Well, it looks like we are. Snowbird leases have take their course and the beloved pompano head north, where the thermostat from spring to fall parks just close enough to their beloved 68 degrees.
If you’re a beachgoer and you’ve noticed an increase in the number of rod holders you see shoved into the surf line, this is why.
But let’s say you’re one of those talkers, perhaps new to the game, and dreaming of one day becoming a leathery, salty veteran of the ancient art of surf fishing. You are aware of this pompano, perhaps only due to the withdrawal of a few extra dollars from the wallet for an upgrade in the market.
You’re looking to eliminate that middleman, so you bought a heavy surf rod and spooled enough manly test line over that rig to reach the second sandbar. Guess what, in addition to possibly pulling a delicious pompano, you’re more likely to catch a whiting or. . . What is this? Sure, it looks like a pompano, but hmmm, something seems a little weird.
That’s right. You will probably snag a Jack Crevalle.
Often mistaken for the pump, old Jack will eventually let you know your mistake – if the fillet knife didn’t provide the clue, the first bite will do.
When it comes to the background of this deal – i.e. the plate – you have to wonder how these two fish could even be first cousins, let alone close relatives. Pompanos are a real delight, while Jacks . . . well, let’s just say they take a bit of work to get to the acceptable stage for most people (first clue: when they suggest immediately bleeding a fish after catching it).
Jacks and pompanos belong to the Carangidae family. They are similar in color and shape, although the silhouette of the pump slightly resembles that of a soccer ball. The two fight like hell. You’ll notice this with your sturdy surf gear, but if you’re on lighter gear in the river, buckle up!
(Difficult crowd, these Carangidae. Research tells us that some family members will burrow into the seabed, looking for invertebrates. Talk about hunger!)
Either way, many seasoned anglers, in rare honest moments, will tell you they’ve mistakenly discarded a pompano, thinking it was a jack. The easiest way to tell the difference is Jack’s black spot at the base of each pectoral fin. The pompano doesn’t have that.
A more cerebral way to tell the difference was found while searching the internet to see what other people thought about the topic. A contributor to an online chat room zeroed in on the eyes of the two fish.
The pompano’s eyes are rather relaxed, unassuming, while the Jack looks totally shocked – “Where am I, how did I get here, and why did I bite that thing?”
Another contributor humanized it a bit more. The pompano, he said, appears to be done smoking a little medical marijuana. Looks like the Jack just snorted enough cocaine to kill an 80s rock band.
On that happy note, let’s get to the roundup. . .
Since we’re hanging out at the tide line, why not start here?
And since we’re on the pompano theme. . .
Roy Mattson returns with reports of Bluefish, Plaice and Whiting coming ashore under the supervision of his local guide service (RoysSurfFishing.com). And yes, pompano. Lots of pompanos. Well, up to the daily limit of six catches per angler (minimum of 11 inches, by the way).
“I was on fire with the pompano,” Roy said of a day last week. “We limited ourselves in 47 minutes.”
Gene Lytwyn (The Fishin’ Hole) mostly hears about pompanos and whiting, and says his parents use the age-old pompano rig with shrimp, sand fleas, clams, or FishBites.
Up north in Flagler County, Captain Mike Vickers (Hammock Bait & Tackle) reports another welcome offshore visitor: Rays.
“Not the Tampa ones,” Mike said. “These rays are coming up the coast, and the shotguns are the cobia.”
I can’t reach them from the shore, unfortunately.
If we are comfortably within the month of Aprilall the fishermen know that the Spanish mackerel is on.
“There were good sized Spanish mackerel all along the river and at the entrance,” says Captain Jeff Patterson (Pole Dancer Charter). “Early in the morning, almost every day, I see them snap small baitfish in the channel. I keep one or two very small dive lures on rods and it works just about every time.
From behind his counter at Donald’s Bait & Tackle in Port Orange, Craig Patterson says bucktail spoons and jigs work for Spanish, too.
