How to catch pompano

How to catch pompano

A favorite fish to catch for most surf and pier anglers across Florida is the Pompano. They are rated as one of the best tasting fish in the sea and one of the best fighters pound-for-pound.

Where to find Pompano

Pompano migrate along the entire coast of Florida. They can be found from the Atlantic border with Georgia to the Gulf of Mexico border with Alabama.

Pompano primarily are found along the surf line. They are most frequently found in the trough between sandbars feeding on any crustaceans that are churned up by the breaking surf.

When to find Pompano

Pompano are highly migratory fish. They are on a constant search for the perfect water temperatures and travel north in the summer and south in the winter to find the water conditions that they favor. Pompano will migrate many miles to stay in the 78-82 degree water temperature range. Most parts of Florida will have a fall and a spring run of Pompano. Keep an eye on surf temperatures to know when they will be in your area.

Equipment for catching Pompano

While Pompano are one of the hardest fighting fish, pound for pound, found in Florida they do not get very large. Because of their relatively small size any surf or inshore gear will work just fine. When fishing in the surf longer rods and heavier lines can be required for longer casts, but when pier and dock fishing, a 10-15 pound class spinning combo will work very well.

How to Catch Pompano

Pompano almost exclusively eat crustaceans, with a rare bait fish as the exception. The most effective live bait is sand fleas (also known as mole crabs), followed by fresh clams and fresh pealed shrimp.

The best place to catch Pompano is in the surf, between sand bars. Cast into the through (the area of deeper, calmer water between breaking waves) with a double dropper set up. Use a sand flea on one hook and clam or shrimp on the other. When the Pompano start to feed, pay attention to which bait is producing better and put it on both hooks.

Some anglers have great success using Pompano Jigs. These are VERY popular and South West Florida and are used with great sucess from piers and docs.

Florida Pompano Regulations

  • 11″ (measured to fork of tail) minimum size
  • 5 fish bag limit
  • Accurate as of 7/28/14

How to catch pompano

Pompano Fish Quick Facts
Name: Pompano Fish
Scientific Name: Trachinotus carolinus
Colors Blue-greenish silver
Shapes Short, deep, compressed, 17-25 inches in length
Flesh colors White to off-white
Taste Mild, succulent
Calories 186 Kcal./cup
Major nutrients Selenium (74.91%)
Isoleucine (57.48%)
Lysine (57.24%)
Tryptophan (52.95%)
Threonine (51.88%)

It lives in the warm waters of the south Atlantic from Cape Cod to Brazil. They should not be confused with the California pompano which is in fact a member of the butterfish family and not a pompano at all. It is a fast growing fish, reaching 8-12 inches in its first year. They usually live about 3 to 4 years. It is blue-greenish silver dorsally and silver to yellow on body and fins. It averages 1 ½ to 3 pounds however they have been to reach 9 pounds and 26 inches in length. They are a fairly expensive fish because of high demand and commercial fishing restrictions.

There are several fish species in the genera Trachinotus that are marketed as pompano. The name pompano has long been used broadly to refer to many different species within this large family of fish called jacks (Carangidae). Pompano became popular in the United States primarily because of the domestic sport and commercial fishery along the coast of Florida for Trachinotus carolinus. This species is the most expensive and preferred due to its wonderful flavor, texture and fat content. This species of pompano is highly valued as a food fish both commercially and recreationally. They are characterized by their greenish gray and silver color.

Habitat

Florida pompano are common in inshore and near shore waters, especially along sandy beaches, along oyster banks, and over grass beds. They are often in turbid water and may be found in water as deep as 130 feet.

Physical Appearance

The body profile is compressed with short snout. Color is normally blue-greenish silver on the dorsally and is silver to yellow on body and fins. There are no visible vertical bars on sides. Fins are dusky or yellowish in color, mainly the anal fin. The tail fin is deeply forked. The head profile slopes to a blunt snout, with the mouth somewhat inferior. The adult Florida Pompano can range from 17 – 25 inches in length. The angler caught Florida Pompano is usually 3 lbs or less. Florida Pompano rarely grow more than 6 Lbs.

Six short spines are located in front of an elongated dorsal fin, which is set low on the fish’s back and is matched by a slightly shorter anal fin underneath. The first few soft rays (spines) of these fins are elongated, followed by a narrow band of soft rays that lead to the deeply forked V shaped tail. The dorsal fin has 22 to 27 soft rays (spines); the anal fin has 20 to 23 rays (spines). The fins of pompano may be yellow.

How to catch pompano

A favorite fish to catch for most surf and pier anglers across Florida is the Pompano. They are rated as one of the best tasting fish in the sea and one of the best fighters pound-for-pound.

Where to find Pompano

Pompano migrate along the entire coast of Florida. They can be found from the Atlantic border with Georgia to the Gulf of Mexico border with Alabama.

