Ten Secrets To Catching More Pompano
Capt. Alex Crawford
April 6, 2008
Carrabelle - Saltwater Fishing Report
Ten Secrets To Catching More Pompano
By Captain Alex Crawford
In spring along the Gulf coast from Florida's Panhandle, across Alabama's beautiful beaches to Mississippi, legions of dedicated anglers get ready for one of the biggest events in the salt water fishing world—the arrival of the highly prized Pompano. Passionate Pompano chasers have waited all winter for these great eating little critters to show and they are ready. If you want to find out where the Pompano are biting, ask one of these fearless fishermen. You can always tell the ones that are devoted to their sport, they are the ones standing next to the water casting in 40 degree, windy early spring weather with nothing but Bermuda shorts and a light cotton T shirt. It is likely that these brave anglers are from far away lands like Michigan or Minnesota. They are an excellent source of local information about the whereabouts of schools of Pomps and they are very willing to share their knowledge. I usually carry a couple beers to be used as bribes—it always works.
Finding fish is the hardest part of the endeavor. Other than asking other anglers where they have been catching fish, there is another technique that sometimes is remarkably successful in locating schools of fish. Seasonal Pompano pros will run their boats randomly along the beaches in an attempt to "spook" a school. Pompano exhibit an unusual behavior called skipping. In the boat engine's prop wash, you can see the silvery sides of a school, as they skip across the waves on the surface. Why Pomps do this is another mystery of fishing, as other species do not exhibit this strange behavior. Once a school is located, it is time to stop, anchor and begin chumming the fish close to your boat. This technique can be extremely effective, resulting in a limit for everyone quickly. Worst case scenario you get some sun on your face and some salt in your nose. It's just great to be out on the water again after a long nasty winter.
Decisions about bait are very important. Pompano pros will tell you that the number one bait is a live, frisky sand flea (mole crab). You can buy these critters at some bait and tackle shops along the coast, but catching your own supply of fresh, live baits is optimal. With your trusty sand flea rake, go down to the surf and dredge up your baits. You can look where the last wave breaks up on the beach and see the little flea antenna as the water recedes. They bury down in the wet sand and, if you are fast and attentive, you can rake them up. It's great fun and at times, very productive. Do not put your hard won fleas in a 5 gallon bucket with sand, the ammonia from their urine will kill them. Keep them cool and out of direct sun. An old oyster bag with newspapers and a block of ice will usually keep them fresh and ready to fish.
If you are unable to find bait on the beach or buy it at the bait store, there are options. Small live shrimp work well when Pomps are feeding. Fiddler crabs will also work. Don't be surprised to catch rat reds and trout at times while targeting Pompano. They like the same feeding areas. Small jigs will catch Pompano also. Try a quarter ounce Nylure yellow jig with a shrimp or sand flea pinned on the hook. Work it slowly by jumping it in short hops. This action emulates the natural movement of a sand flea by jumping and burying in the sand. Add a bright orange plastic bead to your fluorocarbon leader that matches the color of a sand flea's egg sack. Pompano are professional sight feeders. They have large eyes like all members of the jack family and rely on their acute vision for feeding success. You can even add a short leader with a split shot, #1 hook and an orange bead to drag behind your primary bait. Creating more commotion on the bottom will attract hungry fish. Remember that you may not use treble hooks for Pomps.
Try anchoring just offshore of the last beach trough and casting into the trough. Frequently food will be there and so will the Pompano in large numbers. When conditions are right, you are able to catch over your limit fast, so keep count and turn short fish back. Be a responsible steward of the resource, it is finite. Don't we all want our grand children to experience the thrill of catching a hard-fighting, great eating Pompano?
A relatively new artificial lure is a soft rubber sand flea with an orange painted under belly, again to simulate the female pompano's egg sack. These lures add an element of sportsmanship to the task, making it even more rewarding for the angler. Try Half Hitch (www.halfhitch.com) Tackle in Destin, FL. These are hard to find at times, like the beginning of the Pompano run. Buy a few in advance so you will be prepared.
Target your efforts in troughs and drop offs around passes. Bait gets washed into these low lying "holes" and become a buffet bar for hungry Pompano. If fish are in the area, during some stage of the tide, the fish will be feeding in these troughs. Your mission is to have the patience to be there at the right time. I prefer the last two hours of a high tide with good horizontal current. The basic premise is that tide and current moves bait into feeding zones and the fish show up to chow down. Jetties that are granite boulders that form Gulf inlets are prime locations because they provide a steady offering of crustaceans, like shrimp and small crabs.
Tackle decisions are basic. Eight foot graphite rods work well to propel baits long distances. Ten pound class spinning reels with super smooth drags are ideal to handle that hard first run. Pomps really pull hard for being so small. It is the jack in them with forked tails and streamlined bodies. They are efficient swimmers and will break down the drag on a cheap reel. My favorite reels are Shimano Stradic 4000s. They have superior drags and stand up well to salt water. Another fine choice in reels is the Shimano Spheros 4000, a twelve pound class outfit that will do the job, spooled with mono or braid. Hook sizes need to be small due to very small mouths. An Owner #1 live bait hook is a good choice. They have good steel and are super-sharp out of the box. Leaders should be fluorocarbon, no larger than 15 pound. Casting is the primary consideration. It is necessary to make long casts at times.
When the inshore surface water temperature reaches 68 degrees, it is time to be looking for Pompano. This seems to be the magic temperature for other species like reds and trout as well. Another really fun target species of early spring is cobia. If you are searching the outside beaches for fish, always have a 30 pound class spinner rigged and ready to present to a pod of big cobes. Be the prepared opportunistic angler. Searching to the west in the morning hours and back to the east after lunch will keep the sun at your back to improve on the water visibility. Invest in high-quality polarized sun glasses.
The most successful pompano anglers are the ones that get up early and stay out late. The best fishing days will be the full moon days of April and May. Plan your trips to coincide with these "prime" times. You want to enhance your chances of success.
Fisheries biologists in Florida tell us that our beloved Pompano populations are in decline. They want us to strongly consider catch and release. It is difficult to release these yummy little critters. They are arguablably the best seafood eating of all the finfish species. That includes groupers, snook and cobia.
Have a small razor-sharp fillet knife to carve your catch. Pompano require some finesse to fillet, especially the barely legal ones. Their skins are very tough. Depending on how you want to cook your catch, you may just gut the fish to be prepared whole. Others like fillets with no bones.
An excellent Pompano recipe: fast and easy
Four fillets depending on sizes of fish about ¾ pound total weight
Quarter cup of flour
Quarter teaspoon each salt and white pepper
One large egg slightly beaten
One tablespoon milk(1%)
Quarter cup of Italian seasoned bread crumbs
3 tablespoons butter
Combine first three ingredients: dredge fillets in mixture. Combine egg and milk, dip fillets in milk mixture and dredge in bread crumbs.
Melt butter in non-stick skillet. Add fillets, cooking 5 minutes on each side, until golden brown or until fish flakes easily with fork.
Yields two(2) servings
Add your favorite wine, artichokes, candles and smooth jazz for a romantic dinner.
Captain Alex Crawford
fishing from Apalachicola, FL
Carrabelle Fishing Forecast:
The first pompano have arrived, although not in the big numbers yet. The water temp is right and the sun is warming the inshore surface. It won't be long now before we see the bigger schools show up. Are you ready?
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