May 26, 2024

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A Guide for Fly Fishing Florida Pompano

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Florida Pompano is closely related to Permit and is normally considered a traditional surf fish. That means it’s usually strictly caught with long surf rods and bait. The good news is that, like Permit, Pompano roam inshore bays and grassy flats, too. And, they’re terrific targets for fly fishers. Their popularity has soared in just the past five years. And it doesn’t hurt that they are among the finest-eating fish of all.

Photo courtesy of Flying Fish Charters

So let me introduce you today to the joys of fly fishing in Florida for Pompano!

Florida Pompano Seasonality

Though a limited number of these silver speedsters reside in Florida’s waters year-round, the big schools move from the beaches of the Florida Panhandle and north of the Georgia coast in fall. This is when water temperatures dip into the 60s.

This fish’s preferred water temperature range is 68–78ºF, but it will tolerate water outside this range. Pompano is not a cold-water fish as some anglers assume – in fact, the opposite is the case. By October, the first “sub-legal” (under 11 inches fork length) reach northern Florida’s beaches and Gulf coast. A few northeast “blows” with early cold fronts send them as far south as the Treasure Coast, Charlotte Harbor, and Sarasota Bay!

The author of the article, posing on the side of a boat, while holding a 4 lb pound Pompano, over a shallow shoal in the Indian River Lagoon near Jensen Beach, Florida on a sunny day

Most of the fish stay in the surf, but fishable numbers stream into the Indian River Lagoon along the Atlantic coast. They can also swim into Gulf-side bays such as Tampa Bay, Charlotte Harbor, Sarasota Bay, and the Ten Thousand Islands. Meanwhile, others travel around Cape Sable into Florida Bay, in the quest for prey and ideal water temperatures.

Sandy and grass flats, oyster bars, and wherever shoals border the Intracoastal Waterway on either Florida coast are the places to be. These are the places to catch them on a fly rod. Pompano will venture into water less than 2 feet deep, but seem most at ease in 3–6 feet of water.

For the most part, Florida fly fishers don’t target them in the surf. But a few Panhandle fly fishing guides can pull that trick off over white, sandy bottoms in calm conditions. Expert flyfisher, Pete Squibb of Ft. Myers, is known for his Snook sight fishing exploits, but tells me that he’s often landed up to 50 Pompanos in the last couple of seasons right on the beach while fishing on foot.

And he often spots the fish before casting a fly he designed for them. But it takes calm surf conditions and clear water to have success. The Atlantic coast is normally more roiled up when it comes to water clarity. It’s also choppier between fall and spring. Therefore, fly fishers stick to the inside waters.

Florida Pompano Tackle and Flies

Pompano weigh, on average, between 1.5 and 3 pounds, with occasional larger specimens up to 5 pounds in mid-season (January through March). They’re terrific fighters for their size, and make an impressive first run, followed by shorter bursts against the drag.

A closeup of a fly fishing reel on a rod, leaning on the side of a saltwater fishing boat on a sunny day with the water behind it

When it comes to fly fishing for Pompano in Florida, you can use rods as light as 6-weight. But an 8 wt rod is more appropriate for casting heavier-weight flies that sink fast like a spinning rod jig. This is deadly when the fish are near the bottom. Floating fly lines are ideal in water under 4 feet deep, but a clear intermediate line or slightly denser sinking line excels in deeper water, especially where the tidal current is strong.

Fly fishers experiment with fancy sand flea (mole crab) fly patterns, but this prime Pompano prey species don’t live inside coastal bays. It’s best to tie flashy attractor patterns that look like the colorful jigs (such as the Nylure or Goofy) that spin fishers use. The venerable Clouser deep minnow is a good bet, in chartreuse and white, yellow, or hot pink. I have a half-dozen or so (see the photo) that are proven! Note that most are tied on No. 2 or 1 standard shank hooks.

A closeup of three colorful flies on the palm of a hand, with a yellow one in the middle and a pinkish one above it

With a sinking line, you can fish a short leader 6–8 feet long and your “bite tippet” should test 12–20 pounds. Sometimes I go to a 25 lb test if there are Ladyfish around. They love these flies, hang around Pompano, and their raspy mouths can abrade light lines quickly. On the shallow flats, an 8–10 footer is perfect.

Pompano Fly Fishing Tip: Go About it Blindly!

When the Pompano run is on inside bays, Florida flyfishers have learned to look for the fleet – i.e. anglers who are on the fish. Short of that, hotspots include so-called “salt-and-pepper” flats, those with shell or sand potholes mixed with shoal grass or turtle grass, and smaller spoil shoals along Florida’s Intracoastal Waterway. And the fish also pile up in bridge channels where the current delivers their prey to them. The latter calls for a fast-sinking line and heavy flies. However, fly fishers tend to gravitate to shallower spots.

Sight Fishing Tactics for Pompano

When the fish come up onto Intracoastal Waterway shoals or broad grass flats inside Atlantic inlets or Gulf passes, they’re there to feed. They come up with rising water and grub for anything from small crabs to shrimp. In fact, they actually eat small bait fish!

I’ve also found their bellies full of tiny clams, mud crab claws, and other crustaceans. They’re opportunists and are voracious due to their high activity level and rapid growth rate. In other words, get your fly in their path and a strike is likely. Despite this, they can be skittish and, at times, are tough to approach with a skiff, just like Permit and Bonefish.

A closeup of a Pompano fish being held above a fly fishing rod on a fishing boat in the Florida Keys, on a sunny day, with the water in the background
Photo courtesy of Golden Glare Fly Charters LLC

Be warned that they don’t laze around like Red Drum who feed slowly, nor do they stay still in ambush like Snook and Spotted Seatrout that sometimes share the same flats. They’re always moving unless they come upon an especially food-rich patch of bottom. At these times, they’ll work the bottom sediment to form muds which we call “smoke in the water.” These can be easy to spot from a distance.

Pole within casting distance and you stand the chance of seeing an individual Pompano that you can cast to. If you happen across a Stingray, it can be golden. Pompano follow them as they beat their wings against the bottom, which serves to uncover prey there.

The same goes for manatees. I’ve caught quite a few big Pompano in the trail of a manatee, though I caution you to not get too close to these animals – it will flush and then it’s game over. But a cast to either “host” with Pompano over their backs is as sure as a sure thing gets!

Florida Pompano Fly Fishing: A Unique Experience

I can’t think of another fish that displays the odd habit of skipping out of the water across the surface like a flat stone. Pompanos are high-energy fish that spook easily by boat noise, especially in shallower waters.

A closeup of a Pompano fish and a fly fishing reel on a rod, after Mike Conner successfully caught the Pompano while fly fishing in Florida

Any Pompano angler routinely motors along in likely areas, either on or off-plane, and watches for the fish to burst from the surface, skipping across the top like a flat rock. They may come out ahead of the boat or back in the wake. When you see this, make a wide swing up-tide of the spot and drift through while casting. The fish may even skip out as your boat drifts along!

You’d be wise to anchor or employ a PowerPole where it’s shallower than 6 feet. If the fish are slow to bite, consider deploying a mesh chum bag with fresh diced shrimp, crushed crabs, or sandfleas, which you can buy at coastal bait shops. Now it’s over to you!

Have you ever been fly fishing for Pompano in Florida? What’s your secret weapon for success? Let us know in the comments below!

The post How to Go Fly Fishing for Florida Pompano: An Angler’s Guide  appeared first on FishingBooker Blog.

By: Mike Conner
Title: How to Go Fly Fishing for Florida Pompano: An Angler’s Guide 
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Published Date: Sun, 04 Jun 2023 09:04:13 +0000

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