Emerald Coast Pier Fishing Guide – Florida Pompano
Eugene L. 03.29.22
Biology – Florida Pompano (Trachinotus carolinus)
The Florida Pompano, commonly known as just pompano or pomps, is one of the most popular and accessible fish to catch from the pier. Not the largest fish on the pier, they are normally only a couple of pounds in weight. Pomps max out around 24″ long and 8lbs in weight, but that is a record-size pompano. They have a deep, compressed body with a small mouth. With a usually dark greenish-gray color on the back with silver flanks that go down to a gold-colored belly and throat. Pompano also have a deeply forked tail, which is where they get a lot of their power from.
They feed mainly on mollusks and crustaceans in the surf, a favorite bait for them being sandfleas that are carrying eggs. While normally found on sandy beaches they can also be found in bays and even offshore when they go to spawn in March to September. They are a warm water-loving species that you won’t see if the water temp is colder than the low 60s. The arrival of Pompano usually means Spring is here on the pier.
Care must be taken to not confuse them with Permit, they look similar but the Permit does grow much larger and while uncommon in the Emerald Coast, not unheard of. You’re allowed to keep 6 pompano in Florida but only 2 permit so you don’t want to be making that mistake.
Pompano are so accessible because of their tackle requirements, you only need a 7ft medium weight rod with a reel capable of holding 100yds of 10-15lb braid. They are strong fighters but don’t make crazy long runs like the mackerel, so line capacity isn’t as much of a concern. If you don’t have a saltwater inshore setup, bass tackle can do double duty as long as it has the reel capacity. Warning though, saltwater is harsh on gear and a lot of bass tackle wasn’t designed with a corrosive environment in mind. You’ll be wanting a 15-20lb fluorocarbon leader, they have sharp eyes and can be leader shy at times.
You can rig up in two ways for fishing pompano, you can make or buy a pompano rig to fish bait or fish jigs. For fishing pompano rigs, it’s a leader about 4ft long with two dropper loops on it. A swivel for attaching to your mainline at the top, a snap swivel to attaching your pyramid weight at the bottom. Each dropper loop should have a float, bead, and hook. For bait, I recommend live sandfleas if you can get some, fresh market shrimp, or Fishbites. Don’t use the cups of shrimp tackle shops have in their freezers, you don’t know how old they are or when they were frozen. Find a local fish market and buy some fresh local shrimp.
For jigging, you’ll need some pompano jigs in different weights depending on current and wind. The jigs themselves are usually a small pink bucktail type jig with a nylon skirt material. The jigs can be anywhere from 1/4oz up to 1 1/2oz jigs. Besides the traditional bucktail style jigs, there is another popular jig called goofy jigs. They are banana-shaped and are usually rigged with a teaser.
There are really only two ways to fish for pompano, either set rigs with bait or fishing with jigs. You’ll be fishing anywhere between the first sand bar and the end “T” depending on water conditions. But usually, that first sand bar and trough before the first “T” is where the majority of pompano are caught.
Once baited up; cast the rig out, put some tension on the line, and wait. Keep an eye out for bites and hopefully, you’ll have some tasty pomps come and find your bait. There will be some bycatch though, whiting and catfish also like the same waters pompano do. The whiting while smaller are good eating or good redfish bait. The catfish aren’t really worth the effort to keep, and you have to be careful of their venomous spines. If your rig won’t stay set, move up in lead size till you can keep the rig from rolling around.
So for fishing the jig you can either sight cast when you see schools of pompano swimming by, or you can blind cast and hope for the best. Both methods produce fish, but sight casting can have a high success rate. Either way, you choose tipping your jig is recommended, with either some Fishbites or a sandflea. Cast the jig out either ahead of the school or blind cast, and just pop the jig on the bottom. They’ll be curious about the puff of sand and come check it out and hopefully eat the jig.
If you asked people on the pier or surf what their favorite fish to catch and cook. There is a very good chance they will say pompano. Known for their excellent quality meat that is firm and rich, these fish hold top dollar at the markets. Broiled with butter in the oven is a very popular way of cooking pompano. The meat is very versatile for cooking and can be cooked in most methods. It is hard to mess up unless you under season it or overcook it.
If you’re new to pier fishing or even saltwater fishing, I highly recommend you try to go after pompano. They arent a technically difficult species to go after or need specialized gear to fish for. When the bite is one they are voracious and will hit just about anything shiny or bright colored you put in front of them. They are a fun species that can be available through most of the warmer months, that are amazing on the table.