Pompano primarily are found along the surf line. They are most frequently found in the trough between sandbars feeding on any crustaceans that are churned up by the breaking surf.

When to find Pompano

Pompano are highly migratory fish. They are on a constant search for the perfect water temperatures and travel north in the summer and south in the winter to find the water conditions that they favor. Pompano will migrate many miles to stay in the 78-82 degree water temperature range. Most parts of Florida will have a fall and a spring run of Pompano. Keep an eye on surf temperatures to know when they will be in your area.

Equipment for catching Pompano

While Pompano are one of the hardest fighting fish, pound for pound, found in Florida they do not get very large. Because of their relatively small size any surf or inshore gear will work just fine. When fishing in the surf longer rods and heavier lines can be required for longer casts, but when pier and dock fishing, a 10-15 pound class spinning combo will work very well.

How to Catch Pompano

Pompano almost exclusively eat crustaceans, with a rare bait fish as the exception. The most effective live bait is sand fleas (also known as mole crabs), followed by fresh clams and fresh pealed shrimp.

The best place to catch Pompano is in the surf, between sand bars. Cast into the through (the area of deeper, calmer water between breaking waves) with a double dropper set up. Use a sand flea on one hook and clam or shrimp on the other. When the Pompano start to feed, pay attention to which bait is producing better and put it on both hooks.

Some anglers have great success using Pompano Jigs. These are VERY popular and South West Florida and are used with great sucess from piers and docs.

Florida Pompano Regulations

  • 11″ (measured to fork of tail) minimum size
  • 5 fish bag limit
  • Accurate as of 7/28/14

How to catch pompano

How-To Articles & Videos Where’s The Bite Regulations Recipes • Conservation

How to catch pompano

The Florida Pompano, Trachinotus carolinus

Silvery overall with yellow on underside. Dorsal fin dark; other fins yellow. Head gently rounded. No scutes forward of tail. Pompano are often confused with small Permit of similar size, but Permit usually show a black blotch under the pectoral fin, and their bodies are deeper.

SIZE: Averages 1 pound; fairly common at 2 pounds and can grow to 8 pounds. World and Florida records 8 pounds, 4 ounces.

FOOD VALUE: Reputed to be the best.

GAME QUALITIES: Tops. Will outrace and outpull a Jack Crevalle of equivalent size.

TACKLE AND BAITS: If fishing the surf or piers, use the lightest surf spinning tackle that will get your bait where you want it. In other situations, spinning or light baitcasting tackle with 6-8-pound-test line gives maximum sport. By far the best natural bait is a live sand flea (sand crab), but Pompano also will bite live shrimp or fiddler crabs and—with varying dependability—dead sand fleas, dead shrimp, clams and cut squid. Pompano are ready strikers of artificial jigs, the Florida favorite being quarter-ounce or half-ounce models with short nylon skirts. Fly fishermen catch Pompano with Bonefish-type flies that sink well—those with epoxy heads or lead eyes.

FISHING SYSTEMS: Still Fishing; Casting; Drifting.

Pompano

Carolina Pompano

RANGE: All Florida coasts.

HABITAT: Florida anglers on both coasts catch most of their Pompano from the surf, or from ocean piers; however, many are caught outside the beaches and also from bays, mostly in or near channels that run through flats.

By Terry Gibson

Pack a surf rod or three and check out these surf fishing tips if you’re headed to the beach along Florida’s Atlantic Coast and want to learn how to catch pompano. I just got word that surf fishermen on Amelia Island are intercepting the first of the fall pompano run. It looks like we’ll have a big run this year.

Each fall as coastal water temperatures cool schools of delicious pompano head south along both of Florida’s coasts within range of any angler with a surf rod.

The action starts first in northeasternmost Florida.Then they move south through Jacksonville Beach, Flagler Beach and Daytona Beach.

A couple of nor’easters will send the fish further south past Playa Linda and around Cape Canaveral. This stretch of coast is a real hot spot for “pomps.” Soon thereafter by November the proverbial coconut telegraph will ring with the news that the fish are in around Sebastian, Vero Beach and Fort Pierce. One solid cold front and anglers will leave footprints on the beaches of Stuart and Jupiter. Anglers in far South Florida–all the way to Miami Beach–reap the run on winter’s coldest days.

One of the best sources of surf fishing reports and tips is the Florida Surf Casters Club. These folks are more than happy to share tips and tactics.

Rigging for pompano and other species such as whiting that occur in the surf isn’t difficult.

In short you need a couple of long surf rods with baitcasting or spinning reels loaded with braided line for casting distance. Check local rules on whether you’re limited in terms of numbers of rods. Bring one light spinning rod rigged with a pompano jig in case the fish are right in the trough just a few yards off the beach.

