CATCHING POMPANO IN THE DESTIN AREA
TACKLE & RIGS FOR CATCHING POMPANO
The key to Pompano fishing is to keep your bait/lure at or near the bottom. There area two primary ways used to catch pompano in
the panhandle of Florida.
- In the surf or off the pier/jetties using a 2 - 3 hook bottom rig ("Set Rig") with either sand fleas or pieces of fresh peeled shrimp.
- In the surf or off the pier/jetties by casting a "Pompano Jig
Both work well but jigging for pompano is probably the most fun.
FISHING FOR POMPANO ON THE BOTTOM WITH BAIT: Tackle and Technique
When you are surf fishing with a bottom rig ("Set Rig") for pompano, you normally use 2 to 3 rods and space your bait outward from
the shore. The pompano could be anywhere, from inside the first bar to outside the second bar, running east to west in the spring run.
The pompano you are going to catch are only going to be in the 2 -3 pound range, so you don't need the big surf outfits they use for
stripers, etc off the east coast. However, you will need a little heavier equipment in the surf due to the weight you have to sling. And,
you will catch other fish besides pompano. I have seen my rod take off from the rod holder on the beach because I forgot to set my
drag (its was tightened down). Last I saw of it was skimming out to sea, probably with a bull redfish on the other end.
If you are just starting out, I would just go to Walmart and get one of their $39.95 specials. It will probably last a summer and will give
you an ideal of what you need. Once you are ready to get serious, then buy you some good equipment.
POMPANO SURF FISHING TACKLE
The pompano aren't that big but you need something to handle
the weight you will be tossing. The Penn 750SSm spinning reel
is a good overall reel for both beach and boat fishing and is
what I use. It can handle just about anything you get on and a
4- 6 zo weight. It is probably a little overkill for pompano. The
Penn 650SSm or Shimano Spheros 6000 would also be good.
You are going to get a lot of opinions on this, I really don't
think it matters that much which reel you use, as ong as it can
handle the weight you are tossing.
Normally, the longer the rod, the farther you can cast. And, you need a strong rod to toss the weight of the sinker and your
bait out. But you do not have to go out and buy a 14' rod. A lot of the pompano are close to shore, within 20-30 feet of the beach.
Most people set out two to three rods and space their bait seaward, from from close in to as far as they can throw. I use both a 10'
and 12' Ugly Stick rod.
20 # to 30 # monofilament or braid will work fine on your surf reels. I still use 20 # monofilament.
Optional, be better if you didn't use them. But, usually easier to use as it gives a convenient place to tie a new leader on. A 40# black
barrel swivel will work fine.
Most people use what is called a Pompano Rig for surf fishing. It is nothing other than a 2 or 3 hook dropper rig with beads and/or
"floaties" attached to each hook line.
The beads, usually orange, are said to attract Pompano as one of the most popular bait's, the
sand flea, has orange eggs.
And, some rigs have "floaties", usually yellow rigged just before the beads. The purpose of these
are to supposely keep a live sand flea from digging back into the sand.
There are pros and cons to having all this and not having them. Some people say the beads and
floaties spook the fish.
If you are starting out, just buy one of the prerigged Pompano rigs at a local tackle store. I still use them when I don't have any
pre-tied of my own and they catch fish.
Most "experts" agree that fluorocarbon leaders catch more fish and I tend to agree. So, I try to have a few fluorocarbon pompano rigs
at the start of the season.
HOOKS: Most prerigged pompano rigs come with Kahle hooks. Pompano have small mouths, so I usually swap them with a # 1 or #
2 circle hook. Just personal preference. If you use a double line from your main line to put the hooks on, you want to make sure the
hook eye is big enough for the double line. The Eagle Claw lazer sharps have big eyes.
BAIT: Pompano have fairly small mouths, so baits and hooks should be small. The most popular pompano baits in this area are the
sand flea (mole crab) and fresh, peeled shrimp. Live fiddler crabs are good bait also. And, although rarely used for Pompano, live
shrimp is also a good bait.
Sand Fleas: The preferred bait for Pompano here
in the panhandle is sand fleas (mole crabs).
Click here for more information on how to use the
sand flea for bait.