Cody Moore (New Smyrna Outfitters) confirms he heard the same pimp chatter on his way.
The daily bag limit is 15, indicating availability. The minimum guard is 12 inches at the fork of the tail. You won’t have to be told twice to watch out for those teeth.
The two Pattersons talk about sheep’s head and snook bites, as well as other fine dinner dishes.
“The wind was blowing a lot last week, but we still had good fishing,” says Jeff. “I caught big mutton in the inlet, as well as redfish and snook. I used live shrimp and mullet.
Craig Patterson sold a lot of blue crabs to anglers targeting the drum – both black and red.
“Both species can’t seem to resist a halved or quartered piece of these decapod crustaceans on the bottom around decks in the area,” he says. “Also some prawns and pigs snub around the Dunlawton area.”
Especially after dark, he suggests.
“An hour at night is worth two during the day, when it comes to feeding hours.” he says.
Further north, Ike Leary (Granada Pier Bait & Tackle) says his parents bought mangrove snapper, blues and the aforementioned Spanish mackerel.
Lytwyn, whose Fishin’ Hole is just west of the Main Street Bridge, supports that move and includes the snub and flounder in catches around area bridges and docks.
A bit of everything, and a lot of some, bite into the surf and around Flagler Pier, according to Capt. Vickers.
Early morning is a good time to line up a flounder at the jetty, while the jetty and waves welcome the whole fish market: Pompano, whiting, Spanish mackerel, blues, trout, black drum, mutton and some big red.
It’s much the same in the river, where you’re also likely to come across trevallies, ladybugs, mangrove snappers and, of course, sharks. Matanzas Inlet is currently a baitfish hotspot, Vickers says, which means it’s party time for Jacks, blues and sharks.
With the arrival of the full moon on Saturday, Vickers offers some advice.
“Two very good things happen with a full moon at this time of year,” he says. “First, the night bite for snook and trout goes crazy. Second, very low tides, which concentrate fish in the backwaters at low tide and improve the bite of the rising tide. Stealth fishing is essential. They are skittish, so reduce your bait size, cast long, and keep a low profile.
And turn down the stereo, Bubba, we’ve all heard Kenny Chesney!
A new police station is coming this week, a little further upstream in Astor, just south of Lake George.
“The bluegill are starting to ramp up a bit,” says Kerry McPherson, who owns and operates South Moon Fish Camp just north of Highway 40. “The stripers are still hit or miss but pretty good overall, especially early and late in the main river.
The bass fishing is “pretty good,” he says. At the beginning of the week, he was brought back two bass of 7 and 10 pounds, caught on minnows. Yeah, “pretty good”.
“Overall, everything is going pretty well. We even still have people getting stains. Just need the weather to pick up a bit. The wind and rain have been killing us lately.
About 10 miles south of St. Johns, Capt. Bryn Rawlins (Highland Park Fish Camp) says a strong streak of baitfish – particularly threadfin shad – has caused a stir among bass and hybrids school.
“They’re really moving right now,” she said. “The Main St. Johns River is where you want to be for the action.”
this and that
• Discretion trumped bravery last week and postponed this year’s Offshore Challenge. The new dates are April 29, 30 and May 1 for the tournament hosted by the Halifax Sport Fishing Club.
The captains’ meeting is now scheduled for April 26, 6-8 p.m., at the HSFC club in Port Orange.
More information: Tournament Director Mark Hudimac (919.306.3340) or email [email protected]
• The HSFC also hosts its annual Special Needs Fishing Tournament on May 7 at the wharf under the Dunlawton Bridge from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm (registration is 8:30 am to 9:00 am). Fishing tackle and bait are provided, as are lunch and drinks. Club members will be on hand to assist anglers.
It’s free, by the way!
More info available on the club’s Facebook page or on the hsfc.com website.
Hook, line and clicker
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Please include the first and last name of the angler(s), as well as the type of fish (sometimes we are confused). All are included in our online fishing report, and some occasionally make the print edition.