Sand spikes are a must if you’re fishing multiple rods. These rod holders stick into the sand and free your hands to fight fish rig and re-cast lines.

A bag full of pyramid sinkers of varying weights will keep in you in the game no matter how rough or calm it is. Snell hooks are best for fishing bait on the bottom–no hookset required!

Beach chair, bucket and cooler. Most hardcore surf anglers use carts with tires that float over the sand to get their gear into the zone.

Hope you enjoyed these Florida surf fishing tips!

Mike Conner

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Add pompano to the Florida fly fishing menu.

How to catch pompano

The best time and place to catch pompano on fly is when the fish enter bays and coastal rivers.

Pompano create a buzz when they migrate south along Florida shores in the fall. Not only are they delicious, but they also fight hard for their size. Conventional surf casters fervently pursue these fish, and on a calm, clear day, it’s possible to catch them on flies in the surf (summer in the Florida Panhandle comes to mind). But I think the best time and place to catch pompano on fly is when the fish enter bays and coastal rivers in the southern peninsula—places like the Indian River Lagoon, Loxahatchee River, Pine Island Sound, Sarasota Bay and Tampa Bay.

Pompano seem to move non-stop, but do get into ambush mode much like bass or snook. One thing they often do is settle into bridge channels where current funnels prey to them. Spin fishermen can often be spotted casting jigs and baits in these places; watch them and you might notice they get more hookups just down-tide of bridge pilings than in the open. Tough to fly fish in places like this; you’d need fast-sinking fly lines and heavy flies. Not my favorite means.

GO SHALLOW

How to catch pompano

Some good options when you have pompano in mind.

Concentrate your search on the grassy flats that hold spotted seatrout, redfish and others, especially in proximity to inlets that have good tidal flow and shell and sandy bottom. The submerged or emergent spoil islands of the Intracoastal Waterway are terrific spots—pompano, like permit, love small crabs and clams that live on bottom. They also forage on small baitfish that school over the shoals. Sight fishing with floating or intermediate-sinking lines is exciting, when water clarity allows for it.

Migratory pompano enter the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) via inlets in November and action peaks from January until April. The fish will stay put so long as water temps do not fall into the mid 60s, at which time they head south in the ICW and I suspect, leave the inside to get into warmer surf water. I find best fishing is when water temp is 70 to 78.

TACKLE

How to catch pompano

Sight fishing pompano is possible at times, but working favorable waters with a weighted pattern and line of appropriate sink rate will take many fish.

I fish an 8-weight with intermediate clear line for the shallow flats up to 3 feet deep, and a 9-weight with a medium-sink line for casting heavy flies in water over 5 feet deep. Sinking lines allow for a 4- to 5-foot leader. I use a strand of 20-pound fluorocarbon or mono with clear lines. When I sight fish with a floating line, I loop on a 4-foot, 30-pound-test butt section blood-knotted to a 3-foot, 15- to 20-pound-test tippet. When ladyfish or small blues are mixed in, I fish a 30-pound-test tippet to deter abrasion.

I tie my flies on No. 2 or No. 1 hooks, designed to look like the popular pompano jigs in size and color (see pics). My favorites have bright-colored synthetic fibers and small lead dumbbell eyes, a good combo for fast sinking in current.

FISH-FINDING TIPS

How to catch pompano

Author with a nice lagoon pomp.

While blind-casting in deeper water, simply drift with the wind and current. Once you hook up, slip the anchor over or lower a stake anchor to stay in the zone. Always fish over mullet muds or baitfish on the surface. Ladyfish tend to mix with pomps, so you may have to endure them during a hot pomp bite. To attract fish during a slow bite, or when extreme boat pressure makes them spooky, I break out the chum bag with crushed fresh or blanched frozen sand fleas or clam meat. I have watched “scent-drunk” pompano bang into the bag, and often skip out of the water right at the stern.

When poling or electric motoring over shallow flats, look for rays, small schools of mullet and catfish. Pompano might be nearby. Like permit and bonefish, pompano often trail stingrays, particularly those actively mudding. A well-placed fly over a ray’s back will get eaten! FS

Published Florida Sportsman Magazine December/January 2021

How to catch pompano

How to catch pompano

How to catch pompano

The pompano fishing is really starting to heat up from our local beaches. We’re seeing a lot of multiple fish days and some good size ones as well. Here are a few tips that will hopefully increase your catches while surf fishing for pompano.

One of the most important things to consider while pompano fishing is to try and stay away from braided fishing line. Although you can definitely cast farther with braid, the amount of stretch in monofilament fishing line really helps keep your weight anchored.

Another thing to consider is the size leader you are using. I personally like to get away with the smallest size leader I can without breaking it during my cast. Normally this is around 20-pound test. Fluorocarbon is not a necessity but definitely will not hurt.