Shrimp: An equally good bait
for pompano is pieces of
fresh, peeled shrimp.
Pompano have small mouths,
so usually a half a shrimp is
WEIGHTS: The most popular weight is a 2 - 4 oz pyramid weight. A better holding weight would be the "spider" weight. The stronger
the current/waves, the higher the weight. If you have to go over 8 oz, you might as well go home.
WHERE TO PUT YOUR BAIT
In the picture to the right, we can see a "hole"
formed. It is usually darker in color than the
surrounding water and has little or no breakers
See the Beach Fishing pages for more information on reading the beach. X link coming X
When you hook a pompano, be ready for a good fight. Sometimes once they are hooked, they will make a run toward the beach and it
appears you have lost the fish as your line will go slack. Keep reeling, he is usually still there.
I start walking backwards up the beach when bringing a pompano in through the waves. Use to waves to help bring them in.
Always loosen your drag when your rod is in the sand spike. When a school comes through and you have two rods out, there is a
good chance you will hook one or two fish on each rod. They are strong enough to pull your pole over if your drag is locked down.
With it loose, you can get one in while the other one pulls on the drag.
JIGGING FOR POMPANO: Tackle and techniques
Another popular method for catching pompano is with the artificial "Pompano Jig". They are similar to a normal jig but have the bristles
cut short, at the bend of the hook. The head itself may be round, peanut shaped, or bullet shaped. The common weight range is from
1/4 ounce to 3/4 ounce. A pompano jig is supposed to be mimicing a bottom feeding crustacean. You fish them on the bottom. Toss
the jig out and let it settle to the bottom. Start a slow, twitch - wait 2-5 seconds - twitch -wait etc retrieve. Try to keep the line tight at
all times. This will cause the jig to bump along the bottom, kicking up some sand as it "jumps" off the bottom and "swims" forward a
little before settling back down. Continue until you have retrieved most of your line. The key is to keep your jig on or near the bottom.
Pompano feed by having their noses down near the bottom as they are looking for bottom dwelling prey. Colors vary but a popular
color combination in this area is a cream head with a pink bristle tail.
Wide variety of Pompano Jigs are available Two popular Pompano jigs
When jigging for Pompano, you want to use a light weight reel. I use a Penn 550SSm or Shimano Symetre 4000 spinning reel.
Use a light weight rod to match your reel and you want around an 8' long one.
10 # to 16 # monofilament. Braid is fine but you will have to use a monofilament or flurocarbon leader.
Better not to use one, but if you do, smallest you can get away with.
Not really needed. But if you want one, use about a 3 foot
20 # fluorocarbon
Almost everyone around here uses some type of Pompano jig. You
can tip them with a piece of Gulp Shrimp or fresh, peeled shrimp to
enhance its scent. I have seen pompano caught with a Gotcha off
the Okaloosa Island pier (It was a large school swimming through and
I think they would have eaten anything in front of them.
WHERE TO USE YOUR JIG AT: The most popular places for jigging for Pompano in the Destin area are:
The Destin Jetties
Jig either side of the last 40' of the jetty. A good place is near the end on the southeast (Beach) side. You have to be careful as there
are rocks on the bottom that you will snag on. Always bring a bunch of jigs, as you will lose some to snags.
You want the tide moving, either in or out. These pictures were taken on March 30th and April 1st a few years ago.
Off the end and either side of the end of the east Spur Jetty.
Okaloosa Island Pier
The pier is an excellent place to catch Pompano. Generally, most are caught just seaward of the first set of breakers on the east side
of the pier, in the first trough. (Between the first and second light pole on the east side) This is referred to locally as the "pompano
hole". Use either a bottom rig or jig. The cobia fishermen are out on the pier too at the same time, but they are nearer the south end.
Most people fishing for pompano also have a rod rigged with a Cobia Jig, just in case.
"Run & Gun"
If you plan on jigging on a beach, you normally will stay moving. Find a hole and toss your jig in for 10 minutes. If nothing, move on
and try somewhere else.
Sight Fishing the beach
From a boat
Fish the beach on both sides of the last (third) sandbar.
WHEN TO CATCH POMPANO
TIME OF YEAR
The spring run is the best time to catch pompano here in Destin. This runs generally from April 1st (April Fools Day) to about May 10.
