How To Catch Pompano
As one of the best tasting and highest table quality game fish, the Atlantic Pompano is one of the most desirable and most fished for fish species in the surf. Preferring beaches and other shallow waters, pompano are an easily accessible species that put up a fight better than any other game fish of the same size.
Surf and pier fishermen alike target pompano all along the Gulf Coast of the US, with varying degrees of success. If you’re wanting to start pompano fishing or just looking for some tips, we’ve got you covered. We’ll go over pompano biology, fishing tactics, pro tips, and some gear recommendations to get you well on your way to being more successful.
In this all-new guide you’ll learn:
- Pompano biology
- Fishing tactics
- Pro tips
- Some gear recommendations
Getting To Know Your Target
The more you know about your target species, the better chance you stand to have a successful day targeting them. You need to know where pompano frequently spends their time and what they eat in order to catch them. Here we’ll go over all the basics of the Florida pompano.
Where can I catch pompano?
Pompano is warm-water fish, spending most of their time in shallow waters near beaches, in bays, and near river mouths. In the United States, you can catch pompano in waters ranging from Texas to Virginia. Some of the best pompanos in the world are found along Florida’s Western Coast and in the Panhandle.
How do I identify pompano?
There are 21 recognized species of pompano. You can distinguish the Atlantic or Florida pompano by its generally small size. They rarely grow to be over three pounds, but can grow up to six pounds.
Don’t let their size fool you about their strength. Pound for pound, a pompano will out pull nearly any other game fish. On light tackle they’re a blast to fight, and combined with their excellent table quality they’re one of the most fished-for species in the surf.
What is the preferred food of pompano?
Pompano primarily feeds on small shrimp, crabs, and mollusks. They lack teeth but have plates in their throats for crushing the shells of their prey. Like most fish, their preferred food is also the best bait to catch pompano, with Fish Bites, small pieces of shrimp, and sand fleas being incredibly successful baits.
Popular Pompano Fishing Tactics
Targeting pompano uses many of the same tactics as any kind of surf fishing. You’ll want to fish rip currents, each side of the sandbars, and in any cuts in the sandbar, you can find. Lighter tackle is preferred, as they can be scared off by your leader and heavy gear overwhelms them and kills the fun of fighting a pompano.
When is the best time to fish for pompano?
The best time to catch pompano is the first few hours after sunrise and the last few hours before the sunsets. This is when they are most actively hunting for food. They prefer warmer water and are most abundant once the water temperature is nearing 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
What is the best gear for pompano?
A surf rod and reel combo are ideal if you’re fishing from the beaches. The longer rods will let you cast out far enough to reach where the fish are traveling. The lighter action your rod the better, so go as low as you can while still being able to cast where you want to.
What fishing line should I use for pompano?
If you prefer using monofilament, a 10 or 12-pound test is plenty for pompano fishing. For braided lines, try to stay around that same diameter for line, 30-pound test or less. Use circle hooks to avoid gut hooks on undersized fish, 1/0 or 2/0 circle hooks are perfect for pompano.
What kind of rig should I use for pompano?
A pompano rig, a common surf fishing rig, is ideal for pompano fishing, hence the name. You can purchase the rigs or tie your own. They’re typically made from fluorocarbon between 1o and 20-pound tests, with two hook lines coming off of your mainline. On the hook lines are small, brightly colored floats or beads to help keep your bait off the bottom and attract fish.
What is the best bait for pompano?
Bait your rig with one of pompano’s preferred foods like shrimp, sand fleas, You’ll want to cast your rig into troughs, cuts, and rips where fish tend to travel and wait on a bite. If you’re fishing the right areas, you should find plenty of success.
Pro Tips and Tricks to Increase Success
#1: Keep your bait off the bottom.
While crustacean eaters, pompano tend to swim a few feet off the bottom. They’re more likely to find your bait easily if it’s in their lane of travel, and keeping bait off the bottom means you’ll hook into fewer catfish. The floats on a typical pompano rig can help with this a lot, as can tying your hook lines farther away from your sinker on the bottom.
#2: Use fresh, local baits.
Pompano will eat most kinds of crustaceans, but fresher is better. Try to use shrimp that was caught that morning or dig your own sand fleas (mole crabs) when you get to the beach. If there is an abundance of them around, that’s most likely what the pompano will be feeding on.
#3: Downsize your baits.
It might be tempting to use a bigger piece of bait to increase the smell in the water, but that can actually hurt your chances of a hookup. Pompano has small mouths, even in comparison to their size. Cut your shrimp into smaller pieces, use small sand fleas, and cut small squares of artificial bait to increase your chances of them being able to eat it.
#4: Fish as many rods as you comfortably can.
If you can’t find any obvious cuts to fish, you need to figure out where the fish are running. You also need to scout which baits are going to get bites. How many rods you fish at once depends on how many you have and how many you can handle.
