Florida Pompano Fishing
Visiting anglers very much enjoy Florida Pompano fishing. Pompano are very beautiful fish that fight incredibly hard for their size and taste great. What more can an angler ask for!
Pompano are found along the entire coast of Florida. Statewide, most pompano are caught by anglers surf fishing. Here in Sarasota, we catch them both off of the beaches and in the inshore waters of Sarasota Bay. Pompano may be encountered at any time of year. Cooler months are generally the most productive times of year to catch pompano.
Pompano look very similar to juvenile permit. They also tend to live in the same environments. Permit have longer fins with a bit of black on the tips. If anglers have any doubt, it is best to err on the side of caution and release the fish.
Florida pompano fishing with jigs
Jigs produce most of the Pompano landed by clients on my Sarasota fishing charters. A close look at a Pompano will reveal a small, inferior mouth. The term inferior mouth refers to the fact that the opening of the mouth is on the underside of the head. This will indicate the method by which a Pompano feeds. It swims with its head down and tail up scatter in the bottom for crustaceans such as shrimp and crabs.
This explains why jigs are so productive when targeting Pompano. A jig that is bounced off the bottom kicks up a tiny puff of sand. This very closely mimics the action of a fleeing crab or shrimp. Jigs produce on the beach, in the passes, and in the bays. Bright colors such as red, chartreuse, and white are the most productive patterns. I use them often on my Sarasota fishing charters.
Many anglers land Pompano while casting 3 inch to 4 inch jigs while drifting over the deep grass flats. The same Bass Assassin Sea Shad baits that work so well for speckled trout, bluefish, ladyfish, and other species will also fool pompano. The same jig and fall retrieve is productive. The deeper flats in Sarasota Bay, those between 8 feet and 10 feet deep, produce more pompano. However, they can be encountered over sandbars in as little as 2 feet of water.
While the larger jigs will catch the occasional pompano, when specifically targeting pompano, smaller jigs are often used. Not surprisingly, these are called “pompano jigs”. As noted earlier, pompano have a quite small mouth, so a smaller bite-size jig works well. These jigs are very plain looking. There simply a round jig head with a little bit of dressing, usually synthetic care. Combinations of white, yellow, chartreuse, and red have proven to be effective colors.
There is another type of lure specifically designed to for anglers Florida pompano fishing. They are called “banana jigs”. They are long and slender, and shaped like a banana, thus the name. When jerked up sharply, they fall in a very erratic manner. Pompano find this action irresistible. Some also have a little fly near the hook. Often times pompano will be hooked under the chin with the second little teaser hook.
Florida pompano fishing techniques
Anglers drifting the deep grass flats simply cast the jig out ahead of the drifting boat, allow it to sink, and work it back in using short hops. The same technique works for those fishing for pompano off the beaches. When the bite is tough or when the water is a bit off-color, tipping the jig with a small piece of shrimp can really make a difference.
If I had to pick one spot to fish for pompano, it would be Big Sarasota Pass. “Big Pass” as we call it has everything a pompano needs. There is an expansive bar at the mouth which will hold schools of pompano at times. Miles of rocky structure on the north end of Siesta Key hold the crustaceans that pompano feed on. Large areas of sand flats in 10 to 12 feet of water have good current flow and also attract pompano.
Jigs work extremely well in the passes. Both big Sarasota Pass and New Pass can be very productive spots. For those who don’t know, a pass is basically an inlet. “Pass” is the term used on the Gulf Coast. As the current flows in and out of the passes, pompano will cruise the bottom in search of food. Pompano tend to school up in the passes. Once a productive area is located, that area should be drifted several times. Anglers can catch quite a few in a short period of time.
New Pass can also be a very productive spot to catch pompano. This pass is a bit different. It is shorter and narrow with deeper water. Most of the fishing is done west of the bridge. Pompano can be found in the channel in the deep water. Bouncing a jig as the boat drifts along is the best approach on a Sarasota fishing charter.
Most of the pompano landed in New Pass are caught on the shallow bars at the mouth of the pass. This is a unique area that is really more like a large saltwater flat. Yet, it has excellent current flow. Anglers need to be careful as the water can go from ten feet deep to very shallow quickly. The best area is from the markers to the south. The outside bars may produce a few fish as well.
Florida pompano fishing with live bait
Many pompano are caught using live bait as well. Live shrimp are the most popular bait. They are readily available at every Florida bait shop. While live shrimp or fresh dead shrimp are best, pompano will certainly take a frozen shrimp as well.
There is another bait that’s very effective when targeting pompano, though using it can be a bit more involved. These are called mole crabs, better known as sand fleas. Very few shops keep these, though some do have frozen sand fleas available. Live sand fleas are much preferred to frozen baits. Anglers can purchase a special rake which they use in the surf line to catch the sand fleas. Obtaining sand fleas requires more effort, but many anglers swear by them.
