Sunrise surf fishing in Gulf Shores, AL

Pompano Action in Surf Gets Hot in Spring

Pompano season has arrived on Alabama's beaches.

Now that the Alabama Gulf Coast has weathered one of the coldest winters in years, the arrival of warm weather also means one of the prized fish species in the coastal waters becomes much more abundant.

Young boy surf fishing on Alabama's beaches

The Florida pompano lives in the surf zone that laps Alabama’s sugar sand beaches year-round, but the tasty fish are more plentiful when the water is warmer from March through October with the peak fishing season in the spring.

The most common bait for pompano is a chunk of peeled shrimp, although many anglers will dig up sand fleas (aka mole crabs) at the surf’s edge or use a suction pump, available at local tackle stores, to slurp up ghost shrimp from the wet sand. Adding a chunk of Fish Bites (a material soaked in fish attractant) can enhance your bait, and sometimes a chunk of Fish Bites is all you need to catch pompano.

A double-hook rig with the lightest pyramid weight the surf will allow, preferably no more than one ounce, is what most anglers use, although a variety of lead weights can be used depending on surf conditions. When the surf is a little robust, the pyramid sinker keeps the bait from being rolled around in the surf. Stick with smaller hooks from a size 8 to 1/0. Some anglers prefer Kahle hooks, while others will use a small circle hook.

Look for spots along the beach with the clearest water, where the fish can sometimes be spotted in schools of three to six fish. Cast your bait in 5-8 feet of water and sit back and enjoy the soothing wave action. The pompano can sometimes be found on the second bar from the beach and can be accessed by wading or by boat.

Avoid areas with high concentrations of swimmers for obvious reasons. Look for low-traffic areas with clear water and low to moderate wave action.

Pompano fish

One of the best surf fishermen I know, David Thornton, prefers to use several rods to pinpoint different areas of the surf, and he varies his tackle and line sizes as well. For the long casts, he uses a 10-foot rod with a reel spooled with 15-pound test line. He also believes that light tackle and light line, as low as 4-pound-test, can improve your chances of hooking a fish. If you’re not a very experienced angler, it’s probably best to stick with 8-to-10-pound test line to keep from losing fish. 

Grab some sand spikes at the tackle shop and stick your rod in the holder and relax. If you don’t like to sit back, you can always cast a bucktail jig made especially for pompano with a heavy head from ½-ounce to ¾-ounce and a short skirt in vibrant colors. Just cast it out and hop it, let it rest and hop it. Forget about any minnow-imitations baits. Pompano feed on crustaceans and the fish-type baits won’t work.

The Alabama creel limit is three fish per day with a minimum length of 12 inches total length. An Alabama saltwater fishing license is also required.

Plan a trip to Alabama’s beautiful Gulf Coast soon and enjoy great fishing in the surf during the warm weather. 

Matthew Isbell, aka the Bama Beach Bum, is a pro at catching pompano. Here are his top five tips for how you can reel 'em in on Alabama's beaches.

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David Rainer Blogger
David Rainer (2 Posts)
David Rainer has written about the great outdoors on the Alabama Gulf Coast for more than 20 years. For 14 of those years, he covered the many fishing opportunities on the Gulf Coast as outdoors…