This time of year we get a shot at one of the premiere gamefish of the subtropical water, permit. As the spring tides and warm water on the southwest coast of Florida take over, permit invade the close reefs and wrecks in search of forage—crustaceans in particular. As the stronger tides flush out critters from the flats adjacent to the passes, a smorgasbord of goodies drift toward the Gulf reefs. Among the favorites of permit, cobia, and tarpon are the pass crabs; pass crabs are a win-win bait situation.
Permit are in the pompano family and, like their lesser cousins, they are mad for crabs—pass crabs, small blue crabs. mole crabs (sand fleas), and other crusty critters.Big handpicked shrimp will do for permit as well. Cracked blue crabs can be substituted in a jam for other smaller offerings.Crab sections presented on a white or tanbucktail jig are a favorite in theKeys and points south. Crushed crabs, shrimp, and fiddler crabs make for a tasty and attractive chum.
Here on our Gulf waters, pass carbs are number one, with crab sections a close second. If you're lucky enough to get into a mob of hungry permit fresh in from the offshore haunts, pass crabs will be gobbled up in a hurry, so having a "Plan B" is in order. Recently crews have reported that shrimp and jig rigs have taken permit when the fray gets going and you're short on crabs. Even more interesting is the use of Gulp Shrimp in a variety colors, biggermay be better; Gulp crab imitations work as well
A good tactic is to keep the permit active once they're located; chum and multiple presentations will keep anglers in the fray.
Twenty pound outfits with a strong drag, braided 20 lb. line, and a generous length of 20–30 fluorocarbon leader material are advised. A rod in the 7–8ft. length with a fast tapperand somewhat soft tip will help in landing thesehunky speed demons. They will make powerful runs away from the boat. I prefer circle hooks that match the hatch; generally a 6/0 will work on a medium to small pass crab. Bring along an ice pick or finishing nail to puncture the carapace and help avoid dulling your hook point. Anchor close to the structures and eyeball the reefs at all times, be ready to cast to moving fish as well as soaking a crab or big shrimp.
Capt. Ron Kowalyk: 239-267-9312