Florida Pompano, Trachinotus carolinus
The Florida Pompano, Trachinotus carolinus, whose common Spanish name is pámpano amarillo, is a member of the Jack or Carangidae Family, known collectively as jureles and pámpanos in Mexico. Globally, there are 20 species in the genus Trachinotus, seven of which are found in Mexican waters, three in the Atlantic and four in the Pacific.
The Florida Pompanos have elongated, oblong, and compressed bodies with similar upper and lower profiles and a depth that is 35 to 39% of standard length. They are silver overall and transition to yellow ventrally without distinctive markings. Their fins are yellow with the exception of their dorsal fin which is dark. Their head has a very rounded and extendible snout. Their mouth reaches under the eyes and is equipped with small conical teeth that disappear in larger fish. Their anal fin has two detached spines, followed by one spine and 20 to 24 rays; their caudal fin is deeply forked with a slender base; their dorsal fin has six short stout spines and 22 to 27 rays; and their pectoral fins are short. Their anal and soft dorsal fin have similar bases with front lobes that are raised but not highly elongated. They have 13 to 21 gill rakers. Their lateral line is straight and does not have scutes. Their body is covered with oval scales.
The Florida Pompanos are a coastal pelagic species found demersal inshore, over sandy bottoms, in bays, and in estuaries at depths up to 225 feet. They reach a maximum length of 64 cm (25 inches) and weight of 3.8 kg (8.4 pounds). They can be found in small and large schools and prefer water temperatures in excess of 19oC (66oF). They consume crustaceans, mollusks, and small fish. They grow quickly in their first year of life and mature rapidly. Reproduction is oviparous with pelagic eggs and larvae. They have a lifespan of up to seven years.
The Florida Pompanos are found in all Mexican waters of the Atlantic.
The Florida Pompano can be confused with the Permit, Trachinotus falcatus (deeper body; black blotch at pectoral fin base; dark fins).
The Florida Pompanos are a targeted game fish caught by recreational anglers out of the surf and off piers on live and dead bait utilizing lightweight tackle. They are also a target of commercial fishermen. They are heavily regulated in the southeast United States with size and daily bag limits. From a conservation perspective they are currently considered of Least Concern. They are caught as a by-catch by commercial fishermen utilizing gill nets and handlines targeting mackerels and sharks within the Gulf of Mexico. Efforts to raise Florida Pompano by aquaculture are currently ongoing. They are considered excellent table fare and command elevated prices.
Florida Pompano, Trachinotus carolinus. Fish caught off the pier in Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina, October 2013. Length: 13.5 cm (5.3 inches). Catch, photo, and identification courtesy of Ben Cantrell, Peoria, IL.