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Permit Sport Fishing PHOTO GALLERY:
Islamorada Fishing Charters Florida Keys

Sport fishing for permit in Islamorada Florida Keys is excellent spring, summer, and fall. Permit fishing is strictly "sight fishing" whether we are fishing the flats or the wrecks. "Ten o'clock, fifty feet, cast now!" I excitedly utter. Your heart jumps and then you see that big 30 plus pound permit. You cast and watch the crab sailing through the air. Will it be on the mark? "Perfect, he's going for it, don't move it!" Your heart is pounding with anticipation. "Reel, reel, reel - he ate it!" Line tightens, rod bends deep, and the reel screams as that permit charges off on a 150 yard run.

Now your relieved, you finally made a good cast and the permit ate the bait. But now the fight of perils has just begun. There are lots of obstructions out there whether we are on the flats or wrecks. While fishing the flats, there can be large areas of sea fans and gorgonians which are nasty things to get wrapped up in. I have been known to dive into the water, before you realize what is happening, to unwrap the line from the base of a fan. Do not expect that to happen if its cool out! Around these fans can be some coral heads too, which some can come up close to the surface. If you get wrapped in one of these, your line will most likely get cut. And these areas are good for lobster fishing , so we can have a number of lobster traps that you got to steer the boat around keeping the line away from the floats and ropes.

Brace yourself, they will make a series of long runs. Each time you have to keep your rod up as high as possible, increasing the angle of the line so it does not get wrapped in something on the bottom. Now you can expect a 20 to 30 minute fight, and they have taken as long 45 minutes.

Permit are out in deep water on the the wrecks off the reef line in the Atlantic or out in the Gulf of Mexico during the late spring into early fall. We do not have the numerous perils of the flats, but they can get into the wreck, especially if the wreck stands quite high off the bottom. We can also get wrapped up in a lobster trap too. So catching them out there is a "tug of war," typically straight up and down. Permit are excellent fighters, very strong. So we use #30 test while fishing the wrecks, and # 15 test on the flats.

As big around as they are, they can be very hard for even an experienced angler to see. I've had clients having difficulty seeing a school of 50 permit on the surface. Their big silver sides reflect the water color around them, blending them in. Can you imagine what it's like trying to see one 2 to 3 feet down on the bottom? The dead give away though, is their big black forked tails and their black pectoral fins. But you got to know what to look for. Even if they are sticking the tips of their tails up out of the water 4" - 6" I've had clients having a tough time seeing them. Then you see them, your blood starts to rush!

Permit are one of our great sport fish here in the Florida Keys. The permit is one of the three fish that make up the original "Inshore Grand Slam" which consists of catching a tarpon, bonefish, and permit or snook (or any combination of the three) in a single day, and not returning back to port between fish. Truly a difficult angling feat. I have done it only twice (once with a client, Tony Carter, and once personally on fly rod, very difficult) and I have friends who have done it with clients.

To my consternation and other honorable fishermen, there are a number of ways that the significance of a "Grand Slam" is being minimized.

First, there is a number of tournaments here in the Florida Keys that are bastardizing the significance of a "Grand Slam." That is they qualify a "Grand Slam" as catching those three fish within the two or three day tournament, which I find absurd. It is surely not as difficult to catch a permit and bonefish one day, then a tarpon the next. This is in complete contrast to the significance of this great angling feat. Every year the papers here publish all these competitors as having caught "Grand Slams," and it is totally FALSE! Now some actually have, but the vast majority have not. So you can have novice anglers, finishing the tournament thinking and stating that they have caught a "Grand Slam."

Second, I have to report that there are a number of people out there claiming "Grand Slams" and they have done so by catching extremely juvenile fish, like one pound bonefish and half pound tarpon. I saw this when I managed "Casa Blanca" lodge in Ascension Bay, Mexico. There was a small isolated lagoon behind the lodge that the clients would go to by foot to catch an 8 inch to 12 inch tarpon after having caught a permit and of course many small bonefish (1 -3 lbs.). This is like hitting a "Grand Slam" in the "Pee Wee League" as an adult. Fish this size are not difficult to hook or catch, and it is just not right. It is a joke to see these photos in the magazines over the years of anglers posing with these juvenile fish and being touted as having made a significant catch. Now Ascension Bay does have good size bonefish (4 - 6 lbs., not many but most are 1 - 3 lbs.), some nice tarpon (50 - 80lbs. again not many and most are 5 - 30lbs.), and big permit (I saw a photo of  50 pounder, but most are small in the 1 - 10 lbs. range) so you can catch a respectable "Grand Slam," and an honorable angler will make that call when he does catch these fish. It may be a technical catch, but please do not disparage the "Grand Slam" with easy juvenile fish.

