Game Fishing > Cavalli family, Carangidae > Pompano


PompanoThe pompano was first described by Linnaeus, in 1766, from Dr. Garden's specimens from South Carolina, which accounts for its specific name. It is abundant on the South Atlantic and Gulf coasts, to which it is mostly confined, though it occasionally strays north to Cape Cod in summer, and rarely to the West Indies.

It has a short, deep body, being nearly half as deep as long, oblong and robust. Its head is short, about half as long as the depth of the body, with a small, low mouth, and with few or no teeth in the jaws; the snout is blunt, the profile from end of snout to the eye about verti­cal, and from thence to the dorsal fin is regularly arched. The color is bluish above and golden or silvery below; the pectoral and anal fins are yellow, shaded with blue; caudal fin with bluish reflections.

The pompano frequents the sandy beaches of the keys and islands of the Gulf' coast, mostly the outside shores, where it feeds on beach-fleas and the beautiful little mollusks known as "pom­pano-shells", also on small shrimps and other shore-loving organisms.

I consider the pompano to be the best food-fish in either salt or fresh water the prince of food-fishes, it is incom­parable. It is caught principally in haul seines by the fishermen on the flood tide.

On the Atlantic coast it is abundant at Jupiter inlet and at Lake Worth, but not so plentiful as about the outside and inside beaches of the islands about Charlotte Harbor on the Gulf coast. In the summer it strays northward to the Carolina coasts. Its usual weight is a pound or two, rarely exceeding eighteen inches in length or four pounds in weight. It is often confounded with several other species, as the permit (Tra­chinolus goodei ), which reaches three feet in length and twenty-five or thirty pounds in weight; also with the gaff top-sail pompano (Trachinotus glaucus), and the round pompano (Trachinotus falcatus), both of which grow larger than the true pompano and are often sold for the genuine article by dealers; but no one who has eaten a true pompano can be deceived by these other species. It spawns in the summer.

It is difficult to take the pompano with the hook except on the flood tide, when it is running in schools, feeding along the shores, though it is occasionally caught by still-fishing in the bays with bait of beach-fleas or cut clam. The tackle should be very light and the hook small, Nos. 6 or 8, on fine gut snells. When hooked it is a game-fish of more than ordinary cunning and cleverness, and one of two pounds will tax the angler's skill on a six-ounce rod. They can be taken in the surf of the outside beaches of the islands, on the flood tide, with beach-flea bait, by casting it into the schools with a fly-rod; and this is the best form of fishing for this grand fish.

The hooked pompano frequently breaks water among its other manoeuvres to escape the angler, and as a leaper at other times has quite a reputa­tion. I have often had them leap into my boat, both when anchored and moving, but usually when sailing near a school.
The name pom­pano is probably derived from the Spanish word jampana, a "vine leaf", owing to its shape resembling somewhat a leaf of some kind of vine; the books say a "grape leaf," to which the pompano has a remote resemblance if the extended fins are taken into account. There is another Spanish word pampano, more nearly resembling pompano in sound and spelling. It means "a young vine branch or tendril", and if the aquatic capers and aerial saltations of the pompano when hooked are to be brought into the comparison, they cannot be exceeded by that most intricate dance, the "grape-vine twist," even when performed by the most agile plantation negro. But seriously, when its size is consid­ered, one would have to go far afield, or rather search the waters under the earth, for a better fish for the angler or the epicure.

I have seen more pompano about the beaches of Big and Little Gasparilla Keys of Charlotte Harbor, on the Gulf coast, than elsewhere in Florida. On their outside beaches, during the flood tide, the beach-fleas and pompano-shells come rolling in on every wave. The little mol­lusks disappear beneath the sand in the twinkling of an eye, but the crustaceans are again carried out by the receding wave. And this continues during the first half of the flood tide, during which time schools of pompano are feeding on them.

On one such occasion myself and a friend were "flea-fishing" for pompano; that is, we were using fly-rods and very small hooks baited with beach-fleas, which we cast in the same manner as artificial flies. My friend, fishing at the water's edge, often forgot in his eagerness to step back to avoid each "ninth wave", which would wet him to his knees. However, in that warm, sunny clime the involuntary bath did him no harm, and he had his compensation in a basket of fine pompano, which were duly planked for dinner and eaten, bones and all, for their bones are very soft and semi-cartilaginous. The head of a broiled or planked pompano is a bonne­bouche that once eaten will ever be held in grateful and gratified remembrance.