quarter mile of the beach or on live bait, or Ranger Plugs and Klassen Poppers off the beach. They are a seasonal species that follow mullet and are found in the greater Los Cabos area primarily during the months of May, June, and July. The Roosterfish is not a favorite of local fishermen. They do not focus on them but if caught as an incidental catch the smaller ones will be retained. Overall they are a poor food fish but are on occasion sold fresh in local markets to the uninformed.

Roosterfish, Nematistius pectoralis, Juvenile. Fish caught off the beach at Km 24, Cerro Colorado, June 2009. Length: 36 cm (14 inches).

Roosterfish, Nematistius pectoralis. Fish caught from coastal waters off Point Palmilla, Baja California Sur, July 2009. Length: 95 cm (37 inches). Weight: 10 kg (22 pounds). Catch courtesy of Eduardo Correa, Mexico City, Mexico.

Roosterfish, Nematistius pectoralis. Fish caught from coastal waters off Puerto Los Cabos, Baja California Sur, August 2004. Length: 1.26 meters (4 feet 2 inches). Weight: 24 kg (53 pounds).