Pompano is a saltwater fish found in the warm waters of the Atlantic and that are especially plentiful off the coast of Florida. They are related to mackerels and have oval bodies that are ideal for making into fillets. They typically grow to between 15 to 20 inches in length and around 3 to 4 lbs. Fishing for pompano can be done from the beach, boat or piers as they are usually found in shallow water and around structures. You can catch pompano with light tackle along the bottom of the sea floor using live crustaceans.
Pompanos typically congregate in shallow water, such as in the surf near the beach or near piers, where they feed on small baitfish and crustaceans. Using a boat just offshore, such as near a sandbar, can be effective as well. You can see pompano schools skipping along the surface when spooked by a boat's motor and it becomes a matter of anchoring and getting your line in the water fast enough to catch them.
The preferred tackle for catching pompano is a medium-length spinning rod, especially when fishing from a boat or pier. Surf rods can work when fishing from the beach, but should not be cast far as the pompano will generally be closer to the shoreline in the surf. Use 10- to 15-lb. test monofilament fishing line in almost all instances for catching pompano. If you are fishing from a tall pier, you may want to increase the fishing line to 20-lb. test so the pompano doesn't break the line when being hauled in. Pompano are bottom feeders, so a heavy weight, such as a pyramid sinker, is ideally suited in all fishing environments. Use a chicken or Carolina rig for the hook set-up -- meaning place a couple of J-hooks set a few inches apart on the end of the line.
The ideal bait for catching pompano is small crustaceans. Pompanos especially feed on mole crabs, sometimes known as sand fleas. Mole crabs should be used as live bait and can usually be found buried in the sand by or below the shoreline where the pompano are feeding. You can also buy them at bait shops. Mole crabs are a soft-shell crab, so you can easily pierce through their back and keep them alive on the hook. If you are unable to find mole crabs, other small crustaceans, such as live shrimp and fiddler crabs, will work, too. Artificial crab lures and pompano jigs may work in a pinch.
Beach fish for pompano from the shore as opposed to wading into the surf so as to not spook the fish. Choose a time just as high tide is ending and the tide is starting to go out. Cast your line away from you in the direction of the tide and let it fall to the bottom. Keep the line tight and jerk the rid tip every now and again to increase the action. For boat or pier fishing, drop the line straight down (avoid getting too close to the pylons if fishing from a pier) and let the sinker fall to the bottom. Tighten the line and wait for a strike. In all cases, set the hook immediately when you get a hit and let the pompano run for a few seconds before reeling it in. If possible, do not allow the fish to run under the boat or pier in an attempt to break the line. Use a net, if necessary, to bring your catch up.
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