African Pompano: What Is It & Where, When and How to Fish It

By Last Updated: January 10th, 2023Categories: Fishing

For any angler, the African Pompano is definitely a perfect fish for beginners:

  • It’s very tasty, not fishy at all;
  • The juvenile is so pretty that we may take them as ornamental fish;
  • It’s not rare and can be found in most offshore of the Gulf of Mexico.
  • Most importantly, you will face challenges: the adult African pompano is famous for its dogged and fierce fight after being hooked.

You won’t have to sail far away from the land and the chance of having nothing is low. Just arrive at the right place at the right time. Hold your rod tight! Await for the battle with the African Pompano!

Found it amazing? Take it easy, we’ve got some time to know this fish. To beat your enemy, get to know them first.

Query One: What Is African Pompano

  • Family: Carangidae (includes jacks, runners, scads, and pompanos)
  • Scientific Name: Alectic ciliaris
  • Other Names: pennant-fish, threadfin trevally
  • TSN (Taxonomic Serial Number): 168602
  • Habitat & Location: Tropical coastlines, reefs, and structures (10 – 100m / 65 – 328ft & 30 – 80 °F /  18-27°C)
  • Average Size/Length (Adult): 18 – 24 in
  • Average Weight (Adult): 15 – 20lbs
  • World Record: 39in (99cm, in Key West, Florida in 2011) & 50lb 8oz (22.9kg, in Daytona Beach, Florida in 1990)
  • Season: Open Year Round

African Pompano is Not a Pompano

The African Pompano is actually NOT a pompano though they’re named like one. It’s a “jack” species that looks similar to a pompano.

While both jacks and pompanos are in the Carangidae family, they have similar carangid body types – a compressed body with a short snort, rounded head, and deeply forked tail.

African Pompano: What Is It & Where, When and How to Fish It

African Pompano has this very special more curved (or, more angular) head as when all pompanos have this football-like head. Also, most pompanos are smaller with an average size of 10 to 12 inches ( 6 to 8 lb).

African Pompano: Perfect Game Fish

Like all the jacks, the African pompano is an aggressive fighter that is a schooling predatory fish.

They eat anything that’s smaller, shrimps, crabs, squat lobsters, octopus, and fish. When hooked, they will fight in a way that you’ve never seen if you’re new here.

Juvenile African Pompano: Aquarium fish

Juvenile and young African pompanos have unique fins – long, even longer than their body, and threadlike at dorsal and anal fins. As they swim, the fins float like long ribbons. Under the light, the ribbons shine like a rainbow. As they grow, the fins will get shorter and finally become regular ones.

African Pompano: What Is It & Where, When and How to Fish It

However, despite the attractiveness of the juveniles, they’re not suitable in tanks – never do well in captivity. So, we strongly recommend you release it after you take a photo as a memorial.

Is African Pompano Good/Safe to Eat

African pompanos are surely edible.

They’re typical marine fish that provide thick, white, and juicy meat. The texture is buttery and firm which makes the fish perfect for frying after marination or simmering with sauce.

The head of an adult specimen is the perfect ingredient for fish stock or curries thanks to its large size.

African Pompano: What Is It & Where, When and How to Fish It

Risk of Eating Large African Pompano

Be cautious that like any large reef fish, African pompanos carry ciguatera poison, AKA ciguatoxin, a poison that is 1,000 times more deadly than the fugu poison.

The toxin is carried by Gambierdiscus toxicus, a type of dinoflagellate that is mostly found in the Caribbean Sea, Hawaii, and the Central American coast.

For the fish, this toxin is harmless and cannot be excreted from the body. This means the more toxicus they eat, the more poison will accumulate in their body. Large African pompanos carry more toxins than smaller ones. Humans who catch and eat them will get poisoned since heat cannot kill this toxin and it can’t be identified by smell or taste as well.

To avoid getting poisoned, you’d better eat specimens that are around 25 lbs or smaller than that. Any that’s over that weight should be released. Also, don’t eat the skin, viscera (liver particularly), roe, and head.

Query Two: Where to Catch African Pompano

In the US, we can find African pompano on both the west and east coasts. Starting as far north as New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, and Texas, the sight of this species is always reported.

They love warm waters (30 – 80 °F), so the coastlines in Mexico Gulf (Florida, Texa, and Louisana) and California Gulf are their favorite habitation.


In Florida, according to local regulations, you must release any African pompano that is shorter than 24 inches. No limit to the weight. Also, each vessel is allowed to catch 2 only every day.

To be more specific, they love to inhibit reefs, wrecks, channel entrances, jetties, and shoals as well as man-made structures like docks, pilings, and piers. For anglers, this is great since you don’t have to travel far away from the land. Just dozens of feet and you can start the challenge.

African Pompano: What Is It & Where, When and How to Fish It

Query Three: When to Catch African Pompano

So far, people know so little about this species. All we acknowledge is that December, January, and February are the peak season in Florida. The weather is getting cold in the north and the fish tend to migrate to the warmer water of the south – Florida.

When winter passes and the temperature rises, the fish will spread out again.

For other states, spring and summer (April to August) will be good timing. After that, the fish will head south.

Query Four: How to Catch African Pompano

First of all, get the rigs of African pompano ready.

  • Reel: A medium-sized spinning reel will be fair enough.
  • Hooks: Attach multiple hooks, 2 at least, to increase the chance of catching them. Also, use 2/0 circle hooks.
  • Weight: A pyramid weight will be good.
  • Leader: 15 to 20-pound fluorocarbon material will be perfect for your line. Don’t use anything that’s over 50 pounds since the fish are leader-shy.
  • Bait: African pompanos love flashy and living prey. Smaller fish, crabs, shrimp, and sand fleas.
  • Jigs: Use jigs in winter.
African Pompano: What Is It & Where, When and How to Fish It


If the pompano is small – 25 lbs or smaller, you can eat the skin. But if the fish is big, heavier than 25 or 30 lbs, you’d better avoid eating the skin, the head, and any inners to lower the chance of poisoning.

Sure, you can catch African Pompano in Florida all year round. Just remember to get a saltfish fishing license.

Also, when you go fishing, you need to obey the state regulations:

  • Any African Pompano that is shorter than 24 inches must be released. No restrictions on weight.
  • Also, each vessel can catch only 2 every day no matter how many people are on the vessel.

Japanese sushi and sashimi are getting very popular. When you catch an African Pompano, you may want to try this medium-sized marine fish for sushi or sashimi. However, can you eat it raw? It depends, actually.

Most marine fish can be eaten raw when it’s freshly hooked or perfectly frozen. If you just catch an African Pompano, you can eat it raw. It’s firm, buttery, and fatty, a pretty good choice for both sushi and sashimi. Also, it’s not fishy at all.

Note that if the eyes of the fish are cloudy or feel mushy to touch, you’d better quit the idea of sushi. It’s not fresh at all, bacterial is having a party on the fish now.