Hunting for Permit with Capt. Charlie
Recently, while looking through my photo albums, a friend of mine came across some pictures of permit in the thirty to forty pound range. Before long, a permit trip became the topic of conversation - as in "when do you think we could go catch some of these?". Needless to say, it didnt take a lot of begging, so the next week we went to my favorite permit spot in Tampa Bay.
In order to effectively target permit, you need a lot of chum and of course bait that they will eat. For both chum and bait, I buy a lot of blue crabs. I prefer the pass crabs from Boca Grande, but it is a little too far to go for them, so small blue crabs are an OK substitute. Hermit crabs, shrimp, and sand fleas round out my live bait buckets as well as frozen bait of the same type. We also took a long -handled scraper to rasp barnacles from the pilings - this is a great fish attractor.
We tied up to a piling under the bridge and began chumming. I had Allen scraping barnacles while I baited three rods and set them out in the rod holders. This was only to get things started, because I have found that permit are gentle munchers generally and you need to be holding the rod in order to feel them and set the hook. They will not set the hook on themselves like many fish, instead they will eat your bait and spit out the hook just like a sheepshead. As soon as I had set the rod out, I began crushing up the frozen crabs, sand fleas and shrimp. Once I had a few gallons of them crushed up, Allen checked the rods and I began dribbling the chum mixture into the water. Sure enough, one of the rods had been cleaned off. We immediately re-baited it with a live flea and drifted it back into the chum line.
Almost immediately Allen had a fish. After a short but furious battle he boated a nice eight pounder while I hooked up with a larger fish. Mine came into the boat at twenty -one pounds and then the action abruptly stopped. We both sat for a few minutes with rods at the ready until I realized neither of us had been chumming for at least fifteen minutes! Since it was his trip, I put my rod in the holder and began chumming again. After a few minutes, I saw my rod tip jiggle and Allen lost a bait. He re-baited and we continued chumming and fishing.
We lost baits for another ten minutes until I told Allen to chum while I fished. I hooked one and handed the rod to him. Allen fought this one for almost twenty minutes before the twenty-nine pounder came to the boat. My friend was ecstatic - it turned out that he had only been permit fishing in the Keys with a fly rod, and had never even seen a fish on any of the trips he had been on. Today we had already boated three fish and lost several more, less than a thirty minute boat ride from his house.
We went on to catch and release twelve more permit that afternoon and of course set a date to do it again the following week.
Good fishing and tight lines,