Vol 6 No. 23 - March 1, 2006

Oh! oh! Pompano

Katherine and Caroline O'Leary

By Rusty Chinnis
special to the sun

The morning broke unexpectedly warm and sunny on Saturday with light winds blowing from the south. The weather forecast had been somewhat different, with winds predicted to be fifteen to twenty knots. Our nieces, Katherine and Caroline O’Leary were visiting from Brookline, Mass., where the weather forecast that morning was 22 degrees with a "feels like temperature" of 11 degrees.

When I checked the bay about 8 a.m., I suggested that we should take advantage of this unexpected gift. It didn’t take much coaxing, and we hooked up the boat, and headed to Cannons Marina for some live shrimp.

The tide was low and rising that morning, and I had a plan to look for redfish in potholes near Tidy Island. I reasoned that the fish I had seen the week before would be staging on the edges, waiting for the tide to flood the flats. We motored within 300 feet of a large pothole, where I dropped the trolling motor for a quite approach. I elected to fish the live shrimp under popping corks so the girls could see the action. We used small number 1 circle hooks and a small lead sinker to keep the shrimp below the surface.

I began by tossing a few live shrimp to the edges of the pothole in hopes that any redfish in the vicinity might be attracted to the area. I knew that with the incoming tide the shrimp and their scent would be broadcast down current.

It took about 10 minutes for the first cork to disappear under the surface. Katherine was quick to tighten the line and raise the rod as I had instructed. As soon as the line came tight, the rod bowed deeply as a silver sided fish rooster-tailed the line across the surface to the edge of the pothole, where it escaped after the hook pulled.

I guessed that it might have been a large ladyfish or maybe a bluefish, but before I had time to voice my suspicions, Caroline’s cork went under, and she was holding on for dear life as drag raced from her 10-pound spinning tackle. This fish wasn’t as lucky, and after a terrific battle with many squeals and peals of laughter, I led a large pompano to the boat.

We had four other bites and four hook pulls before Katherine connected with one of the biggest pompano I’ve seen caught in Sarasota Bay. The fight was just as spectacular as Caroline’s, as the strong muscular fish made a number of reel screaming runs. After a spirited fight that included a head shaking visit to the surface, the pompano was placed in the cooler with Caroline’s. We baited up and tossed shrimp back into the pot hole, but after ten minutes it was apparent that the fish had moved on. We hunted for the pompano in a couple of adjacent holes on the flat, but they had continued into the bay with the tide.

The winds that had been predicted earlier in the day materialized just before noon, so after trying another spot for redfish we decided to head for the Mar Vista for lunch. That night I taught Katherine to fillet fish and we enjoyed an excellent dinner of grilled pompano, fresh tomatoes and steamed asparagus. We had not found the redfish we had targeted, but Oh Pompano, we were not disappointed!

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