Also, Florida Sportsman and the State of Florida started promoting other types of "Grand Slams" which I think has just diluted the significance of the original "Slams." They did this to promote sport fishing in other areas of the state, which had to be done with different species local to that area which many of us just do not consider nearly as difficult as the original "Slams". For example, they include catching a king fish, cobia, grouper, snapper, sea trout and other similar species. Now all these species fight hard in their own ways, and I enjoy catching them too. But I'm sorry, these fish just are not as difficult to hook as the other original "slams." I am not trying to be an elitist, just a realist. And now the IGFA has gotten on the kick of these different "Slams" around the country, like a blue fish, bonita, and false albacore (what we call a bonita in Florida). I'm sorry, but this just does not make sense people. A "Grand Slam" will just be a common angling feat soon. I think good intensions are really going down the ever growing "PC" falling tide of "Bull Crap" that everybody is a winner and soon we all are a bunch of champions!

So now you known the about the "Inshore Grand Slam," and maybe you will one day join the clan, but if one claims to have captured a "Grand Slam," do ask these questions addressing these issues, you just might get a sheepish reply.

Now there are other "Grand Slams." The other original slam is the "Offshore Grand Slam", which is catching three different billfish in a single day, like a sailfish, white marlin, and a blue marlin. I say original because there were only two "Grand Slams," the "Inshore" and the "Offshore" for many years.

Now we also have "Super Grand Slams," which is catching four sport fish in a day. "Inshore" would be: tarpon, bonefish, permit, and a snook; and an "Offshore" (in the Atlantic) would be: blue marlin, white marlin, sailfish, and a swordfish or a spearfish or a hatchet marlin (or any combination, and the last two being more rare). In the Pacific it would be black marlin, blue marlin, strip marlin, and sailfish or a swordfish, or a spearfish (or any combination).

Wow, can you believe people have actually done that, a "Super Slam?" This is extremly difficult

Now unfortunately

 On the flats they will make long strong runs

The same applies while fishing the wrecks

It's about the same out on the wrecks, just not as severe. Those permit can get into the wrecks, especially if you hook a big one like pushing 40 lbs. And there can be some lobster traps around too.

for bonefish, permit, tarpon, redfish, snook, big sharks, and barracudas. I enjoy teaching the angler the skills needed to catch these fish whether on fly rod or spinning rod. Tailing bonefish are a thrill – where their “backs are out of water” - and I have one of the few skiffs that can get into that shallow of water here in Islamorada, Florida Keys.

We have the biggest and "bad-est" bonefish in the world. If you catch one of our big bonefish, you’ll never forget it. It will drag a dozen Central American or Bahamian bonefish ass backwards for a hundred yards. How’s that? Our bonefish average 8 – 10 lbs., and 11 to 13 pounders are caught almost regularly. A few bonefish of 14 or more pounds are caught every year here in Islamorada. We have the largest bonefish in the world as an average size, even larger than Lower Keys and Key West. Our bonefish are freight trains by comparison.

As an angler you must be ready for the challenge, " the hunt." When you do hook-up that big bonefish and it runs 150 to 200 yards across the flat and you finally bring the bonefish to the side of the boat, now you have made a "significant catch." Beware, you just might be hooked for life.

Now these big bonefish are no dummies. Our bonefish fishing is like the “Major Leagues,” and when you fish the flats immediately around Islamorada, called the “down town” flats which coincidentally have most of the big bonefish, this is like stepping into the “World Series.” These bonefish are the toughest to catch in the world. They can sense every mistake. They can see you turn your head 40 feet away – and they are gone! This may be frustrating to most anglers, but very challenging to others. It is not impossible though. And, if you get away from the monster bonefish on the "down tow flats," and fish the flats further away the bonefish are more approachable. A friend and I once caught on fly rods in a ¾ day 6 bonefish, 1 permit, and 1 tarpon (60 lbs.), which was my first “Grand Slam” on fly.

This is why I like fishing the "fall." The flats are practically vacant of anglers and angling pressure. I not only have my pick of almost any flat, but the bonefish take on a whole new character. The bonefish are calmer because there are only 10% of the people out there fishing for them. Now you have a much better chance of hooking up one of these great fish. One day a client caught 7 bonefish on bait. They were not the monsters of the "down town flats," but they were nice bonefish for our area.

Islamorada is the prime flats destination of the Keys if not the world. It has the largest average size bonefish (7 - 13 lbs.), permit (15 – 40 lbs.) and tarpon (60 - 180 lbs.), and there are great numbers of these fish so one can get countless shots on an average day of fishing. Islamorada also has an expansive area, from the ocean side flats of Key Largo south to Long Key and back north to Flamingo in the Everglades National Park. Back in the "Park" is where we fish for redfish and snook which average 4 - 12 lbs.

My boat is a 17-foot, stable skiff which draws a “measured” 9.5 inches with three big men in it. It is one of 22 boats made by the company "the Stalker", which was designed by a famous fly fisherman, the deceased John Emory Jr., good friend of Flip Pallot of Walker's Cay Chronicles.