Finally, some seasonally warm tropical weather has trended into South Florida and made the existing good fishing even better. Tarpon and bonefish are still readily available, but it’s the wide-bodied and sought after trophy permit that have really amped things up throughout the Keys. These broad sided and belligerent gamesters are found in channels, on edges and during higher tides, on the very tops of flats as they search for their favorite food item, a crunchy bite-sized crab. All of the following catches were made from the Maverick 18 HPX.
Bill Curley from PA destroyed an 85 pound tarpon only 10 minutes after it inhaled a small floating crab on 20 pound spin. As morning weather worsened he picked up an 8 pound spinning outfit and added on 5 speedy bonefish from 2-4 pounds. All silver bullets fell for fresh live shrimp on 1/0 bronze offset hooks.
Rick Kaye from IL & grandson Justin Frank used live crabs to defeat tarpon of 110 and 170 pounds with 20 pound spin and 60 pound fluorocarbon leader material on 5/0 Mutu light wire hooks. They also caught a 125 pounder on a dead mullet. These girthy females were all taken near Lignum Vitae Key. They also released a 3 pound bonefish taken on live shrimp.
Connor Norris and friend Justin Cassius both from Hollywood used live shrimp in blustery conditions to catch 3 bones from 2-5 pounds with a bycatch of 12 frisky bonnet sharks. They used a small live crab to land a tough 22 pound permit. The next day, Connor teamed up brother Hayden to catch a 3 pound bonefish on shrimp, a whopping 32 pound permit on a quarter sized live crab and then at the very end of the day, a tremendous 150 pound tarpon for a sibling slam!
Rich Barnett from NC smoked a 90 pound tarpon in just minutes on crab with 17 pound test spinning before sunrise. With improving visibility he took 2 twenty pound tarpon on fly. He threw a nine weight Crosscurrent with floating clear tipped Air Flow line and a high riding shrimp pattern and 40 pound mono shock leader. The next day, Barnett was 4 for 8 on bonefish again with the flyrod, while heaving a rubber clawed merkin tied by Capt. Joe Rodriguez. He was fishing two feet of water near Crane Key in the Lower Keys.
Alan Routman from Ft. Lauderdale started his day going 1 for 2 on tarpon with crabs catching a 100 pounder. He nailed a 2 pound bone on live shrimp from scattered small groups on one of the edges of the Swash. Then he gunned down a single 25 pound permit on a grassy point near Upper Matecumbe. Early in the afternoon, while searching for more permit, a 250 pound bull shark arrogantly swam by the bow and revealed 2 stealthy passengers in tow. Alan’s crab landed amidships on the big bull and was instantly eaten and he reeled up a colorful slightly undersized cobia.
Steve Feltus from Ft. Lauderdale & Mike Tesoriero from Palm City were a perfect 4 for 4 before 7:00a.m. catching tarpon of 90, 110, 115, and 130 pounds on tennis ball size live crabs and 17 pound spin. They found mudding bones near Lower Matecumbe and used shrimp to catch three, between 2-4 pounds. They slammed out by catching a 10 pound permit also on live shrimp. The next morning, Feltus added a giant 32 pound permit that sucked in a small live crab.
Kevin Samuelson and Tyson Read from Ellinsburg, WA picked off 110 pound tarpon (Kevin’s inaugural) predawn on live crab then a 20 pound permit also on crab, two bonefish and a mutton on shrimp by 8:15 a.m. for a very early super slam! Kevin’s wife Jamie hosted her father, Del Bankston the next day and Del took his very first bone on live shrimp in the vicinity of Cotton Key. Jamie challenged and defeated a wild 140 pound tarpon that obliterated a silver dollar size live crab. Kevin next took out his father Curt and watched him battle his very first tarpon for over an hour, a massive 180 pounder that was released near the Peterson Keys. Kevin later caught his first flyrod tarpon, a high jumping 85 pounder that sipped a tiny red worm fly tied on a #1 Owner hook.
Jim Pitts and Bob Puccinelli from Tampa, were busy, catching 2 tarpon of 80 and 65 pounds before 6:00 a.m. on small live crabs. They pulled in twin 2 pound bones on live shrimp and then 3 mutton snappers on a channel edge near the Ashby Keys. Pooch & Pitts capped the day off with a 14 pound permit and then a 34 pounder both on crabs for a double super slam! On day two, they banged a 100 pound tarpon and an 8 pound permit on crabs, then pulled out another 2 pound bonefish on shrimp and a mutton for another super slam by 8:10 a.m., an all time boat record!
Maverick Tip: It is frequently alarming to watch valuable permit (and many other gamefish) mishandled both in person and on video. Permit are solar powered and hardy fish. Rocking them forward and backward is not optimal for their survival rate. This method fatigues rather than rejuvenates. A side to side motion is better, but with permit, hitting the ground running is nearly foolproof. At first it might appear politically incorrect. Make sure it’s deep enough, hold the fish 2 feet off the waters’ surface, high enough for some well aimed straight and directly forward thrust, yet low enough to not cause any impact injury. Guide the fish in head first, and it will almost immediately hit healthy mach.
– by Capt. Mark Krowka