African Pompano (Alectis ciliaris)

The African pompano is the largest and most widespread member of the Carangidae family of jacks and pompano, surrounded by a great deal of confusion because until recently, adults and young were classified as entirely different species. A strong fighter and an excellent light-tackle gamefish, it is a superb food fish and is marketed fresh or salted/dried.


The most striking characteristic of the African pompano is the four to six elongated, threadlike filaments that extend from the front part of the second dorsal and the anal fins. These filaments tend to disappear or erode as the fish grows.

The body shape of the African pompano changes as it grows; starting out short and deep, it becomes more elongated by the time the fish is 14 inches long, and the forehead becomes steeper and blunter. In both young and adult fish, their bodies are strongly compressed, and the rear halves of their body are triangular.

The lateral line arches smoothly but steeply above the pectoral fins and has 24 to 38 relatively weak scutes in the straight portion and 120 to 140 scales. Shiny and silvery on the whole, a larger fish may be light bluish-green on the back; on all fish, there may be dark blotches on the operculums on the top part of the caudal peduncles, as well as on the front part of the second dorsal and the anal fins. A young African pompano has five to six ventral bars.


This species is known to attain a length of 42 inches and can grow to 60 pounds; the all-tackle world record is a 50-pound, 8-ounce Florida fish. Twenty- to 30-pounders are common in South Florida.


African pompano feed on sedentary or slow-moving crustaceans, on small crabs, and occasionally on small fish.

Other Names

Cuban jack, Atlantic threadfin, pennantfish, threadfin mirrorfish, trevally; Afrikaans: draadvin-spie lvis; Arabic: bambo, tailar; French: aile ronde, carangue, cordonnier; Hawaiian: papio, ulua; Malay/Indonesian: cermin, ebek, rambai landeh; Portuguese: xaréu africano; Spanish: caballa, chicuaca, elechudo, jurel de pluma, paja blanco, palometa, pampano, sol, zapatero.


African pompano occur in the western Atlantic from Massachusetts and Bermuda to Brazil, as well as throughout the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico. In the eastern Pacific, they range from Mexico to Peru.


Inhabiting waters up to 300 feet deep, African pompano often prefer to be near the bottom over rocky reefs and around wrecks. They may form small, somewhat polarized, schools, although they are usually solitary in the adult stage.