(pŏm'pӘnō), common name for fishes of the genus Trachinotus, members of a large and important family (Carangidae) of mackerellike fishes, abundant in warm seas around the world. They have deeply forked tails set on thin stalks and swim swiftly, often with the dorsal fin above the water surface. Most of the 200 species are valuable food fishes. The Pacific pompano, Peprilus simillimus, belongs to a different family, Stromateidae (see harvestfish).
Of the 30 genera that constitute the family, the 6 most important are the leather jacks, the amberfishes, the cavallas or jacks, the moonfishes, the casabes, and the pompanos.
Best known of the leather jacks is the pilot fish, a slender variety rarely over 2 ft (60 cm) long. Pilot fish, Naucrates ductor, often follow ships and sharks, feeding on the scraps left behind. Another species also called pilot fish is an amberfish. The amberfish genus, Seriola, (whose members are also called amberjacks and coronados) contains often beautifully colored fish that are of moderate to large size. The genus includes the streamlined yellowtail amberjack, a popular game and food fish, weighing up to 40 lb (18 kg). Greater amberjacks are common off the Florida coast. They are brownish or bluish gray on the back with an amber stripe on the sides, and average 12 lb (5.4 kg) in weight, though specimens may reach 100 lb (45 kg) or more. They prefer deeper water and feed on smaller fishes, as does the rainbow runner, strikingly colored in blue, yellow, and silver.
Most abundant and valuable of the cavallas (genus Caranx) is the crevalle, or common jack, C. hippos, found in dense schools on both coasts of tropical America and as far north as Cape Cod and the Gulf of California. Crevalles have olive backs, silvery and yellow sides, and reach 2 ft (61 cm) in length and 40 lb (18 kg) in weight. The black jack or black kingfish, is an important food and game cavalla of tropical Atlantic waters. The blue runner, or hard-tailed jack, 1 ft (30 cm) long and 1 lb (.45 kg) in weight and found from Brazil to Cape Cod, is an important food fish in the West Indies. The horse-eye jack is found in both the Atlantic and the Pacific. It is most abundant in the tropics, where its flesh is reputed to be poisonous. The Cuban jack, or African pompano (Alectis ciliaris). averaging 2 ft (61 cm) in length and 12 lb (5.4 kg) in weight, is a beautiful fish with an iridescent silvery sheen, similar in coloration and in its compressed, angular body to the moonfishes, silvery marine fishes of the genus Selene.
Two moonfishes are the lookdown and the Atlantic moonfish. Both average from 7 to 9 in. (17.5–22.5 cm) in length and 1/2 lb (.25 kg) in weight and are important food fishes. They frequent sandy bottoms, feeding on small fish, crustaceans, and marine worms. The lookdown differs from the moonfish in its elongated dorsal and anal fins and in its rainbow iridescence. The casabe, or Atlantic bumper, a smaller fish (up to 1 ft/30 cm), is found from Brazil to Cape Cod.
Commercially the most important of the family are the pompanos, species of which are among the most delicious of all food fishes. Prized as a food and game fish, the common pompano, found from the Carolinas to Texas, reaches a maximum length of 18 in. (45 cm) and weight of 8 lb (3.6 kg). It prefers sandy bottoms and feeds on small crustaceans, especially shrimps and sand fleas. A warm-water fish, it migrates to avoid cold, and an unseasonal cold spell will kill it. Of similar habits and distribution are the snubnose, or round, pompano, named for its shape, and the palometa, also called gafftopsail pompano, a beautiful fish with a cerulean blue back and silvery yellow sides. Its counterpart in Pacific waters is the gafftopsail pompano, or pompanito. The permit, or great pompano, of the Florida reefs is the largest of the family, weighing up to 30 lb (13.5 kg) and reaching a length of 3 ft (91 cm).
Pompanos are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Actinopterygii, order Perciformes, family Carangidae.