Fishing in Florida: African Pompano – ECB Publishing

Ashley Hunter
ECB Publishing, Inc.

Throughout the tropical oceans of the world, the African Pompano makes its home.
This large saltwater fish is easily recognized by its compressed body, rounded and steeped head and pearly, metallic coloring.
The African pompano is the largest and most widespread species in the genus Alectis and is a widely distributed species of tropical marine fish in the jack and horse mackerel family, Carangidae.
While most juvenile African Pompanos can be found throughout the ocean, especially in deeper waters, the adults tend to inhabit coastlines, channel entrances, jetties, reefs, wrecks, shoals, and estuaries as well as the waters around man-made structures such as piers, docks, and pilings.
African Pompanos are characterized by four to six elongated, thread-like ‘rays’ that are part of the fish’s second dorsal and anal fins.
For juveniles, the first two of these rays may be four times as long as the fish, but the rays tend to disappear or erode away as the fish grows and ages.
These native species are far from small, with adults regularly growing up to 4 feet long and weighing up to 40 pounds – though some fish have been documented even larger and heavier.
The typical diet for an African Pompano is crustaceans and smaller fish, and the African Pompano has a “minor economic” importance.
In addition to the fact that the African Pompano is a highly rated game fish, there are no conservation concerns regarding the status of this saltwater fish.
In the United States, African Pompanos can be found as far south as the Florida Keys and the Gulf of Mexico to as far north as the coasts of New Jersey.
While African Pompanos are by no means endangered or protected, they are not a common fish to reel in on a whim; in fact, most fishermen catch an African Pompano while fishing for another species entirely.
The widespread geographical range of African Pompanos, paired with the fact that there are very few places where African Pompanos converge in large numbers, means tracking down a school to set your hook in may be difficult.
The recommended fishing tactics used when trying to hook an African Pompano are bottom bouncing, fly fishing, saltwater trolling (especially for young fish), still fishing, bait casting, drift fishing, saltwater jigging, spin casting, and surf casting.
Once hooked, an African Pompano is a strong fighter and makes an excellent light tackle game fish.
It will take small live or dead baits, as well as lures, jigs and feathers.
According to, most anglers who specifically target these fish will seek out schools of African Pompanos in offshore wrecks and cast out by using live bait and jigs.
The fish can sometimes be chummed up close to the surface using live bait and targeted with fly tackle but this may also produce other fish, rather than an African Pompano.
Humans aren’t the only predators looking to snag an African Pompano – these fish are naturally preyed on by larger predators, such as mackerel, tuna and sharks.
Due to the taste, size and fighting prowess of African Pompanos, these fish have become popular with both recreational and commercial fishermen.
While the fish have been documented as “good table fare” and appetizing to the palate, the species also has a reputation as carriers of ciguatera fish poisoning.
Ciguatera is a foodborne illness caused by eating reef fish whose meat has been contaminated by certain toxins.
Because of this reputation, it is suggested that larger African Pompanos should not be consumed, especially in areas known for producing ciguatera cases.
The fighting prowess and choice taste of this fish have attracted anglers to the species from all over the world.
Easily accessed areas, such as Florida, are especially popular locations for setting in hooks and nets for African Pompanos.
In Florida, the species has a minimum size limit of 24 inches and only two fish are allowed per vessel per day.
More remote areas such as Thailand and a number of Pacific and Indian Ocean islands have also been noted for their outstanding angling opportunities when it comes to African Pompano.
Whether anglers intend to reel in a 40 pound African Pompano or the fish is snagged by accident, fishermen have called this fish a “welcome by-catch” and it seems like while the fish may be elusive and hard to find, African Pompanos aren’t going anywhere.


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