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A Roosterfish Worth Crowing Over
by Jason Schratwieser
IGFA-roosterfish-fly
COURTESY IGFA / IGFA.ORG
Margaret Shaughnessy landed this 60-plus-pound roosterfish on 20-pound tippet.

Anyone who’s caught roosterfish knows that Mr. Nematistius pectoralis is one bad-ass mamma jamma that can damage both tackle and feelings. Though superficially very similar to the Jack family (Carangidae), roosterfish are literally in a league of their own (the family Nematistidae). These fish are endemic to the west coast of Central America from roughly Mexico to Peru, with the all-tackle record of 114 pounds coming from La Paz, Mexico in 1960.  

Often found very close to shore, roosterfish are very popular throughout their range with recreational anglers. Live bait probably catches the majority of fish but lures and flies can also be very effective under certain conditions. Fly fishing along Baja California’s Sea of Cortez has become increasingly popular, where anglers walk the beach to sight cast to 20-plus-pound roosters in shallow, clear water.      

Baja California has produced no fewer than 11 IGFA records in the last five years — the latest of which is pretty special for several reasons. On June 2, Margaret Shaughnessy was fishing her secret spot off of the west coast of Baja with her husband James and guide Marco. Just before 4 p.m., she hooked what she considered a respectable rooster. You see, Margaret knows a thing or two about whipping roosters with the long rod — she happens to have held the 8-, 12-, 16- and 20-pound tippet records for this species.

Little did Margaret realize that the rooster on that fateful day would be her biggest ever. This fish was so large that she didn’t get to see it until more than three hours into the fight. Exhausted from the fight, the heat, and building seas, she battled the fish for another hour before her husband and guide collectively pulled the massive rooster in the boat.  

A staunch advocate of catch and release, Margaret and her team placed the fish in the boat’s livewell and raced to shore to weigh the fish. When the big rooster was weighed, it bottomed out Margaret’s certified 60-pound BogaGrip. Even though they knew the fish undoubtedly weighed more than 60 pounds, the decision was made to release the fish and, after taking plenty of time to revive the fish, it swam away strongly.

Margaret’s pending 20-pound tippet roosterfish record is the second heaviest ever caught on fly rod. Had she killed the fish and weighed it on a bigger scale, it most likely would have eclipsed men’s 20-pound tippet record of 62 pounds, 4 ounces. (The 62-pounder reigns as the biggest roosterfish fly record.) However, I bet that Margaret feels pretty good about being able to catch a fish of this caliber and release it. That should make her a great angler in anyone’s book.