Recently, I was introduced to the “Trachinotus carolinus,” otherwise known as the Florida Pompano. While I’ve always known of them, I had never thought much of them as a target species, much less good table fare. WOW – What a mistake that was! These things rock! Now, a day on the water doesn’t go by where we won’t try and hunt down a few. They hit hard and fight well beyond their size, much like permit and jacks. As far as table fare, to date, the Florida Pompano is the best tasting fish I’ve had locally. Its meat is clean and sweet, likely due to them running the outer beaches, shoals and grass flats with constant moving waters along with their diet of shrimp, sand fleas and crabs.
An upside to targeting them is that Pompano run in groups, and where you find one, there will generally be a bunch more. Once turned on to the bite, they are aggressive and voracious eaters, competing amongst themselves and with ladyfish that seem to run in the same zones. The water will be moving, and Pompano seem to favor when that water is turbid. Finding them is hit and miss, though, so be patient, keep moving and work areas diligently. Be aggressive – not subtle – when fishing for Pompano. Make long search casts and cast often.
Tackle is generally a medium action rod with a fast tip in the 7 to 7’6” range. I’ve been using the Bull Bay Banshee and the Bull Bay Sniper, both great rods with great distance and power for their size. Light braid of any color of about 10- or 15-pound test should suffice. Tie on a leader in the three-foot length range of 15 pounds. That light leader will help increase your bite ratio. Lures vary, but most are simple. My first experience with Pompano was by catch when fishing for trout. I was fishing a quarter-ounce chartreuse jig with a white Gulp shrimp, and apparently working it overly aggressive and caught my first two Pompano that way. The fever took hold of me and now I’ve outfitted myself with purpose-built Pompano jigs. The banana-style jig, either with or without the stinger, in hot pink and white, or yellow and white, are effective, as well as the small, traditional Pompano jigs, again in pink or bright yellow. Tipping Pompano with shrimp won’t hurt, but I’ve noticed that is not always necessary.
What it key, however, is how you work these lures.
- Make long casts, let the jig sink to the bottom and rest a couple of seconds.
- Then, start a retrieve with sharp, quick upwards jigging action – that is the ticket to get their attention.
The Pompano, with its large flat sides, will sense the action you are making along their lateral line, even in the murkiest of water. Once close, they’ll see that lure and strike! The bite can be aggressive or subtle. Either way, once they “feel the steel,” hold on, folks, because the scrap from these fish will make a believer out of you. I’ve been on this rock 63 years and love learning new things and seeking out new experiences. To that end, I have to give major credit to my buddy, Captain Rene Martinez of Fishing Freak Charters. He not only turned me on to these fish, but he has mentored me through the learning curve. This young man is a stud; please look him up!
Many of you out there who already target Pompano know exactly what I mean. For those of us that are new to them, that first “pomp” won’t be your last. I’ve literally put together a small tackle box just for targeting these critters! Oh yeah, a potential by catch can be our spotted sea trout since they favor similar areas and conditions… so how’s that for great variety?
One more time, folks: basic Pompano-driven tackle, some diligent homework on Google Earth and some sweat equity will reward you with a fun, energetic fish offering table fare that is beyond amazing.
One final note on the regulations for Pompano… There is no season, so it’s open year-round. The length is a minimum of 11” at the fork and six fish per harvester.
Now… y’all go get some Florida Pompano!
About the Author
Joe Garcia is the Brand Fishing Ambassador at Sunshine Ace Hardware.
Contact Joe for information on the hottest new fishing gear in stock, local fishing tips and more: JGarcia@SunshineAce.com.