Surf fishing for pompano
One great thing about Florida pompano fishing is that anglers without a boat catch more than their fair share. Surf fishing for pompano is very popular throughout the state. Pompano Beach is even named after this special fish! Surf fishing tactics very a bit on each coast, so I will go into the difference and techniques.
The surf along the Gulf Coast of Florida is generally a bit more gentle than out of the ocean. Starting from the beach and moving out to sea, beaches will have several troughs and bars. Many times the pompano will be in the first trough 10 to 15 feet from shore. This means that long casts are not required.
The best approach for targeting pompano on the West Coast of Florida beaches is to use fairly light spinning tackle, in the 10 pound class. Anglers can then choose to use a quarter ounce jig and cast and retrieve, or to fish with live bait. As stated above, putting a piece of fresh shrimp on a jig head can be the best of both worlds. As an added benefit, other species such as whiting, sheepshead, flounder, ladyfish, and more will take a shrimp-tipped jig.
Anglers choosing to fish with live bait will do well by keeping it simple. A small #4 hook and a split shot or two will get the job done. By using as little weight as possible, anglers will achieve a very natural presentation. It is best if the shrimp is slowly moving along the bottom with the current.
Florida pompano fishing, East Coast
The surf on the East Coast of Florida in the Atlantic Ocean tends to be a bit rougher. Also, tide differences are more extreme. Lastly, anglers are often have to cast into a stiff breeze. For these reasons, angler surf fishing for pompano on the East Coast use the more traditional style.
Surf rods are spinning rods that are 10 to 13 feet or even longer. They have large spinning reels with high-capacity spools. These long rods allow anglers to make a very long cast and keep the line up out of the crashing waves. After the cast rods are placed into sand spikes. These are simply pieces of PCV tubing that hold the rod upright.
Surf fishing rigs
There are several rigs that can be used for this type of surf fishing. The most common when targeting pompano is the “high low” rig. This is simply two different hooks where one is close to the bottom and the other about a foot or so above. A heavy pyramid style weight is at the very bottom. It is not uncommon to catch two fish at a time with this rig.
The other commonly used rig off of the surf is the fish finder rig. This is a device that has a clip to hold on the pyramid sinker with a hollow tube allowing the line to run freely through it. The biggest advantage of this rig is that fish can pick up the bait and move off with it without feeling the weight of the sinker. However, because the bait lies on the bottom it tends to attract more sharks and other undesirable species.
Shrimp and sand fleas are two most popular baits for surf anglers targeting pompano. Shrimp have an advantage in that they will catch many other species. Hard core pompano anglers do not want these other species and will opt for sand fleas. They are a bit more of a specialized bait. In some areas, clams and mussels are also used.
The fishing technique with both rigs is basically the same and quite simple. The hooks are baited up, and the rig is cast out as far as possible. Once the bait settles, the rod is placed in the sense bite with the line taught. Once the rod tip indicates that a fish is biting the rod is removed from the spike in the hook is set. Click HERE for current Florida pompano regulations.
While Pompano are great fun to catch, anglers prize them for their incredible table fare. I am a proponent of catch and release, however I don’t mind if clients keep a fish or two for dinner, and these are really a treat. Pompano are one fish that I usually cook with the skin on. It peels right off after cooking.
Pompano are delicious with a very delicate white flesh. The meat has a kind of “buttery” flavor with a unique texture. They are a tad bit oily but in a good way. This means that they are best baked, broiled, or grilled. Pompano do not freeze all that well. Keep a couple for dinner and release the rest to please other anglers!
Baked Pompano; this is a very simple way to prepare Pompano. The oven is heated to 400°. The fillets are laid on a greased sheet pan and covered with a tire breadcrumbs. They are then bake for 8 to 10 minutes and can be served with a sauce such as lemon dill or teriyaki. This is very simple and the fish are delicious!
Broiled Pompano; broiling is another simple and easy way to enjoy Pompano. I like to prepare a marinade that consists of olive oil, light soy sauce, ginger, and honey or sugar. This gives it that Oriental sweet and sour flavor. The fillet should be marinated for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. The fillets are then put on a sheet pan and broiled under high heat 5 inches away from the heat for 6 to 8 minutes.
Grilled Pompano; Pompano are fantastic when grilled as well. I do like to keep the skin on when grilling Pompano. The fillets are seasoned to taste with a homemade or prepared grilling seasoning. Some olive oil or melted butter can be drizzled over top. The fillet is then put on a grill pan and grilled for eight minutes or so. As with the baked Pompano, a sauce can be served on the side.