Targeting Permit in the East Region with Capt. Mike Holliday

September is not one of the top months for permit in my region, although we do catch a fair number of these fish. The best permit months in the East Region are from April through August, although we catch them year-round and do see a lot of the smaller fish mingling with the pompano schools in the winter months.
The permit in my region are either big or small, and the schools usually don’t mingle. The larger fish average around 25-pounds, and fish over 40-pounds are common, while the smaller fish that travel with the pompano are usually under 8-pounds. We’ll see some fish in the 10-20 pound class in the summer as well, usually around the inlets on the outgoing tides.
Targeting the small permit is a hit-or-miss proposition where you fish the beaches for pompano using live or frozen sandfleas, 14-foot rods and 15 pound monofilament with a 30-pound shock leader and 1/0 Khale or circle hook. You’re targeting pompano and the permit come as incidental catches along the beaches.
The larger permit are found swimming along the beaches, inlets and nearshore wrecks and reefs, where they travel in large schools of anywhere from 60 to 1,000 or more fish. They migrate into the area in the springtime and often move to the nearshore wrecks to spawn. You’ll also find singles, pairs and small pods of 3-6 fish along the shallow patch reefs in anywhere from 8 to 25 feet of water throughout the region.
Around the inlets permit gather to feed on the outgoing tide, which is when the crabs, shrimp and other morsels are pulled to sea by the tide. I’ve caught permit on shrimp, crabs and even a finger mullet, but these fish definitely prefer a live blue or pass crab.
Permit like the heat, and are most active and up on the surface during the hottest part of the day. Most of the permit fishing I do is sight fishing where we look for individual fish or schools of fish and then cast to those fish.
For tackle, I like 30 pound spinning gear and a rod with a fast action. The softness of the rod tip will allow you to make a long cast with a live crab, and still put the heat on a big fish. I use a Quantum Cabo 60 spinning reel with either a Quantum Boca 30 pound rod or a Fox International Permit Travel Rod. Both are good for casting a crab a long distance and putting a lot of heat on a fish that is trying to break off on the reef or wrecks.
I like 30 or 40 pound Sufix clear fluorocarbon leader and Sufix 832 Braided line or Sten Ultracast in 30 pound. I like the Hi-Vis colors when permit fishing so I can keep track of where the fish and line are at all times. To the leader I tie a 3/0 Bass Assassin ¼- or 3/8 ounce chartreuse colored jighead. I really like the super strong hooks on these jigheads. They’re sharp and will penetrate a crab without dulling or creating a lot of trauma which in turn keeps the bait lively, and even with 30-pound braided line, they won’t straighten out. You can also fish the crabs without the jig using a 3/0 VMC circle hook.
When casting crabs at schooling fish, you want to make sure you lead the fish so that they don’t see the crab land in front of them. There are no gifts from God in permit fishing—crabs do not fall out of the sky—and the permit will spook if you cast right on their heads. Lead the fish 20-30 feet, and let the jig and crab fall. The fish will eat the bait as it’s falling.
If you feel a light tap-tap-tap, set the hook. That’s a permit crushing the crab. They’ll crush it up and spit out the shells (and your hook or jig along with it), so if you feel the tapping, see the line jump, straighten out or move, come tight and hang on.
You can also catch permit on a shrimp and jig combination, and the fish will also eat the standard pompano jigs like the HookUp 3/8-ounce pompano jig in yellow with a chrome head. For flies, the standard crab patterns work occasionally at best, and the most productive are those that dive for the bottom almost immediately upon hitting the eater.
Permit are one of those gamefish that don’t give up, even at the end. When you grab the by the tail they’ll still take you for a ride. They’re supposedly good to eat, but the one that I’ve eaten was underwhelming, which is why I suggest releasing any permit you catch.


 

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