Not really hard times, just an ideal. Tax day, April 15th is considered the peak of the run. The fish will be in schools of 10-50 coming
from the east, migrating westward.
Surf fishing for Pompano in
April. Just outside the outer
bar are the cobia fishermen
sight fishing for migrating cobia.
The fall run is the second most productive time. It is a little harder to predict, but generally anywhere from October through December,
with temperture being the key.
At other times in the summer, you can catch pompano, but usually you are not targeting them and they are caught while you are
fishing for something else and you just happen to hook one. Not much of a chance from December through March though as most of
the fish have gone to deeper water or moved south.
TIDE & WEATHER EFFECTS
Don't bother going if you have a neap tide (No water movement)
I have had my best luck when the seas are relatively rough.
A good pompano day on the jetty
A good day fishing a hole that
developed just east of the old
Crystal Beach pier. Several
pompano were caught in the
HOW TO CLEAN A POMPANO
click on these links:
For some more good reading, click on the following links:
FLORIDA POMPANO Phylum/Division: Chordata
Trachinotus carolinus) Class: Actinopterygii
Common Names: Florida Pompano, common pompano, Atlantic pompano, Cobblerfish
Geographical Distribution: Pompano are found in schools in the coastal waters of the Atlantic Ocean from
Massachusetts to Brazil and throughout the Gulf of Mexico.
Description: The Pompano is a member of the jack family Carangidae, which includes about 140 species worldwide.
Jacks are characterized by their silvery, thin bodies and deeply forked tail fins. Many have elongated dorsal fins. Florida relatives of
the pompano include permit, palometa, crevalle jack, yellow jack, lookdown, amberjack, and a variety of scads.
Florida pompano have a deep, thin, silvery body
with a greenish gray back, which slopes gradually
to a rounded head with a blunt snout and small
mouth. In dark waters, pompano may have a gold
tinge on the throat, belly, and fins.
It grows grows to 17 – 25 inches in length and
reach weights up to 8 pounds, though pompano
over 4 pounds are rarely caught. According to the
International Game Fish Association, the All
Tackle World Record and Florida record for
Florida pompano is 8 pounds, 4 ounces, caught
in Port St. Joe by angler Barry Huston on
Oct. 16, 1999.
Six short spines are located in front of an elongated
dorsal fin, which is set low on the fish’s back and is
matched by a slightly shorter anal fin underneath.
The first few soft rays (spines) of these fins are
elongated, followed by a narrow band of soft rays
that lead to the deeply forked V shaped tail. The
dorsal fin has 22 to 27 soft rays (spines); the anal
fin has 20 to 23 rays (spines). The fins of pompano
may be yellow.
The head slopes to a blunt snout. A pompano's
mouth is on the underside (subterminal) of the
head. (Fish with this type of mouth usually feed
on the bottom.) This, along with it's protrusible
mouthparts (able to extend outward) and short,
widely spaced gill rakers allow the fish to efficiently
root through sand to prey on bottom living (benthic)
organisms such as clams, crabs, worms, small
crustaceans, snails, and anemones . They also have
well-developed pharyngeal plates – hard structures
in the throat for crushing crustaceans. The jaws
contain very small teeth, but no teeth are present
on the tongue at any life stage
Scales are very small, smooth and partially
embedded. There are 8 – 14 gill rakers on the
lower limb of the gill arch. Well developed
pharyngeal plates are present.
The lateral line arches to the midpoint of the soft
back (dorsal) fin and then becomes straight
toward the tail (caudal) fin. The side of the tail
and caudal peduncle is smooth in contrast to
the similar-looking jack crevalle.
Life History: Little is known of the natural spawning behavior of pompano. Spawning has not been observed in nature, so
speculation on spawning habits is based on collection locations of larvae, juveniles, and mature adults. Pompano are believed to
spawn in offshore waters from spring through fall, with a peak in April and May and a smaller peak in September. In the Keys,
spawning may occur all year, as small pompano can be observed in the surf zone year-round. Along the Atlantic coast, they
apparently spawn near the Gulf Stream.
