Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Winter Pompano Are Here Early

The best tasting fish on the flats of Pine Island is also one of the best fighting for their size, especially on the fly. Pompano are a common catch over the deeper grass flats right now, especially for the folks dropping shrimp-tipped jigs on the bottom. Yes, you'll have to put up with a few too many catfish using this technique but a nice legal size pomp is more than worth it.

Sight fishing for them with a fly rod, like my buddy Phil did in the photo, is a lot harder. Obviously, you'll need some clear and shallow water to do this. The sand bars running along the east wall of Charlotte harbor are already a good place to find them. Schooling pompano are fast movers and often travel with mullet. They can even look the same so as a rule I have my anglers cast to every dark shape I see running across the sand that isn't an obvious catfish. Stingrays are also a magnet for pompano (as well as a lot of other gamefish) since they constantly spook crabs and shrimp out from under their wings as the float across the bottom. Fish will cling right to their backs and pounce on anything that moves. If you see a large ray, drop your fly on it and start stripping immediately. Pompano prefer crab and shrimp patterns but I've had them hit Clouser Minnows and even tarpon flies.

Last year these fish were all over the Charlotte Harbor sand bars just before Christmas but they seem to be here a month early. Our recent, and quickly fading, red tide didn't seem to affect the pompano and I didn't see any dead ones floating anywhere. The water is beautifully clear in the Harbor right now and just keep getting brighter. Get up there and give these guys a shot.