How to Catch Southern Pompano
The Southern Pompano (trachinotus africanus) is easy to catch from the shore at times, although nowhere in South Africa can it be considered common or abundant. There are a few places where an angler can target Southern Pompano with a reasonable expectation of success. Best catches are made in summer on the KZN North Coast; good spots include Sodwana Bay, Kosi Bay, Mapalane and Cape Vidal.
Further South one place I have had great success fishing for this species is Chain rocks, around 500 metres South of the Amanzimtoti River mouth. Other South coast hot-spots bringing me success include; Winkelspruit rocks (Southern side), Black Rock – Umgababa, just North of the rocks at Scottburgh and Park Rynie. I’m sure there are many more places on the KZN coast where this fish can be sought, and hope one day to find more of these.
Most of my Southern Pompano were caught during the months of March to May on the South Coast, and from November to March up north
Where to Fish
To fish for Southern Pompano look for a sandy sea floor around outcrops of rocks. The Southern Pompano likes feeding around this type of structure. They can also be caught from sandy beaches where they come very close into the shallows, sometimes even feeding in the shore break where they snatch crustaceans and molluscs disturbed by the surf action.
Fishing Tackle for Southern Pompano
Medium weight surf and rock tackle is the tool used to catch these fish. A #1 weight fishing rod or “shad rod” to Natal anglers (For readers from other lands this rod is usually 3.7 to 4.2 metres long used to cast a 5 oz to 6 oz sinker plus bait).
Normal surf line, commonly 12 kg to 13.5 kg breaking strain is used with this rod. Pompano can grow over 15 kg, and have a habit of trying to cut you off on the rocks, so many anglers use a strong abrasion resistant leader.
Hook size recommended are from 1/0 to 4/0 when using normal “J” hooks. If fishing with circle hooks start from 2/0 and go up to 6/o. Regardless of the hook type, the larger size hooks are used if targeting larger Southern Pompano over 4 kg or thereabout. I prefer to “fish down” – generally using a 2/0 Mustad Big Gun or Daiichi needlepoint, or a 4/0 circle hook. But if I’m going to use a large bait, e.g. a crayfish tail, I’ll go up to the bigger size hooks. Hooks must be VERY sharp
No matter what bait you use, the thinnest types of bait cotton should be used – ghost cotton or the newer latex bait thread (the thinner one)
Southern Pompano will take a variety of bait including; muscles, cracker and pink prawn, sea lice (mole crabs) carefully prepared squid baits, crabs, and especially crayfish tails or a well presented crayfish feeler bait. They will also take a Red-eye sardine belly or flesh-fillet bait
Mud prawns (Cracker shrimp) are my favourite for the smaller pan-size specimens. This bait is prepared by tying a cluster of 4 to 6 crackers to your hook. A small piece of bait foam tied first to the hook helps hold the bait together and adds some movement – very good if the water is calm. The foam shouldn’t be too large – you don’t want it to float way bove the bottom, just to move around easily in the bottom 30 cm of water. A wooden (biodegradable) toothpick can be added to the hook/foam combination providing a stronger base to build the bait.
Larger baits work better for bigger fish. Crayfish tail is possibly the best bait possible in KZN for large Southern Pompano. Smaller tails can be used whole after shattering the shell to release the smell (good if there are a lot of peckers around), or just use the flesh if there are no small bait robbers. Larger tails can be split, either across the width for a shorter fat bait, or down the length for a sleeker long bait. Both will work. The bend of the hook must be exposed for easy hook-ups. I also build this bait with bait foam – once again just enough to give some movement and keep the shape of the bait.
The whole mussel bait (see Deadly Whole Mussel Bait for Musselcracker). I usually try lightly crush the thick end of the mussel when fishing for Southern Pompano with this bait to release some smell, or add mussel flesh to the hook.
Southern Pompano Traces
Don’t use steel wire or excessively thick hook snoots. The pompano doesn’t have sharp line-cutting teeth. o.5 to o.6 mm fluorocarbon is good for the smaller specimens; increase to 0.8 mm when looking for the larger specimens. Snoot length from 40 cm to 60 cm.
Sinker line. As always when fishing around rocks and reefs, use a sinker line weaker than the main line, or tie an overhand knot to force a break point should the sinker get snagged.
Catching the Southern Pompano
Bait placement can often be the difference between success or failure when fishing for Southern Pompano. The fish usually feeds quite close to a rocky outcrop, often within 2 metres of the rock. Placing the bait further away can lead to no bites, even though other anglers may be catching pompano closer to the structure. Cast the bait as close as possible to this structure, without landing it right on the rock or reef.
Off sandy beaches try and find a deep hole and put your bait onto the side of the hole, or just on the side of an outgoing rip. Look some working water – pompano like to feed in working water that churns bottom dwellers out of their sandy hiding places.
The Bite and Strike.
For the most part Southern Pompano grab your bait, hard. Often the take is so hard they hook themselves. When you feel a sudden hard pull, raise the rod quickly in a single strike action. Always keep tension on the line.
Larger fish may need a second short, sharp action strike to set the hook – Big Gun hooks are sharp, but they are thicker than normal. Then you need to hold the fish – or it will try to cut you off on the bricks… Don’t “play” with the fish! You need to keep constant pressure and work the fish away from any structure. Working a fish hard is better if you want to release it – it will be fresher and stronger, and recover much faster than one played to the death.
A tight drag is needed. Don’t give the pompano line unless you have no choice – big pompano are strong fighters – a 10kg Pompano will leave many anglers hanging on for all they are worth.
Once again, keep only what you want to eat the same day, safely release everything else to breed more fish.