Fishing for Pompano
Fishing for pompano with the Fishing Ladies
Many anglers enjoy fishing for pompano. They are found along the Gulf of Mexico coast and up the Atlantic coast to North Carolina. They fight very hard for their size and are fantastic eating!
Pompano average a couple of pounds. However, they put up a terrific fight for their size. These smaller cousins to the permit use their broad sides and forked tails to pull very hard. Pompano feed on the bottom, normally on crustaceans such as shrimp and crabs. They range from Texas along the US coast as far north as Cape Hatteras in North Carolina. Pompano are prized as table fare by anglers. Jigs, live shrimp and sand fleas are the top baits.
One look at a pompano will clue anglers as to their feeding habits. The mouth is small and “inferior”, meaning it is behind the nose. It feeds by using that hard nose to root in the bottom in search of crabs and shrimp. It then vacuums up the prey. Pompano will be found over sandy bottoms, grassy bottoms and around rocky structure. All of these areas hold the forage that they feed on.
Pompano fishing tackle
As in most inshore saltwater applications, the same rod and reel used to target speckled trout, Spanish mackerel, and other species will work fine when targeting pompano. As these fish do not grow too large, a light spinning outfit is perfect. A 6 1/2 foot medium action rod with a 2500-3000 series reel and 10 pound monofilament or 20 pound braided line is perfect.
Angler surf fishing will also do well with standard surf fishing tackle. A 10 foot surf rod with matching reel will do fine in most situations. Experienced anglers will often step up to a 13 foot rod when the surf is high. This allows them to cast further and get the line up out of the breaking waves.
Best pompano baits
Anglers fishing for pompano do well using both artificial lures and live and natural bait. Shrimp are an excellent bait used either live or fresh dead. They are available at just about every coastal bait shop. Sand fleas (also known as mole crabs), are prized as a pompano bait and many experienced anglers consider them to be the most productive bait to use when fishing for pompano. Fiddler crabs and oyster crabs will catch fish as well.
Jig fishing for pompano
The top artificial lure by far is the jig. A jig is a hook with a piece of lead molded near the eye. The hook is then dressed with either natural or synthetic hair or a plastic grub body of some sort. Anglers fishing for pompano work the jig right on the bottom. Each time it hits the bottom it kicks up a tiny puff of sand. This mimics a fleeing crab or shrimp and is a very effective presentation.
Pompano have fairly small mouths. Anglers drifting the flats and inlets and passes will catch pompano on the larger jigs meant for speckled trout and other species. Therefore, anglers fishing for pompano specifically generally scale down the size of the lure.
There are several types of jigs on the market specifically designed for pompano. There are two types, the ball head jig and the banana jig. Ball head jigs are basically smaller versions of a buck tail jig. It will have a round head with a smaller hook, around a size #4. The dressing will normally be synthetic and will be trimmed close, just beyond the bend of the hook. These jig sink very quickly and are great choice when fishing passes and inlets. They can also be cast out by anglers fishing for pompano on the flats.
Banana jigs are odd looking little lures. As the name implies, they are long and slender with a bend in them, looking a bit like a banana. Some also have a little fly attached to add some flash. They have a very erratic action when falling. Anglers can work them either vertically or casting out by jerking the rod tip up and letting the jig falls sharply to the bottom.
Fishing for pompano with natural bait
Shrimp are probably the most popular live bait for anglers fishing for pompano. They are very effective and easily obtained at most bait shops. This availability is certainly one of the keys to their popularity and productivity. Fresh dead shrimp can be quite effective as well, especially for anglers surf fishing. Frozen shrimp can produce in fresh shrimp are not available.
Shrimp will also catch just about every other species and saltwater. For some anglers this is a great thing as it results in more action. Anglers specifically targeting pompano sometimes find these other fish to be a nuisance. This is not the worst problem in the world to have!
There is no doubt that among serious pompano fisherman that the best bait to use as a sand flea, also known as a mole crabs. These little critters are about the size of your thumbnail and are found in the sand right at the edge of the surf. In prime pompano areas, they may be available at bait shops. However, most anglers catch them along the surf line using special rakes. Serious anglers fishing for pompano will often times spend more time catching bait than they will catching the fish.
Pompano locations and seasons
Pompano are found along the beaches, in passes and inlets, and on the flats. Generally speaking, the flats closest to the open waters of the Gulf and Atlantic are best. Inlets on the East Coast and passes on the West Coast are also prime spots for anglers fishing for pompano. Many fish are caught by anglers surf fishing as well.
Pompano are found in Florida all year long. The cooler months are best, but the occasional fish can be caught at any time. As it warms up, the fish will move north along the east coast. Summer is the best time to catch them off of the Carolina beaches. Pompano are landed along the Gulf Coast with the exception of really cold weather in the northern portion of the Florida panhandle area.
Passes and inlets
Inlets are veritable fish highways that pompano and other species use to travel from the open waters of the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean into the back bays. The current is always stronger in these areas due to the natural constricting of the land masses. The result is a natural spot for fish to congregate and feed, especially when structure is present.
Inlets and passes are virtually the same thing. In the Gulf of Mexico, they are called “passes”. And Atlantic Ocean, they are called “inlets”. While they are similar in most cases, they are actually fished a bit differently. This is mainly due to the fact that on the East Coast tides are stronger and boat traffic can be significantly heavier.
Pompano fishing in passes
The best technique to use when fishing for pompano and passes is to drift using a vertical presentation. Jigs work really well in this application and can be tipped with a small piece of shrimp to increase the chances of success. The jig is simply lower to the bottom and twitched sharply using short 1 foot movements. The jig stays in the strikes on the entire time and as the boat drifts a lot of water can be covered in a short amount of time. Once a school is located, anglers will re-drift that area until the bite slows.
