Pompano are one of the most sought-after species of saltwater fish that surf fishing anglers love to catch. These relatively small game fish come into the shallow waters near the beach in droves each year at certain times that are referred to as the ‘pompano run.’
They are considered to be among the best tasting fish in the ocean by many and can be caught with relative ease when they are in season.
Experienced surf fishing anglers know that pompano are pound-for-pound one of the strongest fish in the ocean. They have a reputation for putting up some of the hardest fights of any small to medium-sized fish that you can catch in the surf.
In this article, we will discuss pompano and what strategies and tactics anglers should use to catch this unique species in the surf.
Best Time to Catch Pompano in the Surf
Pompano are known as a migratory fish that only come near the shoreline when the water conditions and temperatures are just right.
Pompano will make their way through the Caribbean Islands during the late winter or early spring months and eventually work their way up into the Gulf of Mexico and along the Atlantic coastline.
Every movement that the pompano makes is determined by the water temperature. These fish move when the water is more favorable to them and will settle in an area for a short amount of time before moving on.
For the most part, pompano will look for waters that are about 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit as this is the most comfortable for them.
They are also able to find adequate amounts of food in these warmer waters and their diet depends on the many different types of small crabs, sand fleas, and other crustaceans in a given area.
You can usually time the pompano run by keeping track of what the water temperature will be in a certain area.
If you follow fishing reports for certain regions from the Carribean up to the southeastern United States coastline, you’ll see that the pompano will slowly work their way up to their eventual destination, which is along the southern half of the Atlantic coast, as well as the Gulf of Mexico.
They will hang out specifically in tropical waters during the cold winter months as this area is much more comfortable for them to stay in.
The best months for most of the southeastern United States are usually around late March, April and into May.
They will also be moving from north to south in the fall, when there is another pompano run along coastal areas of the eastern United States and the Gulf states.
When discussing the best time of day to catch pompano, the same strategies and tactics that are applied to other fish species will be helpful. Most anglers have the best success surf fishing for pompano just after sunrise or before sunset.
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These fish will cruise around the surf in search of their next meal and ambush their prey before they can burrow down into the sand.
Another very pivotal factor that will determine pompano activity is the tide. These fish will use the rising or falling tides to hunt for their food, which can be found in the small stretches of beach that are subject to the rising tide.
In fact, pompano are known to swim up very shallow, almost to the shoreline of any beach as they repeatedly try to corner sand fleas, crabs and other creatures.
Pompano are more active when the surf is higher and a bit more rough than usual. This is because the harder-hitting waves help to expose small creatures that are easy prey for these fish.
Also Read: Best Tide for Surf Fishing
As the rising tide rushes in and catches some small crabs and other hard-shelled or soft-shelled species, pompano like to take full advantage of the opportunity and hunt in this rushing tide along the beach.
Best Locations for Catching Pompano in the Surf
Having success when surf fishing for pompano depends on a number of factors that can quickly change. Pompano are known for being a very finicky fish, meaning they will only try to eat certain types of prey at specific times.
They are continuously moving to other areas depending on whether the water along a particular stretch of beach has the right salinity level, pH balance, and many other factors.
Pompano usually visit the same locations at the same relative time each year, due to their migratory behavior. If the local anglers already know when to predict that the pompano will show up in their given area, you can usually rest assured that this information will be correct, or very close to the specific time and place where you can catch pompano.
Once the water temperature reaches about 70 degrees in a given area, you can bet that it won’t be long before pompano show up in huge numbers.
They will often pick a location clean of certain types of food and will usually move on to a new location where the food source is relatively plentiful.
Pompano will usually remain around the coastline in the surf or very close to the shore along most beaches. They prefer hanging out in or very close to certain types of structure along the beach if there is any.
These types of structure can be anything from a pile of rocks to a steep ledge where the depth changes very rapidly.
If the water temperature gets too hot for them, they might temporarily retreat to the deeper waters near the shore, but won’t usually remain there for very long as their main food sources are closer to the beach.
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You’ll almost always find pompano along sandy sea bottoms where there is little or no seaweed or other vegetation. They will roam around an area in a small pack or school, looking for exposed shellfish or other creatures along the bottom that could serve as an easy meal for these fish.
Casting your surf bait along the sandy bottom instead of very close to any sort of structure is likely to be your best bet for catching pompano that are actively hunting and searching for their next meal.
Also Read: Are Pompano Good to Eat?
If you can find sandbars along the beach, you can usually bet that there will be pompano somewhere in the vicinity. This is due to the fact that they will aggressively hunt the small shellfish, crabs and other creatures that live along these sand bars. You also don’t have to worry about casting your line out to a significant distance to catch pompano.
They will most often be found within about 60 feet of any shoreline or shallow sand bar area. Pompano will usually hang around these sand bars and wait for the waves to pound against the sand to expose the small creatures that make up most of their diet.
Best Rigs to Catch Pompano in the Surf
Catching pompano involves using the same basic surf fishing setup you might normally go with for just about any other fish. You can get away with using light tackle and fishing line in some cases, but your choice of bait and hooks is very simple when it comes to catching pompano in the surf.
You’ll want to use a 1/0 circle hook for any type of bait you use when pompano fishing. This is due to the simple fact that their mouths are relatively small and they won’t be able to get larger-sized hooks inside their mouths. If you’re using a 3/0 or 4/0 size circle hook, you will likely miss a majority of the bites you get as the pompano will usually just pull the bait off the hook.
It’s also very important to use a pyramid sinker that will burrow down into the sand and keep your bait in place. These sinkers can range in sizes from a 1 ounce to about a 4 ounce pyramid sinker.
Be sure to secure your rod with a sand spike or rod holder as these fish will aggressively strike and are known to pull a rod out to sea very quickly if the angler is not paying close attention.
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It’s best to rig up a few different rods at certain distances from the shore and have them all set up to catch any pompano schools that run into the area.
If you do happen to catch one pompano on a rod, be aware of your other rigs as these fish run in schools. This means when you catch one, you’re likely to catch a few others in short succession.
Pompano fishing can be one of the most exciting species to catch in the surf. On a good day, it’s not uncommon to catch your limit of pompano in just a couple hours.
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You can expect them to fight vigorously and they make for excellent table fare. The key to catching pompano from the surf is knowing when these fish will be making their way through your neck of the woods.