Opinions differ as to whether pompano spawn near shore or far offshore. Pompano larvae have been collected 15 miles off the
western shore of Florida and 60 miles off the coast of South Carolina. It is believed that larvae spend approximately the first month of
life at sea (Fields 1962), then begin moving toward shore, where they congregate in the surf zone of low-energy beaches. Juveniles
appear near beaches from April to November, but are most abundant from May to June. Juveniles in Florida begin to leave the surf
zone when they have grown to a body length of approximately 6", while juveniles in Georgia begin vacating the surf zone at body
lengths of 2" to 3". Temperature may play a role in determining the time of departure, since few fish have been found near beaches
when the water temperature has dropped to 66 F. Fish often move offshore in the winter.
Florida pompano juveniles exhibit very rapid growth rates for length and weight, up to 12 inches of growth within their first year of life
is common. As the fish get older the length increase slows, but the weight increase continues. Scientists at the Florida Marine
Research Institute were the first to age wild Florida pompano using sectioned otoliths, or ear stones. Researchers determined that
pompano lived up to 7 years on the Atlantic coast and up to 5 years on the gulf coast of Florida. Florida pompano can be
reproductively mature at an early age. Approximately 50% of the females reach maturity at age 1 (11.5 to 12. 5") and 100% maturity
occurs by age 3 (approximately 15" in length).
Habitat: Pompano are coastal fish and are generally found in small schools along sloping, sandy beaches, around inlets, and in
brackish bays and estuaries where they feed on sand fleas, coquinos, shrimp, small fish and other animals buried in the sand. Large
schools of pompano migrate north in the spring along the gulf coast and south in the winter. This is called the spring and fall “run”.
The fall "run" is normally smaller. Times vary for the run in the Destin area, but it generally begins in the first few weeks of April (Tax
day - April 15, is generally considered the peak day) and ends in early May. In September and October, adults move into the bays.
The fall migration is a little harder to forecast, but usually in October or November. It is thought that the migration is in response to
changes in water temperature. Juvenile Florida pompano utilize the surf zone of exposed, sandy beaches as a preferred nursery
However, Pompano may be found along the gulf coast year round, but in lesser numbers than during the run. They tolerate a wide
range of environmental variables, including cold temperatures, low dissolved-oxygen levels, and low salinities—as long as the
changes occur gradually. Although typically a shallow-water species, they have been found in waters over 200 feet deep.
Adults are found in inshore and nearshore waters, especially along sandy beaches, oyster banks, over grassbeds, near oil rigs, even
in water as deep as 130 feet.
Look Alike Species: Florida pompano are similar in body form to 2 related species: the permit (Trachinotus falcatus) and
the palometa (T. goodie).
The palometa is normally not found in Destin waters.
Permit are here, but are rare. Because pompano
and permit are very similar in appearance, anglers
often confuse them. Adult pompano and permit can
be distinguished from each other by their size.
Pompano rarely grow larger than seven pounds,
whereas permit weighing 40 pounds are common.
The body of a juvenile permit is deeper than
that of a pompano of similar length; also, the anal
fin of the juvenile permit is orange. As permit grow,
their body depth decreases in relation to their length,
and fin coloration changes from orange to yellow,
making them look like huge pompano. The best way
to distinguish between these species is to count the
dorsal and anal fin rays. Pompano have more
Permit caught in November, Norreigo Point
- Common to 6 pounds; may reach 8 pounds - Common to 40 pounds; may reach 79 pounds
- Fish in dark waters show yellow on throat, pelvic and - Fish in dark waters show orange or golden
breast and anal fin tints on its anal fins
- 22 to 27 soft rays in dorsal fin - 17 to 21 soft rays in dorsal fin
- 20 to 23 soft rays in anal fin - 16 to 19 soft rays in anal fin
- Have no teeth on tongue at any size - Small permit have teeth on tongue
- Up to 18" fork length, 25" total length - Up to 48" fork length, 59 "total length
Looking at the other end of the food chain, juvenile pompano are undoubtedly eaten by larger fish and beach-foraging birds,
particularly brown pelicans. As adults, the only regular predator on the pompano is probably humans. P
- Temperature: Bilogist report that pompano in the Tampa Bay area inhabit waters ranging from 63 – 90º F, but preferred
temperatures of 82 – 90º F. A study on the effects of decreasing temperatures on pompanos finds that signs of stress began at when
temperature was dropped to 54 º F. Critical minimum temperature for pompano in this study was determined to be 50 º F, while
critical maximum temperature was approximately 100º F. However, it is known that smaller juveniles can withstand considerably
higher temperatures, as many have been observed in shoreline tidepools where temperatures may exceed 113º F.
