Fishing for, and cooking, Pompano


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Plenty of Pompano

By, Jackie Otto

Fishing for and cooking PompanoThis summer there seem to be plenty Pompano to go around for all, whether you are fishing from a boat or from the shoreline. The hardest part about Pompano fishing is finding where the fish are during tidal flows and food. Once these two factors are determined, catching Pompano is fun and easy to do for the beginner or the seasoned pro.

In the past I caught Pompano as a byproduct and threw them back into the water or gave them away. To an old Southern gal like me, no fish is worth eating unless you fry it; well guess what…fried Pompano tastes terrible. Since I determined that baked or grilled is the only way to prepare and eat Pompano, I no longer toss them back or give them away. At the end of my article I will include a few ways to cook Pompano that will make your taste buds dance. From the shoreline, scout areas of really sandy beaches (not rocky) close to deep channels looking for sand fleas. This will put you in an area of feeding grounds for Pompano. Watch the area where the waves crash on the shoreline and as the wave is receding look closely at the sand and watch for sand fleas scurrying and digging back into the sand. Using a sand flea rake you can get a bucket full of bait. Area bridges that allow fishing and have good tidal flow will produce good catches of Pomps. I like to use a simple straight shank size 1 or 1/0 hook and enough weight to get the sand flea to the bottom. I use the same set up from the shoreline (preferably right where you caught the sand fleas) yet I use a smaller split shot weight to keep the sand flea down. Tierra Verde Bridge is a good place to try and the North beach of Ft. Desoto also provides good shoreline fishing for Pompano along with Honeymoon Island near the dog beach area. Scouting will also let you find areas that are not as popular with fishermen and allow you to have your own little honey-hole. Walk along the beach and watch as the Pompano turn sideways and roll in with the waves and roll back out before turning themselves upright, they are Fishing for and cooking Pompanoeating sand fleas before they get a chance to dig into the sand. From a boat, I prefer using a 3/8th or ½ ounce Silly Willy Jig and depending upon tidal flow and depth. I like a yellow and white jig and a pink teaser. My tackle consists of 15 pound test line and I use the leader that comes with the jig, which is "ready to fish". If you want to buy a jig and teaser fly, they come that way so you can mix and match any colors you want. I suggest anywhere from 20 to 30 pound leader material. Jig fishing is just that, you have to "pop" your rod up and down quite often allowing the jig to bounce on the bottom, hopping it along as you drift the passes. This funny looking jig is supposed to mimic a shrimp or crab snapping along the bottom of the pass. Pompano hit hard, usually on the up of your jigging motion and they fight like a Jack, as their looks and body shape are very similar. Jacks have yellow fins and a prominent black spot on the side and Pompano are yellow under their chin and their bottom side only with no black spot on the side. Try not to fish the jig in the middle or top half of the water column to avoid Mackerel and Blue fish that just cut you off. You will catch many different species of fish using the Pompano jig, making it fun for kids and beginners.

We have caught small Sharks, Blue fish, Mackerel, Robin fish, Black Sea Bass, small Grouper, Flounder, Pinfish, Grunts, Lady fish and that only names a few that I can remember. Once you find Pompano, there will be more in that area. If you are pass fishing from a boat, keep drifting over that same area, trying to stay in the same depth and terrain where you caught one. Pompano are schooling fish and often when you catch one there will be a few more following him up to the boat. I never like to give out regulations and bag limits; I believe it is the fisherman's responsibility to know this on their own before keeping fish for the table.

Pompano is a measured fish from the fork of the tail not an overall length. They must be 11 inches at the fork and no longer than 20 inches, although you may keep one over 20 inches and the total bag limit per person is 6 per day. Any regulation is subject to be changed at any time so always check before keeping fish to take home. Some of the more popular passes where you can catch Pompano are Dunedin Pass, the passes between Anclote and Three Rooker, Blinds Pass, Pass grille and Bunces Pass.

Fishing for and cooking PompanoWe kept some Pompano a few years ago, hearing from friends how good they are to eat and proceeded to bread them and plop them in sizzling grease. When we bit into them…. yuck, "how can these folks like this…it's like eating mush". From that point on, we never tried them again, until a close friend told us they are not good fried, you have to bake them or put them on the grill. Braving our fears we decided to try it one more time… when we filet the Pompano we cut out the red blood line that runs down the center of each filet and made two pieces from each side. We placed the filets in a baking dish, sprinkled them with Old Bay, salt, pepper, garlic salt and a final layer of Parmesan cheese. We Baked them at 350 degrees until the filets looked almost done and then turned the oven on Broil for about 4 minutes to crisp up the top of the filets. They were delicious and we now keep Pompano for great table fare. Another way we have tried them is to filet them while leaving the skin on, use the same seasoning and lay them on the grill skin side down until the meat is flaky. Pompano are a very mild tasting fish as long as you cut the blood line out of the filets before cooking. They also have very fine bones that run through the center of the filet so cutting them and the blood line out kills two birds with one stone.

Enjoy catching and eating these feisty fish and as always remember to be courteous on the water and know your regulations.