In another edition of our saltwater species series, we look at Pompano, their teeth and how you can handle pompano properly.
We will answer questions like what’s the best way to handle pompano? Can you lip pompano? And do pompano have teeth?
Young pompano have small, conical teeth, but these disappear later in their life. By the time the fish grows to about 20 cm (7.9 inches) the teeth disappear completely.
In this article, we take a closer look at the teeth housed by pompano. We also explain what you should expect from a pompano bite and how you should handle them in a way that is safe for both the fish and angler.
Do Pompano Have Sharp Teeth?
Pompano are bottom feeders that have little to no need for large sharp teeth, and the teeth they do have are not sharp at all and are quite stubby in older adult fish.
When they are young they have small, conical teeth. These usually disappear as they age, and by the time they are full grown they won’t have significant teeth present in their mouths.
This helps differentiate them from the similar permit fish. While both are part of the jack family, permits have small teeth on their tongue. Pompano have no teeth on their tongue at any stage of their life.
Pompano do have noticeable pharyngeal plates at the back of their mouth. These help them crush through the shells of crustaceans and mollusks that they eat. Younger pompano focus on planktonic or benthic organisms until this plate develops.
This is similar to the teeth found in redfish; plates of hard enamel-like material that are used to smash through the shells of their victim prey, like crabs and shrimp etc.
Can Pompano Bite You if You Lip Them?
Any fish can bite if you move to lip them, but you have little to worry about with pompano. Even juveniles that have teeth aren’t likely to break skin, but you should take a second look at any suspect injuries you get while fishing.
You can usually lip a pompano and hold it in the same hand.
Make sure you handle fish with clean hands and wash up afterward, especially if you suspect they broke skin. You might want to consider some form of disinfectant or antiseptic if you do get an injury from a pompano (or permit).
If a pompano does bite you it should be mild, but if you notice broken skin, warmth, or pain then worth getting it checked out.
How to Safely Handle Pompano
While you don’t need to worry much about biting with pompano, it’s still important to follow safe handling procedures.
This applies whether you plan on releasing the fish or not.
Handling pompano properly starts when they bite the line. You’re best off if you let them tire themselves out running parallel on the beach, as it puts less pressure on you to land the fish and reduces the chance of pulling the hook free.
Make sure you’re drag is set properly so that if they pompano makes a run for it, they can strip some line, rather than break off the hook.
The last thing you want after fighting a pompano for a while is for it to break off right at the last minute.
Another helpful tip here, is to use the best rod for pompano fishing. Many anglers suggest a fibreglass, flexible tipped rod is best for pompano as it provides sensitivity and flex if the fish is fighting – avoiding losing the fish.
A landing net is an easy way to handle a pompano without risking losing it, especially if it doesn’t surf to land like you wish. While doesn’t make as much of a difference as it does with other fish, it provides more protection and assurance against losing fish.
Make sure you keep the pompano wet. Wetting your hands or gloves helps with this.
If you plan on releasing the pompano, keep it in the water as much as you can, even while unhooking it.
If pulling it out is necessary before release, holding your breath can help you determine how uncomfortable the fish is, because it gives you an idea of how long the fish os going without oxygen.
You can use special tools to remove the hook (if using one) to minimize damage and keep you an extra degree away from contact. Make sure you push the hook in a bit farther to release the barb before removing.
Needle-nosed pliers designed for fishing are a great option. Or if you want something more lightweight and cheaper, a hook disgorger is a simple piece of kit that can work well for pompano.
Release as soon as possible if you plan on doing so. If you plan to keep for eating, focus on keeping them as fresh as possible.