- Salinity: Adult Florida pompano are rare in brackish waters where salinity falls below 25 parts per thousand (ppt), preferring
salinities of 28 – 37 ppt. Juveniles are able to tolerate salinity as low as 9 ppt and as high as 50 ppt.
- Dissolved Oxygen: Pompano became stressed when dissolved oxygen content dropped to approximately 3 parts per million
(ppm). Mortality occurred at 2.5 ppm.
- Other Physical Tolerances: Pompano can not survive when pH levels dropped below 4 or exceeded 12, .
The distinctive plates (pharyngeal plates) at the back of the pompano's mouth indicate that hard-shelled organisms such as crabs and
mollusks are important in the diet. (These plates are used to crush the hard-shelled crustaceans).
Small juvenile pompano are day time, opportunistic feeders that select a wide
variety of planktonic and benthic organisms, yet become increasingly selective
as they grow . Juvenile pompano collected in the surf zone of the Mississippi
coast were observed to be planktivores (an animal feeding primarily on plankton),
primarily consuming copepods and some benthic organisms including
polychaetes, coquina clam siphons, and sand fleas (mole crabs). A study
of pompano in Tampa Bay, Florida, ranging in size from 2-4 inches, showed
that they ate crustaceans and mollusks, while those from 4 – 5 inches ate
As pompano grow, the pharyngeal plates develop that allow consumption of
hard-shelled organisms including clams, mussels, and crabs In Florida, juveniles
collected in the surf zone were shown to be mainly bottom feeders, consuming Sand Fleas
coquina clam siphons and sand fleas (mole crabs). Juvenile pompano
collected at Louisiana beaches were observed to consume polychaetes,
bivalves, amphipods, and penaeid shrimp.
Adult pompano appear to be selective grazers, feeding mostly on the bottom
on a wide variety of organisms. Bivalves, crabs, shrimp, and various small
fish species constitute the majority of the diet of adult pompano. Sampled
gut contents from 19 adult pompanos taken in the Tampa Bay area and
found that all fishes sampled fed exclusively on the scorched mussel,
Brachidontes exustus, which commonly lives attached to rocks in the
deeper portion of Tampa Bay. However, adult pompano caught in the Gulf
of Mexico, in the vicinity of oil rigs, fed primarily on penaeid shrimp.
Coquinos on Okaloosa Island beach
Competitors: Florida pompano are preyed upon by birds, particularly brown pelicans, and other birds that utilize beach areas as
RULES AND REGULATIONS GOVERNING POMPANO
State Waters: The state of Florida regulates fishing in the Gulf of Mexico waters out to 9 nautical miles from the Florida Gulf
coastline. (Info only: Alabama state waters only go out to 3 nm). Since correctly identifying pompano and permit is difficult at small
sizes, the two species are managed together.
As of Jan 1, 2010: Minimum 11” , maximum 20" fork length.
Maximum 6 pompano per fisherman per day
May possess one Pompano or Permit over 20" (included in the aggregate bag limit of 6).
Vessel restriction: no more than 2 permit and pompano over 20" fork length at any time in any combination.
Gigging, spearing, snatching prohibited.
Harvest prohibited by or with the use of any multiple hook (ie, treble hooks) in conjunction with live or dead natural bait. (OK on
artificial lures, ie Gothchas)
Must remain in whole condition until landed ashore (heads, fins & tails intact).
For more information, click on: XXXXXXXX
Federal Waters: The US Government, throught NOAA and its Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council, regulates fishing in the
Gulf of Mexico waters from 9 nautical miles off the coast of Florida out to 200 nautical miles from the coast.
|Southeast corner of
the east Destin jetty
|Third Bar - Can not always see waves on it
Put one bait here
Put another bait here