Pompano are the species to target in January
Typically, January fishing around Anna Maria Island brings one thing to mind for me — pompano.
During this month, we start to see a concentration of these tasty fish foraging along our shorelines and through the flats. Although these fish are abundant, it seems to be a mystique about them among most anglers.
Random catches are definitely more frequent than rallies which makes these fish highly regarded among those who have caught them and especially among those who have eaten them. Pompano offer the best of both worlds for the light tackle angler. Their hard hits and drag screaming runs are invigorating to even the most experienced fishers and their fillets are considered to be a delicacy to most.
While targeting pompano, there are a variety of methods one may employ. Still fishing with live shrimp or sand fleas is one such method. This technique is mainly used by surf fishers and requires little experience other than casting out a bait and waiting for the bite. Another method, popular among Gulf Coast fishers is casting small nylon jigs into the surf and allowing them to sink to the bottom. A slow retrieve and aggressive twitch of the jig seems to trigger an exaggerated strike from feeding pompano. Tipping your jig with a small piece of shrimp adds scent, which can also aid in getting a strike. Colors and styles of jigs can vary but most pompano fishers prefer pink, chartreuse yellow or white.
On a recent afternoon, I had the pleasure of fishing with Dave Ferguson, A.K.A. Doctor Dave of the popular Anna Maria Island band, the Doctor Dave Band. Ferguson has been fishing our local waters since the 70’s and I relished over the stories he told of fishing Anna Maria during those years so long ago.
Anyways, I knew Ferguson liked to catch pompano and loved to eat them so we decided to try our luck fishing along the beaches. Not five minutes after setting the anchor, Ferguson hooked the first fish. Upon setting the hook, the fish peeled drag made a sideways dash away from the beach. After a few more twisting turns and powerful runs the subdued pompano swam into the landing net. I plucked the pink nylon jig, which was stuck perfectly in the corner of the pomps mouth and Ferguson and I paused a moment to admire the beauty and strength of this awesome fish before retiring it to the cooler.
Well, after that first fish we proceeded to catch a half dozen more which was the perfect amount for a nice pompano dinner, so we decided to head back home.
Upon arrival at Keyes Marina we filleted out catch and savored the moment we had just experienced. What better way to spend an afternoon than with good company, good fishing stories of the past and the reward of catching the elusive pompano.