After catching five or six trout my client was getting the hang of it and was starting to enjoy his newfound sport when the light rod deeply bent and the drag gave up lots of line as something cut through the water at light speed.
Back and forth, around the boat twice, while I helped guide the wide-eyed new angler around the perimeter of the boat as he held on. "Do you think it's a big shark?" he asked.
Finally, after a long string stretching a sleek chrome, muscular three-pound pompano surfaced finally taking a break as he was drawn close and netted. "How could something that small fight that hard?"
Capt. George Tunison
This is the reaction of most folks, including me, upon catching their first pomp. The next most popular phrase is, "Wow, that's delicious!" and "how could this super tasty fish be related to a bloody nasty tasting jack crevalle?"
Answering the pomp's fighting abilities is it's in the hard fighting jack family or, scientifically, Trachinotus carolinus. Usually less than three pounds but sometimes fish over eight pounds recorded with most specimens living a short, fast-paced life of three to four years.
Florida pompano are common in inshore and nearshore waters, especially along sandy beaches, oyster banks and over grassbeds. They are found in turbid water and water as deep as 130 feet.
These fish spawn offshore between March and September. They feed on mollusks, crustaceans and especially sand fleas. Local movements are influenced by the tide. Seasonal movements are influenced by temperature.
My favorite spots are south of the A and C spans of the causeway in 3-5 feet along the channel edge. The northwest side of Boca Grande in 3-5 feet, and the edges of Redfish and Captiva passes. Pompano often venture inland and show up on the flats hunting for food. My just over four-pounder was caught near the transmission lines in South Matlacha Pass.
We typically fish pompano jigs tipped with bits of fresh shrimp on light fluorocarbon leaders. A better rig is a commercial setup with a colorful weighted hook on a leader with usually two or more feathered hooks tied along the line. Tip with small bits of shrimp and cast out in the current.
Hop your jig back to you always touching bottom on every hop causing it to stir up a puff of sand like an escaping shrimp. Pomp's have great eyes and a better nose. Colorful jigs and shrimp, or better sand fleas, trip Mr. pomp's trigger.
The Florida State record is 8 pounds, 4 ounces, caught near Port St. Joe, which is a monster.
Try this delicious pompano recipe from the Florida Dept. of Agriculture:
1 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup shallots, minced
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
8 ounces fresh blue crabmeat
salt and pepper to taste
3 tablespoons olive oil
11 tablespoon shrimp boil or seafood seasoning
4 6- to 8-ounce pomp fillets, skinless
1 bunch fresh parsely chopped
Combine wine, shallots and lemon juice in small saucepan. Boil over medium-high heat until mixture is reduced to 1/3 cup. Add cream, simmer 5 minutes until thickened. Add butter cubes a few at a time and whisk until melted. Stir in lemon peel.
Add crab meat to sauce and heat through. Add salt and pepper to taste; set aside and keep warm. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Season fillets and add to pan; cook 4 minutes per side until opaque in center.
Place fillet in center of serving plate and top with crabmeat. Spoon additional sauce over all; sprinkle with parsley and serve.