By Captain David Lifka
If you have never given surf fishing a try at any of our area beaches, right now is the perfect time of year to do so. Mild temperatures and calming spring winds make for easy and comfortable fishing conditions. As spring continues to progress, the whiting bite is going strong and the pompano bite is steadily on the increase.
Both whiting and pompano are common species of fish to be caught in our beaches waters, with pompano being a little more seasonal than whiting. Both can be fished for similarly, with whiting being the more prominent and easier of the two to catch. Both filet nicely with a light mild meat, but hands down, pompano is a local favorite and prized fish to catch.
Because whiting and pompano use the surf zone of the beach to find their meals, both species pretty much share the same diet plan. Fiddler crabs, sand fleas, shrimp, and clams found in the waves make very good baits, but sand fleas and shrimp seem to be their favorites. Finding bait stores on the way to the beach or at the beach shouldn’t be hard and obtaining current fishing information from the bait store can often be helpful.
Any light spinning tackle can be used to catch either species of fish. Twelve to fifteen pound test line is more than adequate to handle these fish, and using braided line could pay dividends with the extra sensitivity it delivers. Surf rods are great for longer casting, but not required to be able to fish in the surf. Being able to reach the trough between the two areas of breaking waves, or just past the sand bar is usually the best area to fish. The last couple hours of the incoming tide and first couple hours of the outgoing is a good time span to look for.
Using a simple “Fish Finder” rig with smaller saltwater hooks works best for whiting and will sometimes catch a pompano or two; however, “pompano rigs” work best. They are the preferred rig by nearly all pompano fishermen, and work very well on whiting. Pompano rigs can be bought online or at any bait and tackle store, which is easier than making them yourself. A variety of sinkers from one ounce to about six ounces will be nice to have on hand depending on surf conditions.
Fishing Report: Freshwater bream, bass, and catfish all looking good in area creeks, ponds, and mouth of creeks into the St. Johns. Look for St Johns River fishing to be improving quickly, with reds moving in on docks. Surf fishing continues to be best bet.
Whether you catch one, some or none, the family time spent fishing will last a lifetime.
Email your Catch of the Month photo to firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to include the name of the person(s) in the photo, the name of the person who took the photo, the type of fish and date and location of the catch. We will select a photo each month for publication
Photo courtesy Jim Bagnardi
Trey Bagnardi of Julington Creek with a mixed bag caught in the Intracoastal: Red fish, Jack Crevalle, and Black Drum.