The Florida pompano (Trachinotus carolinus ) is a species of marine fish in the Trachinotus (pompano) genus of the Carangidae family. It has a compressed body and short snout; coloration varies from blue-greenish silver on the dorsal areas and silver to yellow on the body and fins. It can be found along the western coast of the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico depending on the season, and is popular for both sport and commercial fishing. Most Florida pompano caught weigh less than 3 pounds and are less than 17 inches long, though the largest individuals weigh 8–9 pounds and reach lengths of up to 26 inches.
Below: Light winds and comfortable conditions bring an optimistic morning among anglers seeking winter Pompano
Pompano are essentially the smaller cousins of the Permit, however looking nearly identical. They are indeed a fast-growing species and attains a length of 8–12 inches (200–300 mm) after its first year. They usually survive for only about 3 to 4 years, although individuals as old as 6-7 years old have been caught. Despite its name, the range of the Florida Pompano extends from Massachusetts to Brazil, but it is more common in areas near Florida. During the summer, it can be found near Sebastian, Cape Hatteras, and the Gulf of Mexico.
Below: The Florida Pompano, one of the true gems of winter-time surf fishing.
The Florida Pompano are a highly sought after species in Florida and Texas. In time specific periods of the year, anglers go out and harvest the pompano for their very high rated table fare. While caught year-round, in Texas cooler months prove more productive with the abilty for anglers to obtain as many as desired. Pompano are very fast swimmers and live in schools. They have very short teeth and feed on zoobenthos and small clams. Being bottom feeders, its is fairly easy to entice a pompano to eat a well presented shrimp or small bait.
Below: Pompano easily fall prey to well presented shrimp or 'fishbites' combinations
One of the most productive ways to actively fish for pompano from the surf is by using a multiple drop leader system. Custom rigs and leaders may consist of 2 or even 3 small circle hooks, baited with shimp and/or 'fishbites' and a 2-6oz spider weight however the rigging system can be very unique and random from angler to angler. As with any fishing there is always a 'bycatch' possibility. While you may also encounter the pesky Hardhead Catfish, you may be happily rewarded with Black Drum, Red Drum, or even Flounder while in your pursuit for Pompano.
Below: Rick poses with a large Florida Pompano taken at sunrise...
What makes pompano so highly desired amongst anglers? Simple, it is their excellent food quality and high abundance. With a very fast growth rate, stocks are not easily damaged and remain consistent even with commercial and recreational fishing. Their flesh is white and slightly oily, making for a flavorful fish that can be cooked in many creative ways. Smoked Pompano also remains a favorite smoked seafood item among seafood enthusiast. It is true in this sense, that while not being a large Grouper or hefty Tuna... good things come in small packages. If you are interested in trying out something new, give winter surf-fishing ago and bring home a few pompano to cook up for the family... just might be the best littler treat you've tasted in a while!
Below: One of the tastiest fish available in the surf zones...