How to Catch Florida Pompano
Catching Florida Pompano or (Trachinotus carolinus) is an adventure that promises both excitement and a delicious reward. While it’s not the biggest fish out there, there’s a reason many anglers put the pompano in their target – they fight well for their size and taste great. Below we’ll go into what gear, bait, and techniques to use, and point you in the right direction to find these silver fish shaped like a plate.
What You Need to Know to Catch Florida Pompano
Gear for Florida Pompano
- Medium to medium-light spinning rod and reel combo – This will provide the necessary sensitivity to feel Pompano bites and the strength to handle their spirited fights.
- Light Fishing Line – Choose a monofilament or braided line in the 8 to 12-pound range. This will offer the right balance of strength and visibility to detect the subtle nibbles of these elusive fish.
- Pyramid or coin weights – Get some that are ranging from 1 to 2 ounces to hold your bait in place amidst the current. Also, gather swivels, beads, and pompano rigs, which are multi-hook setups designed to mimic their prey.
- Small Hooks – Grab some small circle or J-style hooks in the range of size 1 to 2. These hooks are ideal for Pompano’s small mouths and make the skittish fish more likely to grab the bait.
- Bait and Lures – Pompano have a diverse diet, so bring an assortment of bait options. Sand fleas, shrimp, clams, and squid work well. Artificial lures like jigs with colorful skirts can also entice Pompano strikes.
- Sand Spike or Rod Holder – A lot of pompano fishing is from the beach. These will keep your rod steady while waiting for a bite, allowing you to relax and enjoy the scenery without holding your rod at all times.
- Cooler or Fish Bag – Ok ok, we know it’s presumptuous to think you’ll catch a lot of fish, but might as well.
Bait for Florida Pompano
Adult Florida Pompano are mainly interested in crustaceans. We would argue sand fleas are one of the top bait because you can catch them on your own, but there multiple baits you should try to get the bite going:
- Sand Fleas – Sand fleas are a top-choice bait for Pompano due to their natural presence along Florida’s sandy beaches. These small crustaceans are what they eat on a daily basis, so you can’t really go wrong. They can be dug up along the shoreline or purchased frozen from bait shops.
- Shrimp – Fresh or frozen shrimp are another Pompano favorite. Thread a shrimp onto your hook, and you’ve got a reliable and readily available bait. Ensure you use small to medium-sized shrimp to match the Pompano’s preferences.
- Clams – Pompano have a sense for clams, and their scent can be highly attractive. Use a piece of clam, secured with bait thread or a bait holder hook, to get a bite.
- Squid – Squid strips or pieces can be used to tempt Pompano. They are a versatile bait option and can be used fresh or frozen. Squid emits a strong scent that Pompano find irresistible.
- FishBites – If you want to go artificial, try these! These synthetic baits come in various shapes and colors and can be easily cut into strips. They have proven effective for Pompano and offer the advantage of staying on the hook longer than natural baits.
- Artificial Lures – If you prefer lures, consider using small jigs with colorful skirts. Pompano are known to strike at these artificial offerings when they’re actively feeding on the move.
Each of these baits has its unique advantages and can be effective depending on the conditions and preferences of the Pompano on any given day. It’s often a good strategy to carry a variety of baits to adapt to changing circumstances and increase your chances of a successful catch.
Fishing Techniques for Florida Pompano
While Florida pompano might not be the biggest game fish, that doesn’t mean they’re easy to catch. There are many techniques to target this strong fish, but here are few of our favorites we’ve tried over the years:
- Surf Fishing: Surf fishing is one of the most popular techniques for Pompano. It involves casting your bait or lure into the breaking waves from the shoreline. Pompano often cruise the troughs in search of prey, so casting into these areas can be productive. Use a surf rod and reel combo for longer casting distances. Also, let’s be real, this one is fun because you can bring drinks and snacks and relax with your buddies on the beach.
- Pompano Rigs: Pompano rigs are specialized multi-hook setups designed to mimic the Pompano’s natural prey. They typically consist of two or more dropper loops with small hooks, beads, and floats. These rigs are effective for targeting Pompano in the surf and can be baited with various offerings like sand fleas or shrimp.
- Jigging: Jigging with small, colorful jigs is another technique to entice Pompano, especially when they are actively feeding. Cast the jig out and work it back to shore with a series of hops and pauses. This method can be particularly effective when Pompano are closer to the shore.
- Sandbar Fishing: When Pompano are feeding in calmer waters, such as sandbars or flats, a light spinning rod and reel combo with a jig or baited hook can be used. Look for areas with sand troughs or depressions, as Pompano tend to cruise these spots in search of food.
- Drift Fishing: In deeper waters or from a boat, drift fishing can be effective. Use a bottom rig with bait like shrimp or squid, and let the current carry your offering along the ocean floor. This method is often used when targeting Pompano around artificial reefs and wrecks.
- Pier Fishing: If you’re fishing from a pier, use a longer rod and reel combo to reach Pompano that may be swimming in the deeper waters around the pier pilings. Pompano rigs baited with sand fleas or shrimp are commonly used for pier fishing.
Where to Catch Florida Pompano
Ok but where in Florida? Good question.
Florida Pompano can be found along the sandy beaches and coastal waters of Florida, making it a sought-after catch for anglers visiting the Sunshine State. Here are some key locations where you can target Florida Pompano:
- Gulf Coast Beaches: The Gulf Coast of Florida, including areas like Clearwater Beach, Fort Myers Beach, and Siesta Key, is known for its Pompano fishing opportunities. Look for troughs and sandbars near the shore, as Pompano often cruise these areas in search of prey.
- Atlantic Coast Beaches: On the Atlantic side, destinations like Cocoa Beach, Daytona Beach, and St. Augustine offer excellent Pompano fishing. The surf and tidal conditions here create ideal Pompano habitat.
- Piers and Jetties: Many coastal towns in Florida have fishing piers and jetties where you can target Pompano. The Naples Pier, Sebastian Inlet Jetty, and St. Johns County Ocean Pier are just a few examples of such locations.
- Inlets and Passes: Inlets and passes, such as the Boca Grande Pass and Ponce Inlet, are productive spots for Pompano, especially during their seasonal migrations.
- Sandbars and Flats: Pompano can often be found in shallower waters on sandbars, flats, and nearshore reefs. Areas like Charlotte Harbor, Tampa Bay, and Florida Bay provide opportunities to target Pompano in such environments.
- Artificial Reefs and Wrecks: When the Pompano are not close to shore, they may be around artificial reefs and shipwrecks. These structures provide a habitat for various species, including Pompano.
- Backwater Areas: Pompano can also venture into the backwaters, estuaries, and brackish water areas, particularly during their juvenile stages. These areas can be productive, especially when targeting smaller Pompano.
Remember that Pompano’s movements can vary depending on the season, water temperature, and bait availability. It’s a good idea to check with local bait shops, fishing reports, and fellow anglers to get real-time information on the best Pompano fishing spots during your visit. Additionally, be sure to adhere to all local fishing regulations and size limits to protect this prized species and its habitat.
Add Florida Pompano to Your List
If you’ve made it all the way down here, you probably want to catch a Florida Pompano. But if for some reason you haven’t added it to your fishing list. Do it. Catching these skittish fish will test all of your fishing skills and probably give you a chance to relax on the beach with drinks and snacks. What’s better than that?
After you’ve caught a few maybe it’s time to go learn how to catch all these other fish.