Permit vs. Pompano: All You Need to Know
Jul 4, 2019 | 3 minute read
Reading Time: 3 minutes

In many ways, Pompano and Permit are the ultimate inshore fish. They’re tough to trick, fun to fight, and amazing to eat. Anyone who’s spent time on the Florida flats will agree that these guys are as good as it gets. Most anglers prefer Permit vs. Pompano because they’re more of a challenge. However, nobody’s disappointed to find either one on the end of their line.

An angler holding a large Permit fish with water and blue sky behind
Reeling in a trophy-size Permit is the dream for anglers worldwide.

The only problem with these two fish is that they look so darn similar! Many people have trouble figuring out the difference between Permit and Pompano. If you’re one of them, don’t worry. This short guide is all about what makes each species unique.

The Difference Between Permit and Pompano

A diagram showing how to identify Permit vs. Pompano. The two fish are shown on the right, with writing on the left reading: "1. Dorsal and Anal Fins: Long and pointed back on Permit. Short and pointed out on Pompano. 2. Tail: Sharply forked on Permit. Less forked on Pompano. 3. Pectoral Fin: Wider on Permit. Thinner on Pompano. 4. Head: Bumped forehead on Permit. More pointed head on Pompano. 5. Coloring: Silver-white on Permit. Yelllow-white on Pompano."

The best way to figure out which fish you’ve caught is to look at the fins. Firstly, check their top (dorsal) and bottom (anal) fins. These are long and sloped back on Permit, almost reaching their tail. Pompano have much shorter fins, which point out from the body more than back.

After that, take a look at the tail. Permit have deeply-forked, V-shaped tail fins. Pompano tails are more splayed, usually at least as wide as their body. However, the opposite is true of their side (pectoral) fins: these are much wider on Permit, and more sleek and pointed on Pompano.

If you’re still not sure what you’re holding, look at the head. Permit have a distinctive bump above their eye, as if they’re built to headbutt other fish (they’re not, but some of their relatives, like Giant Trevally, actually are). Pompano have a much more steady slope from their back down to their nose.

A small Florida Pompano fish being held, with water and trees behind
If it doesn’t look like it can headbutt you, it’s probably a Pompano.

There are a few more general differences between the two: Permit have a wider body, while Pompano are longer. Permit are usually silvery, with a small yellow patch in front of their anal fin. Pompano can be golden all over, and will have a yellow underside. However, their general shape and size varies with age, so it’s best to judge them by their fins.

Permit vs. Pompano Taste

There’s no debate about which fish fights best. Permit are a true sport fish on the level of Tarpon and Bonefish. Pompano are fun, but nothing close to their big, wily cousins. Fish are good for more than sport, though. This brings us to one of the top questions on many people’s minds: which one tastes best?

Both fish are delicious. They have tasty white meat which is perfect grilled or cut up and made into ceviche. However, Pompano tends to come out on top when you’re looking at fresh, raw sashimi. The meat is softer, with a more delicate taste. Permit can be a little tough sometimes, and needs a little extra flavor with it.

A whole fried Pompano fish on a plate, with cilantro and red chilli scattered on top

Both these fish are fantastic. They look cool. They taste great. Permit is an awesome fighter, but Pompano can still give you a run for your money. Hopefully, you can now tell the two apart a little easier. At the very least, you’ve been given the inspiration to get out there and try!

Do you agree that Pompano tastes better than Permit? Have you caught either of them yourself? How do you tell them apart? Drop us your thoughts, stories, and recipes in the comments below!

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