5 Tips For Catching Pompano

Hey there follow fishers and welcome to my post where we will check out my 5 tips for catching Pompano this year. Whether you are an experienced fisherman or just starting out, learning how to catch Pompano can be both a fun and rewarding experience.

Pompano are an abundant species located in salt water environments such as beaches and estuaries and can be caught from piers as well. They are not a large species in comparison to some others but they hit hard and give a good fight. They are also a popular table fish making them a popular target species for many anglers.

So, with that, let’s see what we can come up with to assist you in getting them onto the hook and onto the beach…

What are Pompano?

Pompano are a saltwater fish that are found along the coastlines of just about every continent around the world. They are a long, silver schooling species that feed predominately on the ocean floor for whatever they can find there.  Here in Australia, we know then as Swallowtail Dart.

They are most often described as deep bodied and distinguished by their narrow tail base and forked tail. They are generally silver in color with small scales and a toothless mouth – although older adults often go a greenish grey color across their back. Many sub species can also be found with large variations in fin color ranging from yellow to black to orange and many have four or five little “marks” along their side as well.

Typically, Pompano varieties found on the coastline of North America are known to live for around 6 years although are best eaten at juvenile to young adult size.

Tips for catching pompano - pompano in water

Tips for catching Pompano

 Look, in my experience with the species of Pompano we get down here in Australia (we call them Dart), you really just need to put some bait on a hook and chuck it in the shore break and you can catch them. Usually for us, they are a by-catch of other species we are chasing and tend to use larger hooks to avoid them. That said, we often take the kids to where they are as we know they will catch a fish – haha.

Other species around the world however may not be the same so let’s get into some of my tips for catching Pompano below…

1. Pompano eat on the bottom

Pompano are bottom feeders who pick at anything they find on the sea floor including crustaceans, worms and even small baitfish. This means that you will need to use weight on your line to catch them.

A general running sinker surf rig will work fine here with a short leader and a smallish hook. We will discuss this further below but leave the surface lures at home.

2. Look for gutters in the surf

Pompano are a schooling fish that move around looking for food. And although the smaller ones are often found in the shore break – they often take your bait as you are retrieving it – if you are hunting them specifically, then look for a gutter or hole.

In simple terms, a gutter is a long, deeper channel that usually runs parallel to the beach with shallow sand bars on either side. Fish will swim in one side and along out the other looking for smaller baitfish etc. hiding in there.

Other considerations in terms of location include:

  • Water temperature – How fish behave in different temperature water is relative to how cold or water the water is on average. Unlike Striped Bass etc., Pompano tend to like warmer conditions so if it is cold, then try shallower areas where the sun can warm the water.
  • Water clarity – Although they are not generally found in murky lakes, as with all saltwater fish, try and find out where the water is of better quality in the waterway – especially if you plan to eat your catch.
  • Structure – Pompano are a schooling fish and don’t really look for structure so look for areas where there are deeper holes or gullies.
  • What else is in the water? – We will discuss this next, however if you are wondering what bait or lures to use then you will need to check out what is in the water naturally. It is no good tying your favorite lure onto the line if it doesn’t match the type of live bait that shares the water with your target species. See what is found locally and match your fresh bait or lures accordingly.
  • Ask a local – Want to know all of the above – ask a local. Local bait and tackle shops are a good starting point here.
Tips for catching pompano - pier at beach

3. Take a choice of bait and lures

As above, and as with most saltwater species, Pompano will take a large range of baits and lures. For best success with bait, I strongly suggest the use of crustaceans such as sand fleas or beach worms here – I have also caught them on squid, yabbies and shrimp as well. Most seasoned Pompano fishers in U.S. waters will tell you that they get their best results with sand fleas however.

If you are using lures, stay away from anything designed to skip along the surface. Go for weighted jigs (soft plastics) or heavier swimbaits that will move around to mimic live bait.

Basically, anything that will attract a fish here is the right type to use – but as above, regardless of where you sit in the old fresh bait vs lures debate – if you can match what is found locally, then your chances of a good catch will increase.

5. Where there’s one, there’s more

Now, as they are generally found in the ocean, Pompano are susceptible to changes in current and water quality hence tend to move around a bit.  So, as with most other schooling, mobile species, you may need to chase them a little especially if there are no gutters really evident along the coast line. 

The thing with Pompano however, they don’t tend to spook like some other species so in general (and in my experience), if there is one, there is more. I have often seen them chasing a landed fish as it is being reeled in as well. So if you start to get amongst them, get your line back into the water as soon as possible as there will be others.

Again, speak to the locals as they can generally tell you where the fish will be at certain times of the year and where to go if they are not in the spot you thought they would be.

Tips for catching pompano - Pompano school

5. You don’t need fancy gear

And finally, the thing with Pompano is that whilst they are fun to catch, they are not a species that is going to really work your rod and reel hard. This not only makes it a great species for those who just like to get out there every now that then, but also means you don’t need the best of the best gear either.

In general terms, a good budget rod and reel combo will do the trick. However as with all fishing gear used in salt water, no matter what you are chasing, always do the following:

  • Maintain your fishing reel – Make sure it is clean with a good quality line. Rinse it off after every use with a full clean and oil after each season.
  • Clean your rod – Again, rinse your rod after each session and check for any crack or breakages – especially in the o-rings and guides. Remove the reel and clean the seat, screws and handle every month or so as well.
  • Use new tackle – Blunt hooks means no fish. I am a strong advocate of replacing your tackle after every trip. And whilst this is not as important in fresh water fishing as it is in salt, keep in mind that hooks are dragged over rocks, logs and along the bottom meaning they can go blunt even if you don’t catch anything.
  • Check your tools – Tools should also be rinsed after each use however this is not always done. And trust me there is nothing worse than getting out there and finding out your pliers are rusty or knife blunt. Clean and lubricate tools and sharpen your knife every month or so.
Tips for catching pompano - pompano with reel


 So there you have it, my 5 Pompano fishing tips for those looking to get amongst them this year. As always, these are not going to guarantee you a catch, however they should give you a little more chance of success that you may not have otherwise had.

Have you tried anything else that has worked well, or not so well for you – or of course have a different opinion than above? If so, please comment below and we can have a chat.

As always

Have fun


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