Targeting Permit In The Southwest Region With Capt. Ron Hueston

The one thing permit really like is hot weather, so August is a primo month to target these fish in my region. In fact, it seems like a lot of days the best fishing is during the hottest part of the day, from noon until about 3 p.m. That’s when the fish will get up on the surface in schools and moon, flash and bob, and are easy to see from a distance.

The best wrecks in my area for permit in August are going to be from Marco Island to Boca Grande in anywhere from 15 to 30 feet of water. Permit really like clean, clear water. In this region the bull sharks and Goliath grouper prey on the hooked permit, so they get pretty spooky when the water gets dirty. They’re also difficult to spot in dirty water, particularly if they’re down eight or ten feet.

Our permit fishing is a run-and-gun type of fishery where you run from one wreck to the next looking for fish, and when you find them you throw live crabs at them. Sometimes the permit school will be on the surface and other times they’ll be down deep, in which case you’ll want to use your bottom machine to look for them. They look like a school of perfectly round plates on the sonar. If you have side-scanning sonar, you can drift over the top of the wreck and look at either side to get an idea of the school is swimming around the wreck, and then if you spot them, cast to that side.

We target the permit with 4,500 to 6,000 size spinning reels, 7 foot medium-heavy to heavy action rods and 30 to 50 pound braided line. In the clear water you want to fish a 30 pound fluorocarbon leader, but in the dirtier water you can get away with 40 pound test. Start heavy and then go lighter if you’re not getting the bite.

The average permit in my region runs 14 to 18 pounds, but fish to 30 pounds are very common. These are strong fighting fish, so expect to spend 10 to 20 minutes fighting every fish. When you hook a permit it’s going to try to swim down and cut you off on the wreck, so the heavier line and leader you can use the better the odds you can stop the fish from breaking you off.

Permit are crustacean eaters, so live crabs or jumbo live shrimp are the baits of choice. You can freeline them with a 4/0 to 6/0 circle hook depending on the size of the bait, or you can also use a ¼- to 3/8-ounce chartreuse or red colored jighead if the fish are below the surface. You want to pay attention to the hooks on your jigheads. If they’re not strong, the fish will straighten them out on you, so try to use hooks and jigheads that have a stout gauge wire hook, and you’ll lose less fish.

Most anglers who target permit anchor up at the wrecks, and if that’s your plan you’ll want to have a quick release buoy, so you can drift away from the wreck if you hook a fish, and then come back to the exact same spot. There are two strategies for drawing a hooked permit away from the wreck: using a light drag and slowly coaxing the fish away from the structure; and using a heavy drag and reeling with the rod tip in the water to muscle the fish away. Both have their merits, and the strategy you choose is a personal option.

Captain Tips