Some people like to use the float rigs and while I do believe they catch a lot of fish I personally like to use a small pink bead right at the eye of my hook. Bait is another important decision to make as well. It may be coincidence but some days it’s almost like these fish get dialed in on one type of bait and it is never a guarantee which bait will work best for that day.

From my experience, I like using peeled shrimp and fish bites on muddy conditions when the fish are more focused on scent than on visual appearance. For the clear water conditions, I like to use live sand fleas and fish bites.

As far as hooks I like to use a 1/0 circle hook, black/brown color seems to work best. Lastly the size weight. Depending on current and swell height I use the lightest weight I can get away with. On flat calms or north wind days I like to use a 3 ounce weight. This allows me to cast far enough to get on the second sandbar where the fish normally travel.

On the rougher days or when the current is bad you’re forced to use a 4-6 ounce weight. Pyramid weights are the best option as they stick in the ground a lot better than a circular shaped lead that like to roll and not dig.

Last thing I can recommend when pompano fishing down the beach, make sure to keep a small spinning reel with a pompano jig handy in case you get to sight fish some fish cruising close, this is about as fun as it gets!

Captain Zack Strickland is a Pensacola native who has fished the area his entire life, from boats, to beaches, to piers. He’s done a little of everything from commercial fishing to now operating a successful fishing charter business, Strickly Fishing Charters.

Learn how to catch more fish off of the beach.

What is the best water temperature to catch pompano?

The best water temperature for pompano is 68 degrees. BUT you can catch pompano in a wide temperature range from the low 60s up to the high 70s as the migrate up and down the beaches of the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico.

Pompano migrate strictly by water temperatures. When they get hot they head North. When they get cold they head South. It is really as simple as that. Massive schools of pompano will move down the beaches looking for comfortable water temperatures and food.

I am a kayak fishing guide on the Treasure Coast of Florida. I have been fishing the beaches, mangroves, grass flats and just about everywhere else in Florida for over 40 years. In the article below, I will teach you everything that I know about finding and catching pompano based on water temperatures.

Let’s get started.

Watch the video below and learn how to figure out where the pompano are on your beach.

What is too hot of a water temperature to catch a pompano?

Pompano will be on the hunt for cooler water once the temperatures where they are get into the the 80 degrees or higher range. When the water is 80 degrees then it is a safe bet that most if not all of the pompano in the area have left and are headed North for cooler waters.

Pompano in my area of the Treasure Coast of Florida are usually all gone by May. This depends upon when the last cold front came through the area. When we get late cold fronts, then the pompano tend to stick around a couple of weeks later. When the cold fronts end earlier, then the pompano will leave town earlier.

Where ever it is that you live, just check the surf temperatures in your area to see what they are. If those temperatures are 80 degrees or more, then you know that the pompano are gone and won’t be coming back until the waters get too cold where they are and drive them back to your beaches..

What is too cold of a water temperature to catch a pompano?

Pompano like the water temperatures to be in the upper 60 degree levels. That is the optimal range for a pompano to be very comfortable. Sure they can handle the high 70 degree ranges but they don’t like it. They can handle the low 60 degree ranges but they don’t like it. What they definitely won’t tolerate is water temperatures in the 50 degree ranges.

Now that you are armed with this knowledge you can predict where the pompano schools will not be. This gives you critical information for figuring out where they might be.

All that you have to do in the Fall or Winter is get on the internet and look up the current Atlantic Ocean or Gulf of Mexico water temperatures. Let’s say you live in Daytona Beach for this example.

You get on the internet and see that the ocean temperatures in Jacksonville just dropped from the low 60s into the high 50s levels and your water temperatures and in the mid 60s. This tells you that those pompano that were in Jacksonville will be heading your way soon. It’s time to break out the surf fishing gear.

Many commercial pompano fishermen use this technique to follow the pompano for hundreds of miles. They will follow them all the way down the coast in the Fall through the Spring. Then they will follow them as they head back North again to escape the hot water temperatures in the Summer months.

The pattern is reversed in the late spring. All that you have to do is look for when the water temperatures go from the 70s into the 80s. Then you can follow the pompanos’ migration to the North. They will stay ahead of that 80 degree water on the North side of it.

You can figure out roughly where the schools might be by following that cooler water temperatures that the pompano like. You will have to follow them a long way though. Pompano will run all the way North to Virginia in the Summer.

Pompano are all about water temperatures. You can find them strictly based on the water temperatures that they like. If you can follow water temperatures from 65 to 75 degrees, then you can find and catch a whole bunch of pompano.

Pompano are the most popular fish in Florida surf fishing communities. They are challenging to find; fun to catch and delicious to eat. I hope that this article helps you catch more pompano.

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