- Black sea bass have dangerously sharp spines on their dorsal fin that can puncture human skin.
- The all-tackle world record for black sea bass is 9 pounds, 8 ounces.
- When hooked in deep water and brought quickly to the surface, a black sea bass will often regurgitate its stomach contents.
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.
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.
Upon reaching sexual maturity at the age of 1, Florida pompano migrate offshore to spawn. Spawning season is March through September with the greatest activity taking place from April to June. Female pompano deposit up to 600,000 eggs, which are externally fertilized. Florida pompano larvae can be found in massive numbers in the surf once the water temperature reaches into the upper 70s F. They grow quickly and can reach a length of 8 inches in their first year. By the end of their first summer they are already sizeable enough to be a respectable catch.
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.
Given their modest size, Florida pompano are more than respectable game fish. In fact, they will attack a bait so hard that they usually hook themselves. Like their jack relatives, they are a determined fighter and will make strong runs. However, fishing for Florida pompano requires the use of small hooks because they have small mouths. Overall, they are a good fight when sought on light tackle.
Many anglers find success fishing from bridges, piers, beaches and small boats using a variety of techniques, including bottom fishing, casting and drift fishing. Fishermen should look for water temperatures above 70 F. Once located, fishing can be good for some time because they will often hold in an area for several days as long as conditions remain basically the same. Fishing for pompano can be particularly successful around the time of a flood tide. Fishing the bottom with natural baits is regarded as the most effective tactic. They are eager to take sand fleas, shrimp, clams and small crabs that are slowly raised off the sea floor, though they can be fooled by some artificial lures, especially jigs. However, because they have a low interest in fish as a food source, lures that mimic fish are not likely to be as successful in attracting pompano.
- 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.