How To Sneak Up On A Permit – Boating & Tackle Techniques

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written by staff writer

Catching permit is a worthy challenge for any angler. These gamefish are often skittish, so it takes a savvy combo of tackle and tactics to land a permit. Luckily, we have some tips from Captain Tom Rowland, host of Saltwater Experience. Not only has he landed thousands of permit for himself and other anglers, but these silver dollars just happen to be his favorite fish.

THE MOST IMPORTANT THING ABOUT PERMIT FISHING FROM A BOAT IS TO BE QUIET. CONSTANT ALTERING OF THE SPEED IS ALARMING TO THE FISH... KEEP THE TROLL MOTOR ON A LOW SETTING AND TAKE YOUR TIME IN GETTING TO THE FISH.
— Tom Rowland from Saltwater Experience

Boat control and trolling

The most important thing about permit is the entire boat needs to be quiet. Everyone on board needs to be careful of noisy feet - even slamming hatches, and a wave slapping against the hull will prevent you from catching a permit. Many anglers pigeon-hole themselves by trying to catch shallow water fish because they are not confident in finding permit unless their tails come out of the water. Tailing fish are very exciting because it is such a visual experience seeing a big tail come out of the water.  This excitement comes at a price though. The water is actually too shallow for the permit to swim in and that is why his tail comes out of the water when he feeds. The shallower the water, the more spooky these fish will be. I find that permit are much more comfortable and willing to eat either a fly or crab if I can find them where they are more comfortable, in 3-6 feet of water. Approach slowly and quietly in areas you believe permit will be feeding like the deeper edge of a good bonefish flat. Be ready to stop the boat quietly with a Power-Pole or stake out anchor when you see the fish and position yourself for the best possible shot.

Flats boats are not the only type of boats that anglers are successful with permit. There are new breeds of boats coming out yearly that allow anglers quality shots at permit. Tom & Rich use a 24 Yellowfin Bay boat with a Motorguide trolling motor and twin Power-Poles to land plenty of permit throughout the year - more than they have when they use to have a skiff. However, with a little larger boat, it is very important to have a mechanism to stop the boat swiftly and silently. On the Saltwater Experience boat they have 2 Power Poles to anchor when they are in shallow water. When targeting permit offshore, they use their Motorguide trolling motor's “Anchor Mode”  to stop the boat and hold position quietly. When talking about a stealthy approach both inshore and offshore, Rowland says “I suggest using the trolling motor on a consistent setting. Constant altering of the speed is alarming to the fish but anglers can get very close to fish by keeping the motor on a low setting and taking their time in getting to the fish.” Approach the permit from upwind if possible to help make sure the cast is long enough and be ready to stop the boat as soon as you see the fish. Stopping the boat creates a distance between you and the fish and also prevents the boat from inadvertently running over the quarry.

When you are poling, be sure to have an athletic guide who will pole into any amount of wind throughout the entire day. “Permit guiding for flyfishing is a physically demanding, mentally challenging activity. It is definitely not for everyone and only a few of the guides that you see on the dock are even capable of poling as hard or as long as may be required for consistent flyfishing success.” says Rowland.

Techniques with a spinning rod

There are many techniques that need to be mastered for an angler to be successful with permit. The first of which is casting a long distance. Permit can be easily scared off so the boat will sometimes need to be a long distance from the fish. Practice hitting a target at 50 feet at the minimum. Casting with just one hand is not very effective. Keep your top hand at the reel and your bottom hand at the end of the handle. “When the cast is made, the top hand will push the rod to the target while the bottom hand pulls the handle to the body. The result is far greater loading ability in the rod and far greater casting distance” explains Rowland.  Spool spinning rods with braided line and a fluorocarbon leader to get maximum distance.

ACCURACY IS ALSO IMPORTANT AND CAN BE ACCOMPLISHED WITH THE SAME TECHNIQUE.  PLACING THE INDEX FINGER OF THE TOP HAND ON THE ROD POINTING TOWARD THE TARGET AS YOU RELEASE THE LINE FROM THE TRIGGER FINGER.
— Tom Rowland

If you can minimize the impact of the bait on the water, this will also give you success. This can be accomplished by casting low and hard directly at your target. Rowland’s tip while doing this is, “While the bait is on the way to the target, raise the rod to a 12:00 position and feather the line to minimize impact.” With some practice you can easily make a live shrimp or live crab land as gently as a fly.

Saltwater Experience S14:E2 "Captains For Clean Water"

Saltwater Experience S14:E2 "Captains For Clean Water"

Keep the permit around

Tom Rowland and Rich Tudor recently had success with permit when taking out Captain Daniel Andrews from Captains for Clean Water. While you can see the techniques explained above and you can also help to make sure we can fish for permit in the future. Right now Florida has a major water quality issue, the two largest of these as stated by Andrews are, “water quality, and plumbing issues.” Freshwater that used to flow from Everglades and Lake Okeechobee south is now being rerouted causing damage by creating algae blooms where it is being released by too much freshwater while in Florida Bay the water is becoming far too saline due to the lack of freshwater. “The solution is pretty simple, it is to create more water storage and treatment from the Everglades and Lake Okeechobee,” says Andrews.

Captains for Clean Water was founded in the spring of 2016. They provide resources so that anglers can find out the best ways in which they can help clean up the water they hold dear. Go see captainsforcleanwater.org to see how you can help out today.

that really nice permit we caught is an incredible reminder of what we have left, and why we need to work hard to protect that.
— Daniel Andrews from Captains For Clean Water

See more techniques, and also more about Captains for Clean Water in Saltwater Experience S14:E2 "Captains For Clean Water"

S14:E2 - “Captains For Clean Water”