- Although the flesh of the almaco jack is considered quality table fare, the species has been associated with ciguatera poisoning, a seldom fatal stomach irritation.
- The almaco jack is susceptible to tapeworm parasites in the caudal peduncle area, but the meat can be eaten safely if affected portions are cut away.
Florida pompano (Trachinotus)
Florida pompano are prominent members of the jack family and popular with anglers. They have two characteristics that make them somewhat unique. They are one of only a few fish that are more colorful after death than while alive and they skip across the top of the water when they jump. While alive they are primarily a silver color, but upon death, they become a green-gray or dark blue color on the back with a golden yellow color on the bottom and fins.
The narrow body is nearly as deep as it is long. The head is rounded and has a short snout and small mouth. The dorsal and anal fins are nearly identical, beginning with two or three sharp spines followed by a long stretch of short soft rays extending to the tail. The tail is markedly forked with smooth sides.
Generally speaking, Florida pompano do not eat many baitfish. The favored food selection for Florida pompano are the small, shelled organisms that reside along the bottom of the surf areas in which they inhabit. The wave action along the beach helps expose these creatures to the pompano. Crabs, shrimp, mollusks, sand fleas and other small crustaceans round out their diet. Young pompano consume invertebrate amphipods, crab larvae and some small fish. Pompano have strong jaws that can squash shells and a digestive system that can remove all the meat while allowing the shell pieces to pass through.
These fish can be found in the western Atlantic Ocean from Massachusetts in North America to Brazil in South America. The greatest concentrations of Florida pompano are found along the Atlantic Coast of the United States from Virginia to Florida and in the Gulf of Mexico from Florida to Texas. The population is smaller and more scattered in the Caribbean Sea around the islands of the West Indies, as the fish generally avoids those ultra-clear waters.
Florida pompano reside in inshore and near shore waters, preferring areas with high salt content, good wave action and water temperature between 82 and 89 F. Their presence in a specific area at any given time is dependent upon the tide. While pompano can be found year round in warm water environments, their presence is seasonal in northern areas where water temperature drops in the fall and winter. They will often congregate in shallow water surf and around piers, but they can be found away from the beach at depths up to 130 feet.
Florida pompano often seek sandy beaches, especially beaches with seagrass beds or oyster bars. This preference is directly linked to the presence of their favored food sources, which congregate in these areas and are more likely to be exposed by the wave action found on beaches.
Pompano will form great schools that migrate and feed together. These schools are largest during migrations from cold water to warm water and break into progressively smaller schools as the water temperature increases.
- Florida pompano are regarded by many as a gourmet fish because of the flavor and texture of their meat. It is widely sought commercially and is even bred in ponds. The popular meat is usually marketed fresh and is consistently among the highest-priced fish per pound.