Some call the Florida pompano run "the goldrush," partly because the commercial guys can get eight or nine bucks a pound for "pomps." But recreational anglers get so fired up about catching these hard-fighting, delicious saltwater panfish that I imagine that most of us would spend our last dollar in their pursuit.
One of the great things about pompano and pompano fishing is that they're so accessible. From New Smyrna Beach to Jupiter, and soon enough in waters to the south, the annual migration south along the Atlantic coast is well underway and the fish should be around until mid-March.
Anglers are flocking to the beaches and to parts of the Indian River Lagoon in droves. Sand spikes buried to the hilt, surf fishermen are lined up tilting surf rods at groundswells. Bridge and causeway anglers stand shoulder to shoulder, jigging vertically through the tides. At the boatramp, shallow-draft vessels bristle with rods festooned with pink and yellow nylon jigs. Word's out and the fever is spreading.
My buddy TJ Marshall, my girlfriend Teresa and I got in on the goldrush last week here in the Stuart area. We caught seven pompano, and not a one of them was under three pounds. Usually, the smaller fish are the migration frontrunners, but apparently not this year. We're wondering if this season might bring the best run of big fish we've ever seen.
Needless to say, we ate well around Turkey Day. Pompano are delicious cooked a number of ways. One night, I baked them in lime juice and olive oil, sprinkled with paprika and dill. We had grilled pompano sandwiches for lunch the next day. And Sunday night I cooked pompano almandine.
If you're down for some awesome light-tackle action this winter for one of Florida's tastiest of fish, feel free to ask me about guides that specialize in pompano fishing, or about rigs, tackle and locations if you're going DIY. Also, most local restaurants will custom-cook your catch for you if you give them a heads up.