Florida pompano, Trachinotus carolinus
Florida pompano occur in western Atlantic coastal waters from Cape Cod, Massachusetts
to southeastern Brazil. In U.S. waters, they are uncommon north of Chesapeake Bay. Pompano
are found year-round in Florida but move north and south in response to the 15 °C isotherm in
nearshore waters (Berry and Iverson 1967). Florida pompano mature before reaching a total
length (TL) of 14 inches (Finucane 1969). Mature fish have been found as small as about 10
inches fork length (FL) and as young as age 1 (FWC-FWRI, unpublished data). The oldest fish
examined in an FWC-FWRI study was estimated to be 7 years old. Spawning is thought to occur
in offshore waters, e.g., near the Gulf Stream at 660' depths (Fields 1962). Peak spawning
activity occurs during the spring and fall (Finucane 1969).
Pompano are generalized benthic feeders that use large well-developed pharyngeal plates
to crush hard-shelled prey (Bellinger and Avault 1971). In Tampa Bay, small juvenile pompano
(0.6–1.8 inches standard length) shift from eating amphipods, dipteran larvae, and coquina clams
to eating larger crustaceans, mollusks, and occasionally fishes. Diets of adult pompano from the
Indian River lagoon consist primarily of infaunal bivalves (Armitage and Alevizon 1980). In
Tampa Bay, adults chiefly eat mussels and penaeid shrimp (Finucane 1969).
During 2005, the estimated landings of Florida pompano in Florida were 943,164 pounds.
In recreational anglers accounted for about 66% of the total statewide landings. About 53% of
the statewide landings were made on the Atlantic coast. Commercial landings were made mostly
in the area from Volusia through Palm Beach Counties on the Atlantic coast and in Collier, Lee,
Manatee and Pinellas Counties on the gulf coast (Fig. 1). High landings of pompano made by
the recreational fishery were evenly distributed along the Atlantic coast and, on the gulf coast, in
coastal counties south to the Big Bend region except in Monroe County (Fig. 2).
The 2005 total landings were 3% lower than the average landings in the previous five
years (2000–2004) and were 4% higher than the 1982–2005 historical average landings (Fig. 3).
Total annual landings fluctuated on the Atlantic coast with a peak in 1990 followed by a decline
through 1996 and large fluctuations around an annual average of 0.48 million pounds during
1997-2005 (Fig. 3). Gulf coast annual landings also fluctuated without trend until 1992, when
they began a slow decline that lasted through 1996. Total annual landings increased sharply on
the gulf coast in 1997, averaging 0.65 million pounds through 2001. Since then they have
Commercial catch per trip for Florida pompano increased rapidly on both coasts between
1993 and 1997 and has remained stable at these higher levels since then (Figs. 4, 5). Recreational
catch rates on the Atlantic peaked in 1997, declined through 2001 and have since recovered and
stabilized (Fig. 6). On the gulf coast, anglers’ catch rates have been low and relatively stable
since at least 1992 (Fig. 7).
Relative indices of abundance for young-of-the year Florida pompano have been low on
both coasts, but showed their highest levels during 1999-2001 and 2004-2005 on the Atlantic
coast and in 1999 on the gulf coast (Figs. 8, 9). Relative indices of abundance for post-young-ofthe-
year Florida pompano were greatest in 1998 and 2005 on the Atlantic coast but generally
fluctuated without long-term trend on both coasts ( Figs. 10, 11). Gross external abnormalities in
Florida pompano have not been recorded on the gulf coast. On the Atlantic coast, the prevalence
of gross external abnormalities was greatest in 1999 and 2000 (Fig 12) and was equally due to
fin rot and ulcer/lesion (Fig. 13).
The 2002 stock assessment (Muller et. al. 2002) indicated that pompano fishing mortality
rates were higher than the fishing mortality rate that would produce maximum sustainable yield.
In 2000, the F/FMSY ratio was 1.64 on the Atlantic coast and 1.20 on the gulf coast. The estimated
biomass on the Atlantic coast was half (49%) of that associated with maximum sustainable yield,
and fishing mortality rates were increasing. After 1995, the biomass ratio on the gulf coast
increased to the 1997 level of 1.09. However, fishing mortality rates have increased to their
previous levels and the biomass ratio dropped to 0.8 in 2000.
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|Status and Trends 2007 Report
Florida’s Inshore and Nearshore Species
by Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute