Known far and wide as one of the very best-tasting fish in the ocean, the pompano can be found in coastal waters from Massachusetts to Brazil, with the greatest concentration located around Florida and the Gulf of Mexico. The low-calorie meat is firm, flakey and as flavorful as any fish you will ever eat.
The world record pompano tipped the scales at over 8 pounds, but they are commonly caught in the 1- to 2-pound range. It’s a popular gamefish target, especially in Southeastern U.S. states, and it’s also fished commercially and raised via aquaculture. For recreational fishing, the best time for the Atlantic coast of Florida is winter as East Coast populations tend to migrate north to the mid-Atlantic region in warmer months. The Gulf Coast of Florida remains productive throughout the summer. Bridges and other structures in or adjacent to deep channels are great spots for targeting pompano, especially when the tide is moving. Early in the morning, you can also try shallow grass beds where pompano forage on crab and shrimp.
The sweetness and delicate texture of pompano, a popular springtime inshore target, meld splendidly with the Mediterranean flavors of the vinaigrette and hummus. This recipe is courtesy of Ronnie Green, host of A Fishing Story with Ronnie Green television show on the World Fishing Network.
- 2 whole pompano, scaled, butterflied, with the heads removed
- 1 cup hummus
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes
- 1 cup mixed olives, sliced
- 1 cup olive oil
- 1 shallot, shaved
- 3 garlic cloves, sliced thin
- 1⁄2 cup picked rosemary
- 1⁄2 cup red wine vinegar
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Fennel fronds, or similar cut herb
Char tomatoes and olives in a hot pan. Once blistered, turn down heat, add shallots and garlic, and cook for 2 minutes.
Add the rosemary, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper to the pan, then heat briefly to combine all ingredients and make the vinaigrette.
Season the butterflied pompano with olive oil, salt and pepper.
Apply olive oil to a hot grill with a brush or rag to prevent the fish from sticking, then grill pompano—skin side down—for 8 or 9 minutes, covered with a sauté pan for the last 3 or 4 minutes to cook the fish evenly.
Spread 3 or 4 tablespoons of hummus on the plate, and place grilled fish—skin side down—over it.
Top with warm tomato-olive vinaigrette, and garnish with fennel fronds or another cut herb.
Serve with a glass of chilled Poseidon, or similar California chardonnay, to complement this savory dish. Or if beer is more your taste, try it with a hoppy red ale.
Just a word of caution: pompano cooks quickly, so take care that you don’t overcook it. Like with most fish, a sticky grill can cause a rather disappointing result, so don’t skip prepping the grates with olive oil. Finally, much of pompano’s allure comes from its subtle flavor profile, so resist the temptation to over season it. Enjoy!