Pompano on the Menu

By: Terry Gibson

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Yesterday, I went down to the beach for a surf and ran into a buddy who is a commercial pompano fisherman. He fishes from the beach with 14-foot surf-casting gear and can heave a pompano rig a country mile off the beach. He's one of the most secretive anglers I know. He knows the golden, shifting sands of the Treasure Coast beaches intimately, and comes and goes like a ghost. When he saw me walking up the beach toward his sand spikes, he just shook his head, grinned and said, "busted."

Dude had a cooler full of pompano  – one of the tastiest fish caught on both of Florida's coast, and pound for pound, one of the hardest fighting. He graciously gave me a couple fish, in exchange for keeping his name and the exact location out of print.

Hardcore pompano fishermen like my buddy seem to be able to smell the migration. In reality, there's a "coconut telephone" line that channels information down the beach from town to town as the fish move south. The run typically starts with the fall's first nor'easter and lasts into April. The schools move north to south in pulses along both coasts as water temperatures fall, and as weather systems come and go. Surf fishermen usually catch them first, mostly on sandfleas but shrimp work as well. Unless it's calm, you need a surf rod for pompano fishing.

After a hard blow or two they move into the coastal rivers and lagoons where you can catch them on light spinning or fly tackle. Pink nylon jigs and flies that resemble them catch 'em up. Anglers catch them jigging vertically from bridges and piers, or by casting across sandbars adjacent to deeper water. The Indian River Lagoon, especially in the Stuart area, arguably offers the best inshore pompano fishing in the state. Top guides include Capt. Mike Conner is the local guide that specializes in both surf fishing and fly and light tackle fishing for pompano.

Tip: When throwing jigs to pompano, you want to jerk the lure aggressively, but let it touch bottom for at least a second between each jigging action. Pompano primarily feed on relatively stationary crabs and shrimp that burrow into the bottom, so they're always looking down.

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