Permit a Plenty
My angling buddy Kyle and myself recently had quite a morning. We had decided to fish in water around Big Pine that had shown us good days before. Our particular spot for this day had previously yielded four distinct flats species at different times; tarpon, redfish, bonefish, and permit were all a possibility within a short, 15 minute paddle of the launch site.
Winds were light, tides were right, and we splashed our kayaks in the water with anticipation. Baits for the day were small crabs, shrimp (for tipping jigs), and a few different soft jerk baits for tarpon.
Things got interesting in a hurry. Within minutes of getting to our first spot, the top part of a permit’s tail pierced the surface of the water. The fish was just out of my casting range, but approached me with the slow, lazy movements of a “feeder”. What luck! I waited a few seconds to make sure I had a bead on the fish’s direction and orientation. I didn’t want to blow a perfect opportunity at a terrific fish. The only decision to make was how close to put my live crab offering. Too close and I might spook the permit from the splash of the crab hitting the water; too far away and the fish might not see it. I aimed for a spot about 2 feet in front of him, and the reaction was immediate. He rushed the crab and tailed hard. I lifted the rod tip and it was FISH ON!
The tussle was solid, and completely permit-like. Three or four strong runs and a lot of bulldogging later, I brought him aboard. Kyle snapped a few photos and I let Mr. Permit swim away, probably a bit smarter for his trouble.
Literally seconds after releasing my fish (a fine 15+ pounder, by the way), Kyle calmly said, “Well damn, there’s two more”, and tossed his crab out. The water boiled, his rod bowed over, and his reel started belting out a steady, high pitched
whine. Immediately, the water exploded all around us and at least 25 large permit, spooked from seeing their brother in distress, or perhaps from seeing the shadows of our kayaks, went blasting away from us for the safety of deeper water. We had been sitting on a plethora of big permit and didn’t even know it! From all the line it was ripping off his reel, I surmised Kyle’s fish was large. This was awesome - back to back permit, in the first hour, while fishing from kayaks. This spot was working out quite nicely. Kyle expertly played the fish down and brought him alongside. With a quick tail grab, Kyle raised up a gorgeous permit, well over 20 pounds, and grinned broadly. It was now my turn to snap some photos.
As the morning progressed, we managed to land two more smaller permit, making 4 for the day, hooked and lost a bonefish, and got shots at rolling tarpon. ‘Twas a fine summer morning in the Lower Keys.
Permit fishing in the Keys just continues to get better. And October has historically been a month I’ve scored some of my largest permit, and bonefish too. So grab a few crabs, or tie on your favorite crab / shrimp fly and test your mettle against one of the wariest fish anywhere - the elusive, skittish, but oh-so-rewarding fork-tailed devil of the flats, the Florida Keys permit!
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