Professional saltwater fishermen like my buddy Capt. Justin Rieger have a different sense of changing seasons than most folks. We don’t think of the four seasons in terms of falling leaves, bare trees, budding flowers, or long days of glorious sunshine. We have fish on the brain! We think in terms of what’s running.
I got a call from Justin the other day, and his voice was unusually tentative, like he needed a favor but was shy to ask.
"Listen, uh, you got any pompano jigs are flies tied, that I uh, can borrow? It's already the pompano time."
Justin's not one to get caught off guard in terms of tackle readiness. But a powerful early season cold front has already pushed the pomps as far south as the Stuart area. Anglers plying the beaches and key areas along the IntraCoastal Waterway from St. Augustine south have golden, hard-fighing, delicious pompano on the brain.
Sure, inshore anglers will also catch plenty of redfish, trout, Spanish mackerel and flounder, among other wonderful species, all winter long. But there’s an appreciable buzz now that it’s officially, “the pompano time.”
You see small convoys of trucks with full rod racks hustling over the bridges and causeways, to form legions of surf anglers saluting the season with surf rods along our beaches.
Look for anglers with jig rods take up positions along the lower bridges crossing the Indian River Lagoon, and on the ocean piers.
And a menagerie of skiffs will fall into informal formations as they drift the flats in search of these fickle, delicious fish.
The buzz will last well into March, and you can easily take part, from land or by boat.
Surf fishing is the most popular and often productive place to catch pompano. Top beaches include Playa Linda, the beaches north of Sebastian Inlet, the beaches along the central part of South Hutchinson Island, Hobe Sound, and Juno Beach.
Piers also offer great access to the surf fishery. Check out the Cocoa Beach Pier, the jetties at Sebastian Inlet, the south Jetty at the Fort Pierce Inlet, Juno Beach Pier, and Lake Worth Pier. The beaches and piers in far South Florida, including Broward and Miami/Dade counties, will become productive later in the winter, especially after the coldest fronts.
Inshore, the action primarily takes place on the Indian River Lagoon. Shore-based anglers do well fishing from the causeway catwalks and “mosquito bridges,” the short bridges between the big causeways and the barrier islands are top spots.
A few guides specialize in this fishery, and fishing from a boat gives you much for freedom to chase these prized, elusive fish.