Surf Casting Florida

Learn how to catch more fish off of the beach.

What does a pompano eat?

Pompanos eat shrimp, clams, crabs, small fish and other crustaceans. Pompano are a species of fish that like to root around in the sand for those crustaceans, bi valves and small fish so their heads are often down. That is why if you want to catch one, then you will want your bait or lure to be within 12 inches of the sand.

Pompanos travel in large schools and are very picky about the water temperatures that they will live in. They like it between 65 and 75 degrees, give or take a couple degrees on either side. They migrate North in the Spring when the water temperatures in Florida get too hot. They will range up to about Virginia on the Atlantic Coast in the midst of the Summer heat.

In the Winter, they will migrate back to Florida for the warm waters until they repeat the process all over again. They can be found to the west, in the Gulf of Mexico all the way over to Texas and Mexico.

I am a FISHING CHARTER CAPTAIN on the Treasure Coast of Florida. I have been fishing the beaches, grass flats, docks and just about everywhere else in Florida for more than 40 years.

In the article below, I will teach you all that I know about pompano from what they eat to how to catch them.

Let’s get started.

Watch the video below to learn the types of lures that a pompano will eat.

When do pompano prefer to eat?

It is my experience the pompano like the last half of the outgoing tide and the first half of the incoming the best. Let’s say that the low tide is at noon. You will want to start fishing at 9 a.m. and stop fishing around 3 p.m. That is your best 6 hour window to catch pompano from what I have learned over the years.

This does not mean that pompano won’t eat at dead high tide or low tide. It just means that those are the optimal tide periods to fish for pompano. You can catch pompano 5 feet from the beach at high tide right in the trough sometimes. It just depends upon your beach having the right temperatures and food sources that the pompano like.

You will want to try the backside of the sand bars on the outgoing tides and the front side of the sand bars on the incoming part of the tide. You are looking for spots that are just a little bit deeper than the surrounding area.

It might only be 24 inches deep, but that is enough to hold a few dozen pompano who are eating coquina clams, sand fleas, grabs and shrimp as the waves churn up that area of the beach.

I have never had any luck at all fishing for pompano at night. I believe that pompano prefer to eat during the day time hours. I think that they hide from sharks all night and are not feeding too much in the darkness. This is what I can tell from nights of surf fishing along the beaches.

What lures do pompano eat?

Pompano eat any lures that resemble the marine creatures that they normally feed upon. They will eat lures based on having the right colors or smells of the crustaceans, clams and small fish that they like to eat. The go to for most pompano fishermen is the pompano jig or the banana jig.

The pompano jigs and banana jigs in the photo above are some of the favorite lures that pompano will readily eat if you present them properly. You might notice that I have attached a few colored teasers to some of the banana jigs. This often gets even the pickiest of pompanos to eat your lure.

The best technique for fishing these lures is to bounce them off of the sand as you retrieve them. I like to use a cast the jig and let it sink to the sand then, twitch, twitch, pause, reel repeat. You want your jig to look like a prey item trying to hide from the hungry pompano in the sand. When you perfect this pompano fishing technique, you will be amazed how often that you can get the pompano to eat your jig. They are excellent lures for pompano and whiting.

There is a relatively new, man made bait for pompano that smells just like the natural foods that they love to eat. This product is called Fish Bites. It looks like a 1/4 inch wide stick of gum. It comes in a bag and is usually pink and orange in color for pompano.

It comes in different flavors that pompano love to eat. It comes in shrimp, sand flea and clam flavors. This stuff works almost as good as natural baits but is much easier to fish with. It is tough for small fish to steal off of your hook unlike a piece of shrimp or a sand flea.

All that you have to do is cut a 1/2 inch piece of the stuff and put it on your hook just like you would a sand flea. That is all that you have to do. It is a revolutionary invention if you ask me. You don’t have to spend an hour hunting and catching sand fleas anymore. Just get a couple of bags of different flavors and you are good to go.

I like to put two different flavors on the two hooks of my pompano rigs to see which one they prefer on that day. Pompano can be picky eaters so it is best to see what they prefer on any given day.


Figuring out what the pompano want to eat is only one part of catching those fish. You have to find them first and that can be your biggest challenge. Those delicious silver fish are one of the most sought after fish that swims in the surf. Once you master how to catch them you will have great dinners and great fun surf fishing.

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