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On flats, permit are top target

June 3, 2016
By Capt. GEORGE TUNISON (captgeorget3@aol.com) , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

Chances are when thinking of Southwest Florida fishing one normally thinks of chasing inshore fish like tarpon, trout, snook, or redfish or grouper for the offshore guys.

The permit often is thought of as an exotic fish available only in the Keys or some very remote and expensive fly-in fishing lodge halfway around the world. Actually, a permit is just another member of the hard fighting jack family that's wearing a chrome suit and sporting a big appetite.

On the flats of the world the permit is a top target or Holy Grail for experienced salty fly anglers and a fly caught permit is something to be proud of. Fishing flats with access to a nearby channel or fast dropoff is a good place to start your permit flats hunt. When hunting the flats fish like permit and bonefish get great comfort from knowing there is a deep water escape route nearby.

Article Photos

Capt. George Tunison

New to this area, anglers are often surprised that permit fishing is even available, and at times pretty hot. Not so much on the inshore flats side, but on nearshore and offshore reefs and wrecks.

During spring through early summer permit migrate to these offshore structures, and are ready to eat. This migration occurs on both coasts all through the permit's range.

At this time they are more accessible to all anglers as they form giant schools around or near structure.

Sometimes a school of permit will be seen on top with dorsal fins cutting the surface as you approach your hotspot or found on your electronics suspended in the water column several feet below.

When going permit fishing make sure to bring this fancy jack's favorite food, which is a small 2-3 inch live crab that can be cast on spinning tackle. Backup bait would be a large handpicked lively shrimp. For the offshore fly angler most crab patterns will do the trick when using a sink tip line or a floater if the fish are at or near the surface around the structure.

Rig the crab many different ways with a simple lead head jig through the corner of the crab's shell being the easiest and probably most effective rigging method. Crabs can also be bridled with rigging wire or put in a rubber band harness which keeps the crab alive because the shell is not pierced.

Always best to carry a file to touch up the hook point after piercing the crab's tough shell.

When you get a hook-up, expect long powerful runs and a hard fight, all the way back to the boat. After all this, it's still a jack.

For the hardcore fly type looking for a trophy permit on the flats you don't have to travel too far to be in excellent permit country. Biscayne Bay and areas around Miami host excellent skinny water permit fishing on down to Big Pine, all the way to Key West

For the wading angler, flats as well as bridge access is offered in many locations throughout the Keys. Surprisingly good bone fishing as well as tarpon and permit angling can be enjoyed by simply pulling the car over and grabbing a rod. Consult local tackle stores and watch for other anglers as you journey south.

Here, the permit isn't always a long distance target as they are available right now on close reefs as well as distant numbers.

While traveling make sure to throw your permit crab at that big cobia or pod of tarpon.

Over slot snook and redfish are being caught on nearshore reefs as well as in the passes.

Stake out along the beaches and watch for early morning rolling tarpon. Pinfish and small crabs under a small float are a good bet.

Fish the passes and bridges at night for a jumbo snook of a lifetime caught on a live mullet or ladyfish.

Capt. George Tunison is a Cape Coral resident fishing guide. Contact him at 239-440-1621 or captgeorget3@aol.com, or www.flyingfinssportfishing.com.

 
 
 

 

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