Gateway to the Gulf Stream

Hillsboro Inlet is Home to the Best in the Business

Capt. Steve Dougherty May 11, 2017

Home to the longstanding Pompano Beach fishing rodeo, highly competitive Pompano Beach Saltwater Circuit, Merritt’s Boat and Engine Works, Lindgren-Pitman, Mold Craft Fishing Products, Bionic Bait, CHAOS Rods, Cap’s Place and many more of the most influential names in the industry, Pompano Beach, Lighthouse Point and nearby Hillsboro Inlet are a collective driving force and hotbed for angling innovation and impressive catches while subsequently influencing sport fishing activities across the globe. In fact, many of the world’s best captains and mates began their careers here rising through the ranks of sport fishing’s elite as they continue their quest for the one.

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Photo: Doughertyphotos.com

While it certainly isn’t the oldest fishing community in the state, the Pompano Beach metropolitan area has imposed in its short existence a dramatic influence on the advancement of sport fishing across all venues and fisheries.

With nomadic settlers visiting the area as early as the 1880s and the first permanent residents recorded in 1896, Pompano Beach has always been about the draw of the sea, acquiring a namesake loyal to the tasty fish that cruises the sandy shorelines. When first settled in 1906 Pompano Beach was part of Palm Beach County, but in 1908 was incorporated into Dade County before finally becoming part of the newly established Broward County in 1915.

It wasn’t until 1907 when the landmark 137-foot black and white Hillsboro Lighthouse was lit with a unique Fresnel lens becoming a hopeful beacon to those offshore. Prior to this, the Hillsboro Inlet was a treacherous passageway with ever-changing shoals that made safe navigation a challenge. Guiding anglers to the century old inlet, the lighthouse has been upgraded and is the strongest in the state boasting an impressive two million candlepower that’s visible 25 miles out to sea.

While times have certainly changed and the former hand-crank swing bridge over the inlet at A1A has since been recently enhanced with a $7.8 million span renovation, the local fishing infrastructure is stronger than ever. With ocean currents continuing to deposit sand in the inlet’s channel, a permanent inland dredge keeps shifting sands under control.

Just offshore of the weir jetty system that protects the inlet basin from the Atlantic Ocean, the depths plummet quickly. The rapidly sloping shelf is accented by broken reef formations and an array of artificial wreck systems leading the way to deeper depths. You’ll see the Helen S and Fish City Pride surveying the bottom every day of the year, with Hillsboro Inlet Fishing Center charter boats also staying busy. The center’s Rebound is one of the most competitive boats in the area. In fact, this 52’ Merritt and its crew won over $100,000 in the Saltwater Shootout, beating over a hundred of the area’s most competitive center consoles by methodically working the local ledges they know so well.

From the earliest captains like Bark Garnsey, who went on to re-write the book on billfish records with angler Stewart Campbell; John Whitmer, who was the first charter captain out of Hillsboro Inlet; Marvin Griffin and Freddie Voss; to more recent influences like Skip Smith, touring the globe aboard the Madam and the Hooker; Tom Greene, legendary snook angler and owner of Custom Rod & Reel; R.J. Boyle, who helped write the book on daytime swordfishing, and many more, the salts calling this their homeport continue to set the standard across competitive fisheries worldwide.

Today, Pompano locals still bleed innovation and rack-up accomplishments, like Captain Tim Maddock who helped pave the way for center consoles being the first to ever win the World Sailfish Championship in an open fisherman.

While the area has certainly changed over the years, one thing remains the same. The mates and anglers who worked themselves up through the hierarchy at Hillsboro Inlet are still some of the best of the best. The die-hard locals have kept tradition alive, and the legacy and fishing family bloodlines native to the area are not to be overshadowed. See you on the edge.

Points of Interest

Hillsboro Inlet Fishing Center
2705 N. Riverside Dr.
Pompano Beach, FL 33062
954.943.8222

R.J. Boyle Studio
5040 N. Federal Hwy
Lighthouse Point, FL 33064
954.420.5001

Custom Rod & Reel
1835 NE 25th St.
Lighthouse Point, FL 33064
954.781.5600

Ace’s Bait and Tackle
1300 N. Federal Hwy
Pompano Beach, FL 33062
954.933.3406

Alsdorf Park Boat Ramp
2974 NE 14th St.
Pompano Beach, FL 33062
954.786.4600

Papa Hughie’s Seafood World
4602 N. Federal Hwy
Lighthouse Point, FL 33064
954.942.0740

Pompano Beach Fishing Pier
222 N. Pompano Beach Blvd.
Pompano Beach, FL 33062
954.786.4111

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