Key West Permit

Permit fish have what could be called an “identity crisis”: they’re often mistaken for their “almost twin,” the Florida pompano.
To tell a permit from a pompano, it helps to know that permit can be twice as long as pompano and several times the weight of their doppelganger. Permits often can run from 15 to 20 pounds. Lengths of up to three feet are not uncommon.

For smaller permit, check to see if the fish has an orange patch on its chin, belly or fins. If it does, it’s probably a pompano.

Permit isn’t a dainty fish, and can easily top 50 pounds (although the average tends to hover between 15-18 pounds). In fact, the permit that hang out near the Keys tend to be the largest on Earth.

Permit love wrecks, oil platforms, artificial reefs, even sand flats (where their favorite food – crab – hangs out) and grass. They like deep channels and inshore holes.

Permit is popular with recreational fishermen. More than 135,000 pounds were caught by recreational and commercial anglers in 2008. (Pompano are more popular, with 932,797 pounds caught that year by both commercial and recreational fishermen.)

Permit can be more of a challenge than catching tarpon, bonefish or another sport fish that also enjoy the flats. The best time to fish for permit is during spawning season (April-October), although it’s possible to catch them all year.

Permit like the flats because that’s where their favorite food hangs out – the aforementioned crab. They fan out in the shallow water to hunt for the crustacean, although you’re more likely to find them near rock outcroppings, shallow potholes, channel markers, and shallow channels.

As for their taste in bait, permit like their bait live and they ignore flies (they have very good eyesight and know live bait from artificial). They love crabs and mollusks and your best bet for bait is a silver-dollar-sized blue crab.

Use either a fly tackle or a spinning tackle. If you use spinning tackle, use a braided line of 10- or 12-pounds or monofilament. If using braid, use a 20-pound leader.

Fix your bait with a 2/0 J-hook by working the hook’s point through and out of one of the points of the crab’s shell. Place the live crab into the water but put the rod pointing down until you see a permit and cast then.

Once hooked, get ready for a good fight. Permit fight hard for their size and are able to make quick moves in different directions.