A good rule of thumb is to fish one on the inside and one on the outside of the sandbar to see which side the fish are on. If you don’t get hits on either, switch up your bait. When you get consistent bites, keep using that bait and fishing that area.
#5: Don’t get discouraged by catching other fish.
Pompano tends to eat the same foods and share the same space with a variety of other species. You’ll likely catch whiting and drums with the exact same setup when you’re targeting pompano. If you’re not catching pompano but you’re getting other fish, cast out into deeper water or move to a different cut to try to mix it up.
Pompano Fishing Gear Top Picks
If you’re going to go pompano fishing, you’ll want to have the right gear. Using the right stuff will not only increase your odds of success, but it’ll help you enjoy your time on the water even more. Here are our top picks for pompano fishing.
For the most part, a good surf rod is all you need to catch pompano. We do have a complete list of the best surf fishing rods, but here are our top picks for pompano.
Best Option: St. Croix Rods Triumph Surf Spinning Rod
St. Croix is known for the high-quality materials and perfect balance that go into their rods. The 10-foot Triumph is no different, featuring a cork-wrapped handle, superior strength and balance, and a 5-year warranty from the manufacturer.
The medium-weight rod is ideal for pompano fishing. It has plenty of strength and flexes to launch baits out into the surf, but still retains plenty of sensitivity for the fight.
Best Budget Alternative: Shakespeare Tidewater 12-foot
One of my personal favorite rods, and the one I have the most use on. These rods are incredibly strong and durable, with plenty of bend around the tip to sense even the smallest bite. Able to handle even the biggest fish in the surf, you won’t regret buying this rod.
The medium-action is the one to go for here, as the heavy will just horse pompano out of the water without a fight. Its twelve-foot length can get your cast well over 100 yards with some practice and the right wind, making it ideal for reaching far-out sandbars.
You want to make sure you aren’t overwhelming the pompano if you’re interested in the sportfishing side of things. Go for reels with a big enough line capacity to reach far out, but small enough they can’t just horse in pomp. Here are our top picks for pompano fishing, but they are also great choices in surf fishing reels.
Best Option: Penn Spinfisher VI
The Penn Spinfisher line is one of the best quality spinning reels on the market. Fully sealed against saltwater, a powerful drag, and a smooth crank make this durable and long-lasting reel a fantastic choice for any sort of saltwater fishing.
A 3500 or 4500 size reel is the ideal size for pompano. With a loose drag, you’ll be able to really feel the fish run, and it holds plenty of line for casting out to where you need to get your baits.
Best Budget Alternative: KastKing Megatron Spinning Reel
If you’re wanting a budget option spinning reel for the surf it’s hard to go wrong with the KastKing Megatron. It’s CNC machined for precision parts and has just as much drag as the Spinfisher. The aluminum-alloy reel won’t rust or corrode in the salty spray.
Either go for the 3000 or 4000 sizes Megatron. Going for a 5000 or 600 will overpower pompano and take all the fun out of the fight, but going for 2000 may get you spooled if a bigger species takes your bait.
Like we’ve discussed, you want to try to use whatever the pompano are currently feeding on for bait. Crustaceans work best, but you can also find success with certain kinds of artificial baits as well.
Small shrimp are one of the things pompano feed on most often. Make sure to cut small pieces of shrimp to bait your hooks, and change out your bait often if you aren’t getting a bite to keep the scent going.
Sand Fleas (Mole Crabs)
Sand fleas are a great bait for pompano and drums. You can purchase them frozen or dig up your own on the beach. Try to use them live, and make sure to choose small enough fleas for a pompano to fit in their mouth.
For many fishermen, FishBites are the go-to bait for pompano. They come in a variety of flavors including shrimp, clam, sand flea, squid, and bloodworms. They stay on your hook solid and let out a ton of scent. Hook a small square onto your rig with a piece of shrimp or solo and then go with what works best.
Traditional surf fishing rigs can have success, like double-drop rigs. Pompano rigs are ideal because they combine everything you want for pompano fishing. They’re lighter weight, disappear in the water, and have attached floats to help keep up your bait.
Good Choice: Sea Strike PPR20 Pompano 2-Drop Circle Hook Rig
This rig from Sea Striker comes ready to go, you just need to tie on, attach a weight, and throw on some bait. The braided design and lack of clamps help with keeping it low-vis and keeps the pompano from mouthing anything metal aside from your hook.
Pompano fishing provides anglers with both the thrill of the sport and a delicious bit of food for dinner. With no significant commercial fishery, populations are high, and pressure on the species is low. However, if you want to get into surf fishing or want to begin targeting a species in the surf or from a pier, then pompano fishing is for you, and now you should have a good idea of what to do to target these beautiful fish.