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The permit is a saltwater game fish found in the western Atlantic Ocean. They often feed on crabs, shrimp, and small fish. They can reach a maximum length of 48 inches (122 cm) and can weigh up to 79 pounds (36 kg). Permit are a very popular game fish, and along with tarpon and bonefish, compromise “the Big Three” of flats fishing. Some anglers will say that permit is the most difficult to catch out of the three, and they may be right. Permit have the eyes of a hawk, incredible hearing, and a sense of smell similar to sharks.
Permit have laterally compressed bodies, making them appear somewhat flat when viewed from the front. Their fins and tails curve sharply, and their reflective greyish silver skin blends in perfectly with the water. Most often permit are spotted by their shadow, rather than the fish first. They range along the Atlantic Coast from Massachusetts in the US all the way down south to Brazil. The biggest populations occur along the Caribbean islands and the Gulf of Mexico.
Fishing for permit is usually pretty simple. You find the fish, cast to them, and hope that they bite it. Finding them is usually the easiest part, as they are common and love to hang out along reefs, inlets, the surf, and along the flats. You can catch permit with live bait, lures, jigs, or even fly fishing gear. No other special equipment is necessary, other than making sure whatever you use is heavy enough to handle a solid 30 to 40 pound fish with an attitude. Medium saltwater and fly fishing gear seem to work the best. An interesting thing about permit is that you can find them both in schools of large numbers, or solitary individuals by themselves. Depending on how you find them can determine how they will behave to your fishing methods. When they are along, permit tend to be super suspicious, spooky, and are famous for ignoring baits and flies. When they are in a large group, however, they tend to become much more aggressive. They have even been known to attack wading fishermen at times. Either way, when you do hook up to a permit, be expecting a great fight with a strong fish.
Permit can be caught from pretty much anywhere, whether it is offshore from a boat, the surf, or around structures like oil rigs. One of the best places to catch them is on the flats. Here it is one of the ultimate fishing challenges, as an angler will have to fool all the senses of a fish in order to catch it. In only 2 or 3 feet of water, sound travels better and the fish can see every move you make so an angler must be very careful and patient. This challenge is what draws many fishermen after these fish year after year. Fishing them here involves sight fishing, so you have to find a fish before it sees you. Schools of permit will fan out over the flats, so most of the time you will be targeting individual fish. You can wade out, use a shallow water boat, or kayak to get into the perfect positions to target them.
For many, catching a giant permit represents a lifetime achievement. Catching a permit of any size will give an angler bragging rights anywhere in the world, and an experience of a lifetime to remember. So if you have never thought about pursuing some permit, now might be a good time to reconsider it and get after an amazing fish!