December marks the initial phase of wintertime surf fishing on the Space Coast. The dog days of summer morphed through the fall season to transition into winter weather patterns. Cooling water temperatures bring with it an entire new cast of species perusing local area beaches from Cocoa Beach south to Sebastian Inlet—pompano, whiting, bluefish, black drum and ladyfish, to name a few.
Surf fishing Cocoa Beach during December marks the peak season months to pursue pompano. Crisp breezes sweep over the cool sand. Nostalgic smells indicate the weather is laying the foundation for what we know are prime pompano fishing days. Remembering record catches in ideal conditions has everyone searching for their first big pompano catch of the season. For these reasons, there will be plenty of surf fishing anglers out in numbers looking to strike it big!
The keys to successfully catching pompano while surf fishing in Brevard County consist of the pillars of surf fishing: water temperatures, water clarity and beach contours. First and foremost, the water temperature. Ideally, when the ocean water drops below 75 degrees is when we start to see a real push. Pompano running south from north Florida will stage in the area as long as the food is present. This migration is entirely driven by water temperatures and that’s one reason it’s vulnerable to deviation year in and year out.
Secondarily, the water clarity influences which beaches and how far from the shore migratory pompano roam. Because of this, it’s worth doing your due diligence. Find areas that hold the emerald green waters along with the tropical blue shades. Pompano particularly feed by sight, so these areas will provide the highest probability of success.
Look for varied wind patterns to clean—or dirty—the waters. Traditionally, northern winds clean the water up and offshore winds dirty the water due, in part, to the region-wide “sand renourishment.” With the continued dumping of dirt and clay on the regional beaches, there’s no end in sight to the negative effects we continue to experience. State and local agencies have made it an annual priority to import and dump this muck on the shores. In turn, crustaceans like sandfleas have disappeared and the reefs are being suffocated. Currently the dumping looks to begin right in the height of our initial pompano run through January and into March. This will affect not only the water clarity, but also the contours of each beach as the new dirt is shifted around with each wave.
Pompano targeting tactics vary slightly, but largely remain consistent throughout the state. Pompano rigs with multicolored floats and beads make up the majority of what experienced surf fisherman employ. Furthermore, the top baits for pompano fishing the surf are Fishbites, sandfleas, fresh clams and peeled shrimp. Work the pompano rigs in a varied pattern, meaning cast some far out past the sandbar as well as working the inner troughs. Covering all the bases helps to focus on where the fish are feeding primarily.
Along with the craze of the infamous pompano run, don’t overlook delicious table fare species. Bycatch of pompano fishing can result in great catches of whiting, black drum, Spanish mackerel and even permit. Knowing this leaves each tug of the line with a pleasant surprise of what might be at the other end, so be sure to educate yourself on all the regulations and know before you go which species can be retained and legal limit sizes.
’Tis the season for great conditions to hit the beach and catch up the premium species!
Capt. Lukas Brickweg
Cocoa Beach Surf Fishing Charters