Pompano are one many species commonly encountered around the state of Florida, but what’s unique about pompano fishing is that the presentation and approach varies little from region to region. While there are subtle differences locals in-the-know employ, if you can find and catch pompano off Sebastian, you can find and catch pompano off Destin.
No matter where you plant your feet in the sand, pompano are notorious for cruising the shallow troughs and sandbars paralleling area shorelines. During higher tidal stages enhanced wave activity results in surges that reach their highest point, effectively dislodging sand fleas, crabs and clams from their sandy burrows. While migration patterns can be difficult to determine, as the weeks progress falling water temperatures set the stage for red-hot pompano fishing along area beaches.
Pompano are opportunistic feeders that know where the fast food window is and exactly how to use it. They often cruise so tight to the shoreline they have to swim broadside to snatch unsuspecting crustaceans disoriented in the wash. This means if you find a stretch of beach where sand fleas are present, you can bet hungry pompano are nearby.
Whether you approach a beach along the Space Coast or the Panhandle, ideal conditions exist with reasonable wave action and relatively clear water. The wave action exposes prey, and the clear conditions help cruising pomps locate the forage. However, when it is flat calm and the water is super clear, keen-eyed pomps are much more cautious and often turn off from the sight of terminal gear. On the other extreme, if it’s a blustery winter morning poor water visibility makes it difficult for your offerings to be noticed.
During higher tidal stages pompano advance over the first bar and patrol the trough right along the shoreline. The first trough is usually inaccessible during the bottom of the tide when pompano are limited to the outside bars. Seasoned pros know this and employ specialized surf casting tackle capable of heaving baited rigs practically over the horizon. There is an entire society of super surf casters out there most of us don’t even know about. These are the guys that walk off the beach with limits day after day.
Adding to the land based opportunities, pier and inlet fishing can also be effective, but you’ll want to avoid the crowded tips of piers and work the first third of the structure where waves stir the sand. In this endeavor it’s best to fish early and late in the day. The beaches are full of predatory sharks, bluefish and mackerel, and flashy pompano feed during low-light conditions to help them blend in with their surroundings.
When constructing the ideal pompano rig there are a few different theories, however all start with stealthy fluorocarbon leader. Some prefer pink, while others use clear. Twenty pound leader is preferred when making a dropper rig because it is stealthy, but also stiff enough to help maintain separation between the dropper loops. You never know when a large drum will suck down bait intended for pompano and you’ll appreciate the added security when you hook into something larger than you expected.
Start by tying a barrel swivel in the fluorocarbon and then create a dropper loop 10 inches from the swivel. The branch should only be 3 inches long. Tie another dropper loop 10 inches from the first and then create a loop at the base of the rig, or add a snap about 10 inches from the bottom dropper loop. This is where you will be attaching your lead. Pyramid and sputnik sinkers from 2- to 6-ounces are ideal for maintaining a firm hold. Choose 1/0 or #1 kahle hooks, thin wire circle-hooks work well too, but before you attach the hooks it’s a good idea to slide a red or orange plastic bead over the loop’s branches. If you study a sand flea with eggs you’ll notice the roe is orange, so the theory is to imitate a pompano’s favorite forage. Some choose to add chartreuse floats to their rigs to keep live sand fleas from burrowing back into the sand. While there is indeed a science and anglers have their own theories, staying tight is often only a matter of having properly presented baits in the strike zone when feeding pompano swim by.
With this rig you’ll want to set a two or three rod spread so you can cover the area from the shoreline to the outside of the second bar. If a pattern emerges, adjust accordingly. Keep a close eye on the beach’s features that form as the tide flows in and out. Runouts and rip currents can be dangerous to swimmers, but they disrupt the flow of water and are a great place to find hungry fish.
Catch More Pompano
Although pompano are often taken with small jigs and lures, bait fishermen on both coasts find excellent success with dropper rigs baited with fresh sand fleas. Kahle hooks and red plastic beads are also standard no matter where you plant your feet in the sand.
The key to successful pompano fishing is finding sand fleas. These crustaceans dig burrows right along the wash where the wave action meets the sand. As waves recede, look for a small hole and distinct V-pattern in the sand. Quickly sweep the area with a sand flea rake or your bare hands, digging down 4- to 8-inches beneath the surface.
Pompano Rules & Regulations
Min Size: 11″ Fork
Daily Limit: 6 Per Person
Closed Season: None