Catching Pompano in Southwest Florida
About the time visitors from northern climes begin to appear in Southwest Florida, pompano trickle into local waters and provide anglers with some outstanding winter time fishing from December through March. I love to catch pompano. On a scale of 1 to 10 I'll give them a solid ten on the catching scale. Their deep bodies and sharply forked tails make them strong swimmers and hard fighters. As table fare they are 10+.
These slab-sided speedsters can be found anywhere in Charlotte Harbor and along the Gulf beaches. They like sandy bottoms. In the Harbor, the west side of the bar that runs from Pirate Harbor to Burnt Store and down to Two Pines will hold fish. On the West Wall, look for white sand potholes that appear among dense grass beds in three to five feet of water. This is the time of year when the water is very clear throughout the Harbor and these potholes are easy to spot. You can also find them around the Jug Creek Shoal off Bokeelia and along the channel edges around all of the local passes.
Depending on the conditions of the day, boaters can drift and cast along likely looking locations or use a trolling motor to work these same areas. If you are fishing over heavy grass at the edge of a bar a popping cork will suspend the lure vertically in the water column. Adjust the float so the lure travels just above the grass and the fish will find your lure. Sweeten the offering by tipping the jigs with a piece of shrimp.
As you run your boat along the outside edges of these local bars ask your fishing partner to keep an eye out behind the boat for pompano skipping out of the water in the boat's wake. If you see these "skippers" double back and work the area where you saw the fish.
No boat? No problem. Gulf beach anglers can find pompano anywhere from Boca Grande to Venice. Look for them to be feeding right along the edge of the waves breaking on shore or on top of shallow sand bars only a short cast from shore. The key is to cast and keep moving until you find fish as they swim up and down the beach foraging for food.
From the boat or beach, I like to catch them on artificial lures such as Silly Jigs, Crazy jigs, or small nylon tail bullet-type jigs. I rig these lures with a 24-inch piece of 20-pound test monofilament or fluorocarbon leader, tied to my main line with a Uni-Knot.