Pompano will often times get up into very shallow water on the sandbars in the passes. As the drifting boat will spook them in this skinny water, it is best to make long casts and work the lure back to the boat. Jigs are effective in this situation as well, though anglers can certainly catch fish using live shrimp or sand fleas.
Inlets on the Atlantic Ocean side can be a bit tricky. Tides are often times quite swift, resulting in a potentially dangerous boating situation. It also requires a lot of weight to get down to the bottom. Finally, boat traffic, especially on weekends, can be quite heavy. Often times, the best way to fish for Pompano in inlets is from the jetty. Anglers can cast out live bait or jigs and thoroughly work the rocks.
Often times, the best spots in the inlets are little eddies or edges where the rocks transition to sand. These are prime spots for pompano to hold in and feet. The Eddie on the backside of the jetty on the Atlantic Ocean side is a prime spot for anglers fishing for pompano and the inlets.
Surf fishing for pompano
One of the great things about fishing for pompano is that anglers do not need a boat to catch them. All things considered, more Pompano are probably landed by anglers surf fishing than they are by anglers in boats. The entire coastline from South Texas around the tip of Florida and up to Cape Hatteras can produce pompano at one time or another.
Most anglers fishing for pompano in the surf use natural bait, with shrimp and sand fleas being the top to baits by far. Techniques for surf fishing for pompano on both coasts are similar, however anglers fishing on the Atlantic Ocean side will often times have to deal with a higher surf.
There are two basic rigs that are most often used by anglers surf fishing for pompano. These are the fish finder rig and the dropper rig (also known as spreader rig, high low rig, and chicken rig). Both can be effective and often times anglers use two different rods, each rigged differently, to see what the fish want that day.
Surf fishing rigs
A fish finder rig sits right on the bottom. It includes a clever little device that is plastic with a hole through the center and a clip. The main line slides through this hole and is attached to a swivel. A leader is then tied between the other end of the swivel and the hook. Anglers can include a small float near the hook to lift the bait up off the bottom. The clip allows for easy weight change to adjust to the current conditions.
The dropper rig has the sinker at the bottom of the running line with several hooks tied in line at various intervals above the weight. These rigs can be purchased already made up. However, many anglers tie their own. This rig has the advantage of presenting multiple baits at different depths in the water column.
Most anglers surf fishing for pompano opt for the spreader rig. It has several advantages over the fish finder rig. Anglers can present multiple baits on one rod. These baits can also be presented right on the bottom or a few feet above. Finally, it keeps the baits up off the bottom when sharks, skates, crabs and other life that feeds on the bottom become a nuisance.
Using lures for pompano in the surf
While most anglers target pompano in the surf using natural bait, they can certainly be caught on artificial lures as well. This is particularly true when the tide is high in the seas are flat. Pompano will cruise the first trough, quite close to shore, in search of sand fleas and other forage. Anglers casting jigs and working at through this area will catch fish under these conditions.
Fishing for pompano on the flats
Pompano are also caught on the flats in the inshore bays. Often times, there are an incidental catch for anglers fishing for speckled trout, Spanish mackerel, and other species. They are a most welcome intrusion! Pompano generally swim around in small bunches, so once one is landed anglers can be fairly certain that others are nearby.
Flats close to the inlets and passes are generally the most productive ones for anglers fishing for pompano. They tend to be a bit deeper and have good current flow. The best flats are generally those that have a nice mix of grass and sand. Pompano will often times hold in the transition area where it changes from grass to sand.
Drifting is the best technique to use when targeting pompano on the flats. As with the passes, it allows anglers to cover a large amount of water fairly quickly. The best approach is to set up a drift where the wind and tide will move the boat in the same direction. This will result in a nice efficient drift.
Jigs and live shrimp produce on the flats
Both jigs and live bait work well in this situation. Generally speaking, anglers will cast jigs out in front of the drifting boat and work it back in. As with fishing in the passes, the jig will work best when presented right on the bottom. The lure is worked back using short, sharp twitches of the rod tip and then allowing the jig to fall to the bottom.
Live shrimp can also work well when drifting the flats. It will also catch a variety of other species as well. Free lining the shrimp works well on flats with water deeper than 6 feet. Anglers simply hook the shrimp through the horn and allow it to drift out behind the boat. A small split shot may be required when it is breezy or the current is strong. In shallower water, shrimp can be fished under a popping cork to keep it up out of the grass.
Pompano are excellent table fare
One of the best aspects of fishing for pompano is the opportunity for a fresh dinner. Some of the best chefs in the world consider Pompano to be the best eating fish of all species that swim! Pompano have a very fine, moist, buttery flavor. However, they really do not freeze all that well and angler should only keep enough for a fresh meal or two. There are several different ways to prepare them. Anglers can see current Florida fishing regulations on the FWC site.
Pompano are excellent when sautéed in a pan. A 50-50 mixture of butter and olive oil is heated in a pan. Pompano is covered in a tire breadcrumbs on both sides then placed into the hot skillet. The fishes allowed to cook for two minutes on each side and then is finished off in a 400° oven for five minutes or so depending on the thickness of the fillets.
Marinades work very well with Pompano as they absorb the flavor. However, it is best not to use one that is too strong that will mass the delicate flavor of the pompano. An easy marinade is one that is 1/4 cup light soy sauce, three-quarter cup olive oil, with some honey, ginger, and parsley mixed in. The fillets are allowed to set for 1 to 2 hours they can be baked, broiled, or grilled.