Visitors to the Gulf Coast will notice many fisherman hanging out all day with a zen like tranquility on the beaches. Surf fishing is a popular Gulf Coast tradition in both Florida and Alabama.
One of the best things about spring and fall on the Gulf Coast of Florida and Alabama is Pompano fishing. In March and April winds change direction, and the local water temperature rises, thus ushering in the annual spring Pompano run. Pompano are a migratory species and they visit Gulf Coast waters in the spring and then again in the fall.
This species of hard fighting fish is prized by pier and surf fishermen from the Carolinas to Florida. They’re a beautiful blueish green color. Their compressed body and a blunt snout enable them to glide into very shallow water and swim through the surf. Pompano’s cruise the shallow waters and gobble up sand fleas which are their favorite food.
There are many different species of Pompano, including African, Cayenne, Florida and Irish. The Gulf Coast species is part of the jack family and can be recognized by its deeply forked tail.
If you see a car with rod racks on the roof you probably spotted a Pompano fisherman. Most Pompano fishermen choose rods that are twelve to fourteen feet in length equipped with a good fishing reel that holds a lot of line. This enables them to cast a hundred yards which is often necessary to reach the sandbars where the Pompano cruise in search of food. However, they can be caught closer to shore as well.
A sand spike, made from a pointed three foot piece of PVC plumbing pipe, secures the fishing pole to the beach. The Pompano rush at the bait so hard that they hook themselves causing the fisherman’s line to go slack at which point they can reel in their catch and store it in an ice cooler.
Most of the pompano caught in this area are in the two to four pound range, however, the Florida state record tops the scale at over eight pounds.
The best thing about Pompano is their taste. They are a delicious and even-cooking mild flavored fish, making it a local favorite. Folks from Louisiana likely have memories of eating Pompano in a dish popular in New Orleans called ‘Pompano en Papillote.’ This dish is prepared by wrapping a fillet of pompano with veggies, shrimp, crab meat and white wine béchamel in parchment and then baking it. The parchment causes it to steam in its own juices while it bakes.
If you would like to connect with local fisherman or get advice about local surf fishing a great local resource is The Pensacola Fishing Forum.