African Pompano

African Pompano, Alectis ciliaris

The African Pompano, Alectis ciliaris, whose common Spanish name is “Pámpano de Hebra”, is an exotic looking fish that is a member of the Jack or Carangidae Family, known collectively as “Jureles and Pámpanos” in Mexico.

The African Pompano has a deep strongly compressed body with a width that is 38 to 88% of standard length that become significantly more elongated with maturity. They are silvery in color with a light blue metallic tinge dorsally with a small dark spot on the upper gill cover. Juveniles have five chevron-shaped bars on the body and front anal and dorsal spines that are black in color and extremely elongated. The upper head profile is steeply rounded. The first dorsal fin has seven short and embedded spines, one additional spine and eighteen to twenty rays. The caudal fin is deeply forked. The pectoral fins are long and curved and the pelvic fins are moderately sized. They have four to six gill rakers on the upper limb and twelve to seventeen on the lower arch. They have twelve to thirty scutes, the lateral line has a pronounced long arch anteriorly, and they are scaleless.

The African Pompano reach a maximum of 152 cm (5 feet) in length and 50 pounds (22.7 kg) in weight with the current world angling record standing 41.4 pounds (18.8 kg). The adults are found from the surface to depths of 330 feet; the juveniles are pelagic and found near the surface often within debris. They are a solitary pelagic species that are found over sandy bottoms and rocky structure and known to aggregate in the spring while spawning around sunken debris such as ship wrecks. The juveniles are similar in appearance to the medusa jellyfish, many of which contain deadly venom, which is believed to give them some protections against predators. They consume crustaceans, small crabs and fish. The African Pompano is a circumtropical species primarily found in the tropical Indo-Western Pacific; in Mexican waters of the Pacific they range from Magdalena Bay south along the southwest coast of Baja and in the southern third of the Sea of Cortez.

The African Pompano can be easily confused with the Threadfin Jack, Caranx otrynter (pointed snout, angular and straight head profile; juveniles lacking multiple, long, filamentous anal and dorsal fin rays). The African Pompano is viewed by locals to be excellent table fare. Note: I have observed a major decline in the catch rates of this species over the last ten years and at present they are virtually non-existent. One rumor is that the local Los Cabos populations have been depleted by the local Sea Lions but personally I believe this is due primarily to over fishing.

African Pompano, Alectis ciliaris: Fish caught in 100-foot water about 5 miles north of Puerto Los Cabos, Baja California Sur, November 2006. Length: 45 cm (18 inches).
African Pompano, Alectis ciliaris: Fish caught in 100-foot water about 5 miles north of Puerto Los Cabos, Baja California Sur, November 2006. Length: 45 cm (18 inches).

African Pompano (2)

African Pompano, Juvenile, Alectis ciliaris: Both fish provided by commercial bait salesmen, Puerto Los Cabos, Baja California Sur, November 2008. Length: 30 cm (11.8 inches) and 20 cm (7.9 inches), respectfully.
African Pompano, Juvenile, Alectis ciliaris: Both fish provided by commercial bait salesmen, Puerto Los Cabos, Baja California Sur, November 2008. Length: 30 cm (11.8 inches) and 20 cm (7.9 inches), respectfully.
African Pompano, Alectis ciliaris: Note the soft ray deterioration. Photo courtesy Eric Brictson, Gordo Banks Pangas, La Playita, Baja California Sur.
African Pompano, Alectis ciliaris: Note the soft ray deterioration. Photo courtesy Eric Brictson, Gordo Banks Pangas, La Playita, Baja California Sur.
African Pompano, Alectis ciliaris: Fish caught off the beach in front of Hotel Punta Colorado, Baja California Sur, June 1999. Length: 71 cm (28 inches). Photo courtesy of Peter Langstraat, Holland.
African Pompano, Alectis ciliaris: Fish caught off the beach in front of Hotel Punta Colorado, Baja California Sur, June 1999. Length: 71 cm (28 inches). Photo courtesy of Peter Langstraat, Holland.