Florida's Pompano Are Fine Fighters, Finer Eating

By: Peter Miller, Bass 2 Billfish

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The pompano's abundance throughout Florida waters makes it one of the most sought-after gamefish for shore-bound anglers.

Florida has numerous species of jacks swimming in its waters, but the most prized is the Florida pompano. Found off beaches and in inlets throughout the state, hungry anglers know that fresh pompano equals a delicious fish dinner.

Pompano typically feed in shallow water for small shrimp, crabs and other shellfish. From the surf, anglers target pompano with mole crabs, also known as sand fleas. Throwing a sand flea at a pompano is the equivalent of dropping a cookie among kids – it will get picked up. Surf fishers spend hours digging for sand fleas and still more hours keeping them alive for a few days of pompano fishing. While sand fleas may be the best bait, small cut pieces of shrimp will certainly catch a fair share, too

On the Gulf Coast of Florida, pompano fishermen tend to throw artificials more frequently than east coasters. With the Gulf’s usually calmer surf, anglers aim for pompano by casting parallel to troughs with small bucktail or nylon-haired jigs tipped with a bit of shrimp. Gulf Coast anglers also drift passes on strong outgoing tides, employing a near-vertical jigging technique known as the pompano pump. This technique allows everyone on the boat to take advantage of drifting over a school of hungry pompano.

Color can play an important role in catching pompano with jigs. Typically in cleaner water, yellow, white or brown hues are best, while in dirtier or stained water bright pink or chartreuse often get the nod. Jigs should be heavy enough to keep close contact with the pompano, which are definitely bottom feeders. Anglers barely feel many pompano strikes – often the only thing you’ll feel is extra weight on the line. Short, quick pops of the rod tip will mimic a fleeing shrimp and produce more strikes.

When tipping a jig for pompano, a fingernail-size piece of shrimp will suffice. Too big a piece and you’ll lose the action pompano find irresistible. Pompano tackle can be any light inshore rod, and braid is almost a necessity to detect the soft strikes. Surf anglers usually employ a longer rod to reach farther out into the surf.

While not as glamorous as their cousins, the permit, pompanos are definitely representative of their hard-fighting jack family. Their abundance throughout Florida’s waters makes them one of the most sought after gamefish for shore-bound anglers. And in addition to the fun of catching pompano, their puffy, white meat makes for great eating.

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