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
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.
With fisheries, recruitment usually refers to the age a fish can be caught and counted in
In fisheries, recruitment is the number of fish that survive to enter a fishery In
fisheries, recruitment refers to the number of fish surviving to enter a fishery. These
fish have to pass through a number of life history stages (e.g., egg, larva, juvenile, etc.)
before becoming vulnerable to fishing gear.
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 #
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
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
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
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
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
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 (Trachinotus carolinus)
One of the most popular fish to catch in Destin, they are normally caught off the beach,
piers, or jetty. If you see someone fishing on the beach, this is the fish they are normally
after. Weighing only two to four pounds, they are fun to catch on light tackle and many
consider them one of the best tasting fish here.
Pompano are found in schools in the coastal waters of the Atlantic Ocean from
Massachusetts to Brazil and throughout the Gulf of Mexico. It is a member of the jack
family Carangidae. Florida relatives of the pompano include permit, palometa, crevalle jack,
and amberberjacks. It grows grows to 17 – 25 inches in length and reaches 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.
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
Life History: 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. Spawning takes place in the
gulf and in the summer the young are present in great numbers in the surf. Fish often move
offshore in the winter. It is believed that larvae spend approximately the first month of life
at sea, 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 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. 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 habitat.
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.
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
of Mexico, in the vicinity of oil rigs, fed primarily on penaeid shrimp.
Okaloosa Island beach
Competitors: Florida pompano are preyed upon by birds, particularly brown pelicans,
and other birds that utilize beach areas as feeding grounds.
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. Since correctly identifying pompano and
permit is difficult at small sizes, the two species are managed together.
As of January 2018: 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).
Hook and line, cast net and beach or haul seine
Gigging, spearing, snatching prohibited.
Must remain in whole condition until landed ashore (heads, fins & tails intact).
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
Fishing Destin Guide©
Known as the "luckiest fishing village", Destin is the home to some of the best saltwater fishing in the United States. The 100 Fathom (600' depth) Curve of the Gulf of Mexico
draws closerto Destin than any other spot in Florida. This, along with Destin's close proximity to the East Pass and the Gulf of Mexico, allows
quick access to the Gulf of Mexico's fishing bounty. The purpose of this site is to acquaint a new fisherman to the Destin area - our local facilities, fish, waters and
fishing methods. Tight lines and good fishing!
Pompano are common along Gulf beaches
and passes where they feed on beach fleas,
shrimp, small fish and animals buried in the
sand. In September and October, adults move
into the bays. These deep-bodied fish flash
their silver sides and yellow bodies when they
jump in the wake of boats in the coastal bays.
Pompano range from inshore waters to
offshore throughout the Gulf of Mexico.
How To Catch
Pompano have fairly small mouths, so baits
and hooks should be small. Generally live bait
or bits of shrimp are the best bait, although
some lures can be successful. Best fishing is
in summer and fall, since the fish may move
offshore in winter.