Increasing numbers of certainly the most elusive of the “big three,” the permit, have infiltrated the Keys from Biscayne Bay to the Marquesas. Permits of all sizes (along with bonefish and tarpon) are available in what most likely will be their maximum numbers of the entire Summer. It is no coincidence that this occurs during the steamiest temperatures of the year. Oceanside and backcountry flats, most edges, basins, and channels, are holding these silvery trophies. It is a simple matter of recognizing the correct and comfortable depth that the fish prefer during specific tide phases and conditions. The following outstanding trips were all on board the always versatile Maverick 18 HPX.
Mike Brimer and his son Logan from Engelwood snuck out for an early morning half day during a period of humid westerly winds. Mike’s 17 pound spinner quickly doubled over as a live pinfish was eaten behind the staked out skiff. After several incredible jumps and a brief boat chase, the stout 120 pound silver king was released. Moments after returning to the pushpole, Logan’s fresh butterflied mullet was scooped off of the bottom on a 20 pound spinner and he spent 10 laborious minutes battling another 120 pounder to boatside, his largest one ever, and his first Keys poonage! At first light, Mike connected with and lost a massive permit that did figure eights around and through the pilings of the Tea Table bridge, but did mange to add a bonefish on shrimp with 10 pound spin from a flat near the Ashby Keys.
Phil Cates and Kelly Kurtyka from Naples fished stiff 20 mph winds and cloud cover to nail 4 bonefish up to 5 pounds, all caught on live shrimp from the West Key area of banks. Next, Phil dropped an unwilling crab into a dense weedline near Lower Matecumbe and was rewarded with an 18 pound permit.
Alan Routman from Fort Lauderdale scored quickly with a 40 pound tarpon in the black of the morning near Lignum Vitae Key, an aggressive fish that fell all over a palm-sized pulsating pinfish on 15 pound spinning tackle. Before 7 a.m., he added a 2 pound bonefish taken out of a trough near the Swash on a live shrimp. In the vicinity of Panhandle Key, he then removed a 15 pound tailing permit from a busy feeding school, on a quarter-sized live crab to rack up his slam by 8:30! Routman went on to take a 5 pound mudding bone from a working wad near Tea Table Key, also on a shrimp, and then a 21 pound permit from a digging group of 6, adjacent to the Long Key viaduct bridge.
Bill Curley from Philly was a strong 2 for 3 on the pre-dawn tarpons, a high flying 40 pounder on pinfish from Race Channel, and then a much tougher 110 pounder on a crab from a basin near Barnes Key. Both were whipped on 17 pound spin. As weather worsened, Curley took twin 2 pound bonefish from an edge near Twin Key Bank while casting live shrimp on 8 pound spin. Only a few hours later, permit had gathered in an eddy formed by a strong outgoing tide, and Bill free-drifted live crabs back, to nail 2 mitt’s of 14 and 21 pounds for a double slam!!
Thane Morgan and son Cole from Texas landed a feisty 45 pound tarpon on a pinfish and 17 pound spin from the Indian Key area. Young Cole then took a 14 pound permit on a live crab with the same gear. Their next day escalated in productivity. They took a 40 pound tarpon on a live pinfish, and then a 65 pounder laid up motionless that engulfed a crab on 10 pound test and a perfectly placed shot by Cole. They silently camped during some cloud cover and 15 + mph winds to land bonefish of 3 and 4 pounds on live shrimp. Crabs floated in the seam of a tideline on outgoing water yielded 2 great permit of 24 and 34 pounds, for a father and son double grand slam!!
Andy Novack, owner of Fort Lauderdale’s famous LMR tackle store, and renowned Biscayne Bay guide Carl Ball paired up to go a perfect 3 for 3 on tarpon, fish of 40 and 55 pounds taken on live pins in the dark on 15 pound line, and then a 30 pounder on a crab from a flat’s edge weedline near Long Key on 8 pound braid. From 2 actively tailing masses of bonefish near the Arsenicker Keys, they pitched live shrimp to land silver bullets of 3 and 5 pounds. Carl added on a 21 pound permit, removed from a congregation of 30 spiked out and relaxed fish on a lengthy cast with a nickel-sized crab on 8 pound braid. On their second day, Novack and Ball took a baby tarpon on a V-waked shrimp presentation near Channel 5, and then moved south to an outside shoreline off Marathon. They found several schools of waking and feeding bones, and threw shrimp to quickly catch 5, which included 2 hectic doubleheaders! They tacked on a 10 pound permit that crushed a small crab near the end of the outing.
