Permit is considered by most anglers to be one of the more sought after and challenging fish in the Florida Keys. Although Permit are more plentiful in Florida Keys waters then in most destinations, they’re not so easy to catch. That’s what makes them so much fun and challenging to go after.
Permit are related to Pompano but can get up to 5 times their size and fight like they are on steroids. Good news; they are very good eating. Bad news ; it is considered sacrilegious to ever kill one on flats. They are extremely more valuble as a sportsfish then in the pan. Tarpon, Bonefish, and Permit are all part of a multi-million dollar recreational sportfishing industry in the Florida Keys. Bonefish Tarpon Trust fund is fighting to protect them during their spawning months in deeper water on wrecks and rock piles in the spring.
You’ll recognize Permit by their very oval shape, very pointed tail-fins, dorsal and anal fins. They also have a slight bit of yellow coloration along the bottom of their stomachs and black on the tips of their fins. What you do notice, because of their rather rotund shape, is the light reflecting off their long sickle tail as they forage for crusteceans on the ocean floor .
Permit love crabs and their mouths are structured to crush them. The bigger the permit, the bigger the crabs they eat. But they also like other crustaceans such as shrimp, and sometimes smaller fish.
Most Permit in the Florida Keys Backcountry and up on the Flats average around 10-35 lbs. Pound for pound, their tenacity after being hooked is unrivaled on the Flats. This is a saltwater MUST for your bucketlist. To quietly stalk, accurately cast, and fight this bulldog of the flats to boatside is a proud accomplishment for most anglers. You’ll find them in shallower tropical waters, grass flats, around reefs, wrecks, channels and sandy beaches and spawning in great numbers on rock piles and wrecks in deeper water. They are most vulnerable during spawning in great numbers during the spring and hopefully someday will have complete protection at that time. Completely different animal on the flats. Individually they are very wary and shy in the very shallow water, making a quick accurate cast challenging and fun. Cast too close, you spook them. Don't cast close enough, they don't see it.
You can fish for Permit any time of the year although a very bad cold front can shut them down till the next warming trend, which usually is within a few days in Key West. The best way to find them is to get an early morning start and be where they are when the sun comes up. Watch for their fins cutting the water (called tailing) or cruising the edges of channels, waiting for the rising incoming tide to hop up onto the flat. You’ll need a sharp eye but, of course, Capt. Mike will know what to look for, and help point your rod tip in the right direction.
All in all, the Permit is one of the most amazing fish to target…. they’re mysterious, exciting to find, a challenge to catch! They’ll offer the fight of a fish normally twice their size. Considered to be Fly fishing's toughest quarry. Some flyfishermen will never catch one in their lifetime but cherish their time spent in pursuit of the ultimate quarry on the Flats.