Pompano, drum and cobia action:
Fish like these, caught by Stuart and Garrett, will be easily intercepted the next few months.
The Florida Pompano: I will let you in on a little secret. This is the best tasting fish in the northern hemisphere. On light tackle, perhaps one of the most exciting species to intercept, the pompano gives a fantastic pull. The term “gold nuggets” applies to this species. The beauty of their silver and yellow image is a beautiful sight rising from the depths, an indication that dinner is going to be especially enjoyable.
Catching pompano is straightforward but also depends on where you live. For a lot of folks, pompano are a beach target and “flats” fish. For the people around the Tampa Bay area, this is a “passes” and “bridges” species. The likelihood of pompano in the beach swashes and grassflats is less likely than in other parts of the state. The piers such as the Skyway (north and south), Fort Desoto (Gulf and Bay) and all the bridges up to the interior Tampa Bay are places to look for pompano. The best decision is to get your baits well under a structure rather than fishing any significant distance from it. There are many options for pompano lures. One you should always have along: The Silly Willy with a fly “teaser.” Originally an ice fishing lure, this jig has a hook for saltwater and provides the weight to sink the lure and teaser down to the bottom and a gentle wobbling action to attract the fish. Choices in colors: the yellow or chartreuses Silly Willy with a pink teaser is a solid choice. Yellow teasers also work on pink Silly Willy jigs or other combinations such as white/yellow, pink/white, and chartreuse/pink.
Sink it all the way down to the bottom before working the lure. Avoid casting into a current that will take the lure toward pilings to avoid losing a lot of tackle. Working the lures on the down-current side of pilings and pads helps with this but this is also the typical location to find pompano. Braided line beats monofilament lines on durability. Working the lure, keep it down on the bottom and hop it or “jiggle it” to create strikes. When you hook a pompano, keep enough pressure on them to keep them from swimming around pilings.
Natural baits like shrimp, sand fleas or fiddler crabs also work but are unnecessary. The jigs work so well, they are all that I will use when targeting pompano.
Do not leave home without a pliers and/or dehooking tool. Pompano are slippery to handle and the two-hook setup on these teaser rigs, this is a situation to end up with a hook in your hand very easily. The pliers and dehooker tool will keep your hands a safe distance from any fish you want to unhook and simplifies the process as well.
Legal pompano: They must be 11 inches in length, measured to the fork and you may keep six. If pompano are plentiful, release the 11 and 12 inch fish and keep the larger ones. They are easy to fillet. The meat is very solid and it is easy to cut through the soft skin. After the fillets are removed, it is simple to flip them skin-side-down to carve the meat off of the skin.
How should I cook my pompano? Any way you want! You can really do no wrong. Unlike species like redfish and sheepshead where a lack of knowledge can make for a disappointing meal, pompano can be cooked by any method and will be an exceptionally enjoyable meal. I would normally not smoke pompano but the most favorite fish spread I ever made was with pompano. My suggestion would be to season lightly and bake this fish. Lemon pepper is a good choice. Another great option, panko crusted and baked with a big pat of butter added.
Other things that seem to happen while pompano fishing: Rods bent over double by other species, like cobia but specifically black drum. Cobia are a great by-catch and may mean massive quantities of edible fish fillets after your trip. Both cobia and the drum are the reason to “tackle up” for these trips.
This is a great option in the heat of summer. July, August and September are peak time for pompano action in west central Florida.
Neil Taylor charters kayak fishing trips around Tampa Bay. If you would like to target pompano, cobia or black drum call him at 727-692-6345. His web site is www.strikethreekayakfishing.com
Owner and guide: www.strikethreekayakfishing.com
(Cell) 727-692-6345 LivelyBaits@aol.com
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