Pompano are among the most popular species of game fish that saltwater anglers target along the coast and while offshore fishing.
They travel in large schools and have predictable migratory habits that cause them to travel northward in the spring up the coastline and back south in the fall. These fish are known for being considered one of the best species in regards to table fare.
In this article, we’ll discuss whether pompano are good to eat, as well as certain things you should consider when catching and cooking them.
Are Pompano Good to Eat?
Yes Pompano are really good to eat, they require very little seasoning and are pretty simple to cook.
Pompano are unlike any other saltwater fish species in terms of their taste and the ease with which you can cook them. They are not overly-large fish and can easily be cooked in a pan due to their smaller size.
Pompano typically grow to about 5 pounds and their fillets can very easily fit inside most pans, which is why many anglers refer to them as a species of saltwater panfish.
Anglers target pompano from the lower parts of the New England coastline all the way down into the Caribbean Islands.
They run in very large schools that swarm the coastline and surf fishing anglers are often able to catch them in very large numbers when they move through an area, which is usually referred to as a ‘pompano run.’
Pompano are not allowed to be harvested in vast numbers the same way other saltwater game fish are, which means their fillets often come at a premium price.
Most restaurants cook them as a filet, but some people leave the skin on as it is known to add taste and hold the meat of the filet together while cooking.
You can cook pompano in a variety of different methods that include frying, grilling, baking and broiling.
What is Pompano?
Pompano are a peculiar type of saltwater fish that are typically found swimming in very large schools that swarm coastlines when they are on their annual migration pattern.
They are known by a variety of different nicknames such as jacks, wireback, cobbler, and others that have been bestowed upon them over the years by anglers from various parts of the United States and the Caribbean.
They have a shiny silver skin instead of scales and their skin color appears almost translucent at times in the sunlight, especially underwater. This coloration helps them to camouflage quite well in most water conditions as their skin will reflect the water around them to some degree.
Their body shape is relatively compact and small with the largest ones weighing no more than about 3 or 4 pounds.
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Their body profile is very wide and their head slopes down in a rounded shape, which gives them a very distinct look compared to most other fish species.
Pompano are also known for having a deep-forked tail and their mouth doesn’t have the same sharp, pointed teeth that you find in most other saltwater species that swim near the coastline.
Their habitat is mostly surf flats that feature oysters and plenty of grass beds for them to hide in. Anglers can catch pompano a very short distance from the water’s edge.
Most avid pompano anglers know that you will typically have better luck casting only about 20 feet into the surf when the pompano are in a specific area.
These fish prefer the churning, turbulent waters near the shore to the more calm, clear water that you’ll find farther away from the surf.
Pompano are known to stay close to the coastline in most areas and they often prefer waters that are at least 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
Their annual migration begins in the spring when waters of the Florida coastline begin to warm up to the 70 degree mark. Pompano will school up and sweep the coastline in droves, devouring much of the small crustaceans they find along the way.
Their range extends all the way down into South America and they are known to travel as far north as Boston, Massachusetts.
Can You Eat Pompano?
The simple answer to the question of whether or not you can eat pompano is a definitive yes. These fish are perhaps the most popular species among all others when it comes to the taste and quality of the meat on their fillets.
Most avid surf fishing and offshore anglers describe pompano as the best-tasting saltwater fish species in their region. This assertion is hard to argue with and the evidence for their superb quality in taste can also be shown in the demand that we see for pompano at local seafood markets and with commercial fishing companies.
Pompano are so highly sought-after that the United States government has placed strict limits on how many individual fish a commercial fishing company can harvest each season, as well as how many an individual angler is allowed to keep per year.
In addition to their outstanding taste, pompano have as many, or more, health benefits than most other saltwater fish in the western hemisphere.
They are known for having a very high nutritional value compared to most other saltwater fish species. It’s a fish that is packed with protein and a moderate amount of healthy fat.
You’ll also find plenty of vitamins such as B1, B-12, Phosphorus, B3, and many others in their meat, especially if you cook them and consume them with the skin, which is loaded with higher amounts of important vitamins.
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Pompano are one of the most popular fish species that doctors recommend you eat for certain benefits like brain health due to the high amounts of healthy fats they have.
The fillets also contain the needed vitamins and minerals for strengthening bones and joints as well. Their meat is also capable of helping you lower poor cholesterol thanks to their high levels of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, as well as saturated fats.
The high nutrition content of pompano fillets also provide you with other highly-impactful health benefits such as increasing your metabolism.
The fish’s meat is very high in B vitamins, which is crucial in the overall function of your metabolism. Their fillets also contain good amounts of niacin, thiamine, riboflavin, and other contents.
Pompano Fish Mercury Level
Though their meat is among the best-tasting of any species you’ll find in the ocean, there is a real concern with the mercury content of pompano as well. If you do eat pompano, it’s only recommended that you do so sparingly.
The mercury content in their meat is so high that health experts recommend that a person weighing 150 pounds only eat about 6 ounces of pompano per week to remain safe from the harmful effects that can come with mercury poisoning.
Compared to other fish species, pompano has a much higher mercury content and you should be wary of eating too much at one time. It’s so high in mercury content that pregnant women and women who are nursing should probably avoid eating too much pompano just to be safe.
What Does Pompano Taste Like?
Pompano has a taste that is considered to be mild compared to other fish, which are sometimes described as being ‘too fishy’ or too bland.
It would seem that pompano is a happy medium between the two and the fish is also known for offering a bit of a sea salt taste as well. This natural sea salt taste helps to accentuate the flavors of whatever spices or other elements you use when cooking pompano.
There’s no denying that pompano are among the best-tasting fish you’ll find among the many different saltwater fish species in the ocean. If you’re wondering what they taste like and what the taste can be compared to, it will really depend on how the fish is cooked and what kind of elements you use to season it.
This fish has a reputation for being a ferocious fighter when hooked and anglers often say that pompano is a fish species that certainly ‘punches above its weight’ when it comes to the intensity with which they fight.
This ability to fight harder than most fish is due to the fact that pompano are endowed with a muscular body and shape. This muscle tissue turns out to be a very soft filet when cooked the right way.
How to Cook Pompano
Cooking pompano and getting the best flavor from it revolves around cooking it the right way. You should take caution when handling the fish as soon as it’s caught. Be sure that you carefully filet the fish and wash it before cooking so you’re not getting any unwanted elements in your meal.
The best way to cook pompano is almost always agreed to be on the grill. Using a grill allows you to include a vast array of spices and other flavors that are able to be cooked into the meat in a way that combines with the natural salty flavor of the pompano to create an exceptional taste.
If you don’t want to use a grill, baking the fish is another great way to get the most flavor out of pompano.
Most people prefer to add plenty of lemon juice to their pompano filet in order to reduce the fishy flavor, but you can turn to any number of citrus-like fruits for this purpose.
You can also broil pompano, but cooking with this method will not produce the same level of flavor that grilling or baking will.