Warm Weather Pompano
Florida pompano are a much-overlooked fish–fun to catch and even better to eat. A feisty fish and a very hard swimmer that puts up a great fight on light tackle.
Pompano are in the jack family and first cousins to permit. Juvenile permit and pompano school together in many areas and are often difficult to tell apart. Since the net ban, the pompano population has increased tenfold giving local anglers a chance to catch fish.
Pompano are found in the warm waters of Tampa Bay and the shorelines of the Gulf beaches. This year has produced more pompano than I can remember. Due to the lack of greenback sardines in the area, more fishermen have started using live shrimp as a backup bait, which happens to be one of the pompano’s favorite meals.
Now, having said all of this, pompano fishing is very time consuming and lots of work. They can be caught from the shore around bridge pilings and by working the grass flats. One old trick is to run your boat on a plane through the flats and watch for them to skip your wave. Once you see them skip, work the area with jigs or live shrimp while drifting the flats.
My favorite tackle for pompano is 10 to 15-pound braided line on a medium spinning reel and a 7.6-foot fast action spinning rod. I found using 20-pound fluorocarbon leader works best. Use a #1/0 circle hook with a fiddler crab or shrimp. When fishing the beaches, sand fleas are also a good choice and easy to catch.
Live baits are fished on the bottom with a small split shot. Use just enough weight to drag the bottom and stir up some sand drawing the attention of the pompano. When using live shrimp, I prefer to run the hook from the back and under the tail of the shrimp. Dragging the shrimp makes it look like it’s avoiding another predator and increases the bite. Another method, and my favorite, is using jigs. They give me the ability to cover a larger area whether I am fishing the shoreline or drifting the flats in a boat. You want to bounce the jig off the bottom so that, when it falls, a puff of sand pops up making it look like a crab trying to bury itself. Some of the best jigs I have found are the 1/4 and 3/8-ounce pompano jigs. They look like a banana in yellow or pink and white. The other is a feathered jig with a chrome head and white, red and silver feathers. Both of these are killers on pompano and other species.
Pier or bridge fishing for pompano is challenging. I use a 3/8 or 1/2-ounce pompano jig, depending on the current at the time. Drop the jig along the piling and bounce it off the bottom. The sinking motion of the jig entices strikes. Find the area with the best current flow for best results. When fishing around pilings or docks, it makes sense to increase you leader size to 30-pound test to avoid break offs. The lighter the line, the less weight needed to keep the bait on the bottom.