Gulf Coast Fisherman Magazine VOL 40 No 3 - SUMMER 2016 - Page 7

by John N. Felsher FAST AND DELICIOUS! Pompano provide incredible action along the beach... P ompano typically don’t receive much attention from the average coastal fisherman, but for a few dedicated pompano enthusiasts, these delicious relatives of hard-fighting jack crevalle provide incredible action on light tackle. “To catch pompano, people really need to go out specifically to fish for pompano,” advised Capt. Robert Brodie with Team Brodie Charters in Biloxi, MS. “They are pretty wild, aggressive little fish. They make fast runs and they jump. I’ve had them jump in the boat and jump over the boat. I’ve had them hit me and hit my clients.” Despite its limited regional name, Florida pompano occur from Massachusetts to Brazil, including the Bahamas and throughout the Gulf of Mexico. Usually just called a pompano, this member of the jack family likes warm salty waters. A small species for salt water, most pompano probably average about one to two pounds, but occasionally top five pounds. Barry Huston landed the all-tackle world record Florida pompano, an 8.25-pounder, while fishing in St. Joseph Bay near Port St. Joe, FL in October 1999. Pompano move offshore to spawn in the spring and summer. The young fish move to the surf zones and grow rapidly, feeding upon shellfish, crustaceans and other morsels. One of the fastest growing fish in coastal waters, juvenile pompano may grow big enough to eat by late summer. Although typically found in very shallow water, they sometime appear around structure in water deeper than 100 feet. “Pompano might be in just a few feet of water, or out to 10 or 12 feet deep, depending upon the pass,” stated Scott Green of Rodbender Fishing Charters in Sarasota, FL. “We catch them on the grass flats sometimes. I’ve caught a few in about 30 feet of water by nearshore reefs, but usually they are in closer. In Florida, they sometimes mix with permit and look very similar.” Pompano love to roam sandy beaches. Sometimes, they hunt their favorite foods in the crashing surf right at the water edge. The breaking action of the surf dislodges small creatures living in the sand. Pompano eat a variety of baits including small crabs and shrimp. Sometimes, they poke their noses between the rocks in jetties or other structure looking for something to eat, but don’t hover around structure as much as sheepshead. “Pompano are schooling fish, favoring beaches with a good surf and high salinity,” explained Dr. Bob Shipp, (bobshipp.com) a marine biologist and author of Dr. Bob Shipp’s Guide to Fishes of the Gulf of Mexico. “This is probably because their favorite food items are small, shelled animals living in the upper layers of sandy bottoms. Powerful jaw muscles crush the shells. They don’t like fish very much.” Their favorite food, aptly named ghost shrimp, burrow into the sand at the wat