Want to catch pompano? Before you go, it's best to know the difference between pompano and its look-alike cousin, the permit. Permit have extremely long dorsal and anal fins while pompano have much shorter ones. Also, permit show gold or orange colors in the breast area while pompano have yellow coloration in the throat area.
The Florida pompano is one of the most prized of all the inshore species by anglers without boats because they can be caught from bridges, piers, and beaches.
Fort De Soto Park in southern Pinellas County is a pompano mecca. In fact, one of the most popular of all pompano jigs, Doc's Goofy Jigs, was developed at the park's gulf pier. Not only are the park's two piers pompano spots, the 5-plus miles of beach along Mullet Key offer great action, too. Walk the beach north of the gulf pier at low tide until ibis are found probing the area for sand fleas.
The Pass-A-Grille channel jetty pier is another pompano hangout. If you fish there, learn the "Pompano Shuffle." Anglers take turns casting and walking their offering from one side of the jetty to the other. Realistically, with the way the strong current runs there, that is the only way to fish it successfully.
The North Skyway Fishing Pier is another great spot. The late pompano angler extraordinaire, Gonzalo "Rod" Rodriguez, made his mark catching pompano at the third light pole up from the pay booth.
Two bridges also come to mind, but you have to get there early: the Tierra Verde drawbridge that connects it to St. Petersburg and the Bayway drawbridge from St. Petersburg to St. Pete Beach.
Pompano love crustaceans, so for anglers who prefer to use live bait, shrimp and small crabs are best. Use a small No. 1 or 1/0 hook tied to a short piece of 20-pound fluorocarbon leader. Attach just enough weight to keep the offering on the bottom. Savvy pompano chasers use double swivel weights. Egg sinkers that slide up and down will eventually chafe the leader and could cause it to break during battle.
As far as artificials, use small yellow, pink or white jigs. The most popular pompano jig is Doc's Goofy Jig, preferably, the G3. The G3 jig has a hair teaser attached with a split ring. No need to tip this lure with anything; it's effective on its own.
Rick Frazier runs Lucky Dawg Charters out of St. Petersburg and can be reached at (727) 510-4376 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.