Capt. Jim Klopfer
Anglers fishing in SWFL have many options in October. Snook and reds are feeding in the backcountry, mackerel and kings are out on the beach, and trout are thick on the grass flats. However, there are a small number of anglers that target another species; pompano!
Pompano move south along the west coast of Florida in the fall. They do not grow large, a two-pound fish is a decent specimen. However, they fight extremely hard for their size. They are also one of the finest eating fish that swims! One look at a pompano will let anglers understand how they feed. Pompano have an inferior mouth. That means their nose extends over the lower jaw. Pompano feed by rooting along the bottom for crabs, shrimp, and other crustaceans.
In most cases, pompano are found in pods or small schools. They can be caught in the inshore bays, passes, and out on the beaches. Drifting the passes is the most productive method to locate and catch pompano. Anglers use small, heavy jigs designed specifically for pompano. As they bounce along the bottom, the jigs kick up a puff of sand. This realistically mimics a fleeing crab or shrimp.
Pompano are also caught in good numbers in the inshore waters. Pompano have a unique habit of “skipping” on the surface when a boat runs close by. This certainly helps anglers locate them. Shallow sand points and bars can be good spots. They will also hold over deep grass flats. Successful anglers drift these areas while casting jigs in search of fish. A live shrimp fished under a cork or free lined is a good option for anglers that prefer fishing with live bait.
One great aspect of pompano fishing is that anglers without a boat can get in on the action as well. Pompano are one of the top species caught off of area beaches. Pompano will cruise the beaches, often in the first trough, quite close to shore. Anglers who like to move around will do well using the same pompano jigs that produce in the passes. Tipping the jig with a small piece of shrimp can make the difference on a slow day.
There is one specialty bait used by anglers surf fishing for pompano. These are mole crabs, known locally as “sand fleas”. Anglers use special rakes in the surf line to catch them. Pompano love these little crustaceans! A short shank #4 hook on a 20 lb. fluorocarbon leader with a split shot or small sliding egg sinker works well. Anglers can use the same rig to fish live or frozen shrimp. This will produce a bunch of whiting in the cooler months as well.
Capt. Jim Klopfer