During his nearly 35 years of guiding anglers around Manatee County waters, Capt. Todd Romine has rarely been as ready as he is now to get past winter.
“I lost many trips to the weather,” said Romine, a longtime captain. “It was windy and cold for the majority of January. I know there was concern we would lose some fish like snook to cold but most of the fish kills were isolated and there was nothing widespread. I think we’re past that.”
Looking to the future, Romine and many other captains are focused on bridging the gap between now and the spring. While many anglers may think it’s not a good time to fish, Romine’s recent success when the weather has been good shows otherwise.
“Around the last good weather in January, we landed about 40 pompano and smaller permit in two days,” Romine said. “They’re a great fight and will be around for the next month or two. We’ve also been catching plenty of trout and a bunch of sheepshead.”
Like Romine, most captains will also be leaving their cast nets at home. “I buy about 12 to 14 dozen shrimp per trip,” he said. “Three to four dozen select from those. There might be bait around the Skyway right now, but you’ll catch more fish with shrimp until the water temperatures warm up.”
By fishing shrimp a true “mixed bag” will be caught. Many captains love to fish intercoastal docks, rockpiles, bridges and other structures. A variety of sheepshead, redfish, snook, flounder, trout, black drum, snapper, grouper and more frequent these homes in the cooler months.
A live shrimp rigged on spinning tackle freelined gives a great natural presentation, or rigging one on a jighead and working like an artificial bait will provide more movement to catch the eye of the structures predators.
For pompano Romine prefers a goofy jig, 1/8 ounce with pink color, tipped with a little piece of shrimp.
Concentrating on areas with moving water, he will fish from the beach to passes or flats just inside passes, working a slow retrieve as the jig bounces on the bottom.
“Pompano move around quite a bit. Fishing depth changes on the beach, passes or flats is usually the best to find them. I’ve probably caught more pompano on humps of flats than anywhere else.”
Fishing for pompano is rarely boring. There is almost non-stop bycatch with trout, bluefish, flounder, ladyfish and more. It’s one of my favorite types of fishing, and a great way to bridge the gap for anglers suffering a bit of a saltwater absence.
For more information, contact Jon Chapman at captainchappy@ verizon.net.