Roosterfish (Nematistius pectoralis)

The roosterfish is a superb light-tackle gamefish and a member of the Carangidae family of jacks, so named for the comb of long dorsal fin spines that extends far above the body of the fish. It has been exploited at a local level because of its excellent quality as a food fish and is marketed fresh.


A striking, iridescent fish, the roosterfish is characterized by seven long, threadlike dorsal fin spines, which are found even on young fish. This comb stands erect when the roosterfish is excited, as when threatened, but ordinarily, the fin remains lowered in a sheath along the back. There are also two dark, curved stripes on the body and a dark spot at the base of the pectoral fin.


Roosterfish can grow to 4 feet in length and exceed 100 pounds. The all-tackle world record is a 114-pound fish taken off Baja California in 1960.

Food and feeding habits

Roosterfish consume assorted small fish, with large roosters (50 pounds and over) being capable of capturing even bonito up to 2 pounds in size. When found along beaches, they may be in schools and may feed competitively, with various members of a school simultaneously chasing bait, or lures, for considerable distances.

Other Names

Spanish: papagallo, gallo, pez de gallo, reje pluma. Distribution. Endemic to the eastern Pacific, roosterfish occur from San Clemente in Southern California to Peru, including the Galápagos Islands; they are rare north of Baja California, Mexico.


Roosterfish inhabit shallow inshore areas, such as sandy shores along beaches. They are often found around rock outcroppings and rocky islands. Young fish are often found in tidal pools.