Catching Pompano 101

Whether you’re on the beach, the pier, or inshore on the seagrass flats, when pompano are in town it seems that everyone takes notice. Most anglers await the southern migration of Florida pompano each year, and regret the days not fished when they migrate back north.

The hype about Florida pompano breaks down to three basic reasons: (1) they are one of the best tasting fish in the sea, (2) they are fairly easy to catch, and (3) being a member of the jack family, they put up a great fight! This article will give you a summary of everything you need to know to catch the ever-popular Florida pompano.


When to Find Pompano

Florida pompano migrate south for the winter, and back north for the summer, moving to find their preferred water temperature between 70-to-80°F. Although it depends on the year, pompano usually start appearing in northern Florida around October, and are well dispersed throughout the state by December or January. As the water starts to warm in the spring, most of the Florida pompano have migrated back north by April or June.

Where to Catch Pompano

The most popular area to target pompano is in the surf. This can be done either from shore, or from an ocean-side pier. The best time to fish the surf is in moderate wave action, just enough to stir up the small crabs and clams that the fish love to eat. The other popular area to target pompano is inshore, where the fish move during days of either too low or too high of wave activity. Here, they’ll mostly move with the changing tides, feeding in the sea-grass on high tides.

Tackle for Pompano

Florida pompano can be targeted in either the surf or inshore waters, and by several methods such as shoreline, pier, or fly fishing.

Spinning tackle for pompano fishing

A medium spinning reel spooled with 10-to-14 pound test line is suitable for both moderate surf conditions and inshore fishing. On heavier surf days, a larger reel, one that can hold around 20-pound test line may be desired for casting the large sinker needed to keep your bait in place.

Spinning reel for catching pompano. Medium spinning reel by Shimano.

Bait-casting tackle for pompano

A bait-casting setup is recommended on days of rough surf when you need to cast your line farther to avoid the breakers, and in areas where you will be targeting the fish in deep channels under structures. The extra leverage of a bait-casting reel will allow you to pull the fish up before they wrap you around the piling – remember that pompano are members of the jack family, and pack a punch for their size.

Using flyrods to catch pompano

Fly-fishing for pompano is a highly underrated method for catching this great fish. Since the pompano’s mouth is fairly small, flies mimicking a small shrimp or crab are very effective for catching them. The best areas to fly-fish for pompano are the sea-grass flats and surf zones (when wave periodicity is longer – several seconds between each wave).

Pompano caught on fly rod.

Baits for pompano

The diet of Florida pompano consists of primarily invertebrates – crabs, shrimp, clams and mussels. Although they will eat small fish as well, use what they eat most of the time as bait. Sand fleas are by far the most appetizing, but shrimp, squid, clam, small blue crabs, and fiddler crabs all work well, too.

Crab bait.

Lures for pompano

Many lures are marketed as “pompano jigs.” These jigs mostly mimic shrimp, and are big enough to catch a pompano’s eye, while small enough to allow a hook set in their small mouths. There are many other lures that will work as well, such as common freshwater pan-fish jigs, small spoons, and other small jigs. They key is that all of these are pretty heavily weighted, as pompano feed primarily off the bottom.

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