Pompano range from the upper eastern U.S. coast to Texas, but the most consistent action is encountered from the Carolinas to Texas. Although they are a relatively common species along our coast, the average angler, unless they are savvy and targeting them, only land them occasionally.
The pompano is a species that has really benefited from the reduction of netting in Florida. Pompano are normally found in groups of 10 to two dozen rather than in true schools. They are erratic in their movements, affected by slight changes in temperature and movements of the tide. They can also be found when spooked by a boat as they “skip” out of the water.
The most common method used to target pompano locally is jigging with a round lead jig with a short yellow or white skirt. These rigs can also be enhanced with a trailer fly or bait on a 12- to 18-inch piece of mono. Some newer models, including Silly Willy Jigs and Doc’s Goofy Jigs, are also effective. Other jigs by lure makers like DOA, including the DOA Shrimp, are also good choices. Pompano are also taken on flies. The best are Clouser-style with lead eyes in white, yellow, pink or a combination of colors.
For anglers who use live bait, the go-to choice is a shrimp or sand flea, small crustaceans that inhabit the surf line along the beaches. When using terminal tackle, a lead sufficient to hold the bait near the bottom is attached between a 12- to 18-inch piece of monofilament line. The weight also functions to raise a puff of sand that will attract pompano. A hook in the 1/0 range is then attached to a 30-pound bite tippet using a uni or non-slip mono loop.
When fishing in and around local passes, many other predators are often encountered, primarily Spanish mackerel and bluefish. The use of swivels can attract the attention of these sharp-toothed gamefish. The 30-pound leader above and below the swivel provides some protection. It is also advisable to use a black swivel that doesn’t produce a flash.
Jig color can be varied according to the water color. Hooks should be of heavy construction, from 1/0 to 2/0, with jig weights varying from a quarter ounce to a full ounce in very fast current. The most important thing to remember is to keep the jig close to the bottom. It is also advisable to jig straight up and down if possible. Most of the local passes contain rocks, ledges and other debris. The action imparted to the jig is another important ingredient for success. The jig must be worked constantly, imparting action with short twitches of the rod tip.
Tipping the jig is not critical if fish are actively feeding but can be the difference between success and failure at other times. Tips should be small enough not to affect the action of the jig.
Successful pompano fishing requires special attention to tide. While they will sometimes feed at various stages of the tide, an incoming tide is often much more productive. The first hour of a falling tide can also be rewarding.
The prime area to pinpoint pompano is in the passes. Other good locations include patch rocks off the beaches and the inshore artificial reefs. The slues along the beaches can also be worth exploring as well as the edges of local grass flats. Water temperature is a factor in the abundance of this species with fall, winter and spring being the best time to target them.
Pompano make worthy adversaries for anglers looking for a challenge and an excellent meal. They have been active locally on the warmups, so rig up and give these challenging fish a try.