Don Armstrong from Park City, Utah, made the trek again to the Keys and capitalized before sunrise with explosive tarpon of 35 & 45 pounds on live pinfish and 15 pound test, then an 85 pounder on a quarter-sized crab. He cranked in 3 quick bonefish up to 4 pounds on live shrimp on 10 pound spin, and happily banged 2 permit shortly after of 10 and 16 pounds on small shuffling crabs to achieve a double slam!!! His next day was equally impressive. Armstrong lost a tarpon and a permit while waving an eight weight flyrod with clear floating line, a 15 foot leader down to 12 pound monofilament tippet, and a small, slightly weighted tan and brown crab imitation fly. Then, bonefish came out of the proverbial woodwork. Small groups of more than willing mini torpedoes swarmed the crowns of several flats within sight of Tom”s Harbor Keys. Don had over 25 eat his fly, landing 14, and then adding on 5 more on shrimp for a 19 bonefish day! Do not attempt to mention to Don Armstrong, the horribly negative and inaccurate buzz about no more bonefish left in South Florida. This happened in the Middle Keys, not the Bahamas, not Christmas Island, not Belize.
More hard and credible evidence of our tremendous and accessible fishery here in the “states” was an August trip by the brothers Dee, David from Tallahassee & Jon from Hollywood. They used 12 pound spin and small live pinfish right at dawn in the Sugarloaf Creek area of the Lower Keys to have 40 bites, and land an incredible 19 wild tarpon from 10-28 pounds! The Dee’s went on to cast live shrimp in the Toptree Hammock Key area to catch 3 bonefish and a permit for a 23 fish outing! David Dee did the next day solo and picked off 3 bonefish on shrimp up to 4 pounds, a 45 pound tarpon on a live crab and 10 pound spin, and a 24 pound permit for an Islamorada “downtown” slam!
Kal Blumberg from Big Pine Key worked the same circuit and had 18 tarpon bites from groups off Geiger Key to Sugarloaf, and landed 10 up to 25 pounds taken on pinfish, shrimp, crab and fly! As cloud cover cleared, Blumberg used live shrimp on 10 pound spin to battle and defeat 9 bonefish up to 5 pounds for an incredible nineteen fish outing! Kal next worked the Islamorada zip code under scattered showers to take a 45 pound tarpon on a pinfish early, then an 18 pound permit that consumed a crab, both from rips in Yellow Shark Channel, and a 2 pound bonefish on a live shrimp from Shell Key. On the last flat of the day, a large figure nervously zigzagged between a swaggering school of 5-7 foot lemon sharks. The sound of the crab landing spooked the already apprehensive massive silvery disc. On its way to deeper water, the crab dropped in again and was devoured. The 35 minute war on 10 pound spin went over a flat, through a 4 foot deep basin and then ultimately into a 20 foot deep channel, which made pumping up the sideways giant, unwilling permit, even tougher. Finally, the coveted 40 + pounder was raised in victory and then successfully released!
Maverick Blogservation: When you can push aside the “permit mystique” and dismiss many exaggerated observations that have been written about this animal in the past, it becomes a fish that is readily accessible and not nearly as difficult to catch as its misleading reputation. A live crab and good cast are about all that is needed to make the connection. Almost all anglers initially cast too far away from the fish. If permit do not see it sink, and it drops to the bottom into the marl or grass, it will almost always go unnoticed and the encounter will be misunderstood as “they are not eating”. With sufficient practice, it is entirely possible to control the outcome of each day, far more than you would ever think.
Permit want the crab (or shrimp, jig or fly) where you want dinner when served in a fine restaurant. On the table and on the plate. While sightfishing, the combination of pinpoint casting and an entry with reduced noise into the water simply will catch the permit. Accuracy comes with off-water practice, and a minimal splash is best executed with a laser-like trajectory and then stoppage right in the bullseye. That’s perfect for single fish. One of the best places to cast into a school is right in the middle of the blackfins and white lips. Then, many fish will instantly compete, the landing usually dismissed as a disturbance that another fish has made.
— by Capt. Mark Krowka