By Mark Ambert
It’s that time of year again when every angler gets excited about the eminent arrival of one of Florida’s premier fish – pompano! These fish show up sometime in March and cruise the Florida beaches just outside the surf line making them the perfect targets for a day’s fishing. As this endless cycle of life rolls along, it’s been several interesting months since writing my article on pompano fishing the beach (May 2021 issue). In that time, I’ve learned a few things about these wonderful and great tasting fish. Being a native New Yorker, pompano were a “mystery fish”. Thanks to a friend’s guidance, I was met with immediate success! One of the major keys to being relatively inexperienced yet successful, was the use of pre-rigged gear from a gentlemen aptly nicknamed “Pompano Rich”. Who knew I would have the chance to meet him at one of the local bait and tackle shops here in Jupiter, Florida – Fishing Headquarters.
Fishing Headquarters is a landmark for anglers of all experience levels. Run successfully for over twenty-five years by two brothers, Pete and Tommy Schulz, the place is a haven for savvy anglers. Both brothers have a passion for fishing, and it is well stocked and attended. The staff is both knowledgeable and friendly and it’s a must go-to spot for fishing supplies, expertise, and intel. Both men are actively involved in the community, so I love patronizing this shop. It was here I met the local legend Pompano Rich.
Pompano Rich Vidulich has been fishing the local waters since 1959, has an interesting past, and like all great anglers, a love and passion for what he does. Spending time on the water is a religion for Rich. He lives, eats, and breathes it. This is reflected in the carefully thought-out products designed by Rich specific to surf fishing and carried by local shops like Fishing Headquarters. They carry this line of goodies because they work! Although I have spent many years on the water, the pompano game was new to me. Having the right gear already pre-rigged was a blessing. They are hand crafted and well-made taking all the guesswork out of the most critical link to the fish, the leader and bait.
In the case of pre-hooked leaders, they are put together using the appropriately sized fluorocarbon for less visibility and abrasion resistance. His latest iteration now incorporates a newly designed float. These attractors are used to accent the rig and are combined with super sharp stainless hooks for secure hookups. I also like the use of circle hooks that work on all surf species. No need to set the hook with a circle! They can be used with all regular baits and combined with a ½ inch piece of FISHGUM, these rigs proved irresistible to pompano. Those colorful floats also serve the purpose of keeping your baits directly off the bottom and away from those pesky calico crabs. This man is always looking to improve his products.
Using FISHGUM is a game changer for finicky fish. FISHGUM combines the flavors of crab, clam, sand fleas, shrimp, and more in each strip. When combined on the hook with a sand flea, it gives you the added comfort of having two baits on each hook. The FISHGUM will often stay put on the hook long after the sand flea has come off in the roiling surf. When they wash out of flavor, just replace with another cut strip!
His Long Tail Sputnik Sinkers are a surefire lightweight alternative to pyramid sinkers and really grab and hold bottom in the surf. Remember to use reels spooled with twelve pound mono and nothing heavier. I use Ande Ghost. This is critical for pompano locating and eating your offering.
Having the privilege to speak directly to Rich yielded a wealth of knowledge. Things I had not really considered that can dramatically affect the fishing and an angler’s overall success. For example – water clarity plays a key part in when and where pompano will feed. Their biggest predators are the bull, spinner, blacktip, and bonnethead sharks that frequent our beaches. Water clarity will therefore play a key role in where the pompano shows up to feed. Too clear, and the pompano will leave. They become way too visible and will run for the ledges further out. The perfect water color according to Rich is a green/white or blue/white surf. I also prefer the low light conditions of dusk and dawn allowing pompano to hide from predators while ambushing prey. When the water turns a crystal blue – head for home.
Another key factor is turbidity. Many of us regular beach goers have witnessed the beach/sand replenishment projects up and down the local beaches. While good for beach goers, this can wreak havoc on the fishing. Only bluefish and some jacks have the gill capacity to survive the grit this activity places in the water. When these projects are in full swing, avoid these areas when fishing for pompano and permit.
Using these rigs combined with local knowledge of both shoreline and water conditions and you will locate and catch these beautiful and tasty fish! A big shout-out to my new friend Pompano Rich Vidulich – you have made a believer out of me. Your youthful spirit and love for this sport is second to none.
Rich’s products are carefully crafted in the USA. His innovative ideas and tireless passion have made a positive contribution to our sport.
Mark Ambert / Author – Avid outdoorsman, sportswriter, and photographer.
Follow me on Instagram @marksgonefishing or contact me at email@example.com