I like to think I’ve caught many if not most species of game fish that frequent the Gulf of Mexico. I say most, because I know there are still a few that I’ve yet to cross off my bucket list. One of those species is the elusive African pompano.
African pompano live in tropical waters around the world. In the Gulf of Mexico, they’re known to take habitat around deepwater structures like springs and big wrecks further than 30 miles offshore. While they may live at these spots year-round, the difficulty in catching them is caused by their competition like amberjack, snapper and grouper, which are more aggressive on such spots.
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“I target them on springs and wrecks 30 miles and further out. They love the blue water,” said Capt. David Lee White of Anna Maria Island Charters. “You’ll see the amberjack on the fish finder about halfway to three quarters of the way up. The cluster around the bottom is usually APs (African pompano) mixed in with amberjack and other species.”
With decent weather this past week, White was able to get to where the tasty, hard-fighting members of the jack family live.
“It was a little bumpy on the way out, but they seem to love the choppier weather. When looking down in the water column, I could see them coming up. When they turn sideways, they look beautiful, like a silver dollar as the sun reflects off of them. It’s different than when you can see amberjack.”
White rigged a standard fish finder rig with an egg sinker and a long leader. His bait of choice is large live pinfish and squirrelfish.
“I try to send down the biggest baits possible, that’s how you get the 30-pounders.” White described. “You can only keep two per boat per day, so I want to get them bigger to maximize that. They usually eat right off the bottom if you can get past the amberjack and other fish.”
The bait, rigging and conditions came together aboard White’s 30-foot Cobia. A big squirrelfish was sent nearly 140-feet below. When the hit came, White knew it was what he was after.
“They fight hard off the rip. Really hard and fast. The big ones are tough.”
After a short while, a 30-pound African pompano was in the boat. Repeating the process another 30-pound fish was added and soon a 20-pounder was caught and released as well. The best part was yet to come. White says he thinks African pompano is one of the best eating fish there is.
“Hogfish is great, but I like AP’s better. They’re bigger and thicker and eat a very clean diet for good meat. It’s rare with a hogfish you can get a big bite. With African pompano, it’s more like a steak and I love that.”
Want a shot at a tasty, elusive African pompano? Capt. David Lee White can be reached through his website AnnaMariaIsland.fishing or at 941-592-3235.
For more information, contact Jon Chapman at captainchappy@ verizon.net.