“PERMIT POWER- Sight casting for the ultimate fighter” By Graeme Pullen.
There are three species that fall within the trio of hardest scrapping skinny water species. The Bonefish, that reel-emptying silver bullet that can dump 100 yards of 8lb mono in a flash. The “Silver King” or Tarpon. A massive scaled 6ft missile that explodes from the water as the hook is set. And the somewhat elusive Permit, a species of the Jack family, that possess that dogged, tuna-like fight and rod busting runs that put your heart in your mouth. The Bonefish can be caught in water as shallow as six inches; in fact it feeds in water that barely covers its back, but if you think they are easy to stalk and hook they are not. They are the species that bolt away almost mockingly as you make a clumsy cast. They are difficult from start to finish, but it’s only the shallow water that makes them this piscine nervous wreck. The same species in deeper water, say three feet, is much easier to catch. You can catch them by a method called “stakeup”, anchoring the boat and firing out several baits in a fanned area with frozen or fresh shrimp as bait. You still get the screaming runs, but don’t have the same tension as visually stalking them on the shallow flats.
The Tarpon are generally found in deeper channels of three to ten feet, cruising the edges of those same flats you catch the Bonefish on, but they are more a nocturnal feeder, with prime times for a take on dusk,dawn,or through the night, depending on the state of tide. They hit lures, flies, crabs and livebait, and around docks where they fillet a lot of carcasses they can be caught on pieces of trash bait, with belly strips of Dorado or Barracuda being favourite. The largest I hooked up was in a rental boat down in the Florida Keys off the Oceanside of Channel Two on Lower Matecumbe.We had chummed lots of fish carcasses, and I flipped a belly strip downtide to flow back with the tide. On hookup, the fish never showed, so I generously passed the rod to another angler who had never caught one before on the boat next to me. I “guesstimated” it at 60/80lbs. By the time an hour passed and it had towed them the other side of the bridge into the Gulf of Mexico, it was somewhat larger. Fortunately we transhipped the angler onto my rental boat, and we got it all on film. 160lbs no less. Into the boat, pictured and released, which of course you cannot do today without purchasing a Tarpon tag.
As for the Permit, well it falls pretty much between the two. It will move up onto the flats to feed in a couple of feet of water, but if you think that Bones are skittish, fishing for Permit can put you in therapy. But they can occasionally be taken along the edge of the channels, with their number one favoured food, a blue claw crab. I’ve had them on Bonefish rods and shrimp (stakeup for Bones) up to 17lbs, and fishing at night for Tarpon, they occasionally engulf a live Pinfish, my best being about 30lbs.But there is a place where they seem to lose all sense of caution. They still aren’t as suicidal as a Barracuda on a live Pilchard, but they are definitely catchable, and often several in a single session, with some huge specimens they will have you gasping. My son Mike had never seen a Permit, and having talked him out of a possible lobotomy from trying to catch one on the flats, it was a trip set up by Florida’s top angling guru, Richard Stanzyck that actually gave him his first Permit. We had been staying at the famed Bud n’ Mary’s Marina, a world class Mecca for anglers after any one of fifty species. We had something of a “spare” day, as the previous day had been a 14-hour session after Broadbill Swordfish aboard Nick Stanzyck’s B&M gameboat. We had enjoyed a blank, but by lunchtime were wondering what we could do with the day to salvage something. Richard is the “Mr. Fixer” of all things fishy, and he suggested we tag along with Greg Eklund, who was going offshore to look at a wreck in the Gulfstream. The day was flat calm, no breeze, the sun was directly overhead, and you would think very unfishy conditions. But Richard advised this was the perfect time for Capt Greg to do some sight fishing for the wreck Permit, allowing the best visibility to look down from the high Tuna tower, and spot the cruising Permit in the depths below.
The wreck we were to fish was called the “Eagle” which was sunk specifically to provide a site for recreational water users. The “Eagle” travelled from South America to Miami with various cargoes of scrap paper. Back in 1985, a fire spread through the vessel, originating in the electrical system, and with the ship being held in the Miami River the Insurance Company decided to write it off. Dive shops, Divers and the Monroe County Tourist Council raised $10,000 to buy and clean the ship, and on December 19th 1985 explosives sent her to the seabed in around 90 seconds. It now lies on its side over a sand bottom in 120 feet of water and the cargo areas are a magnet for all species of fish. The current always flows quite strongly over and around it, and its position is marked by buoys just out from Alligator Reef Lighthouse. Being so close to shore it receives quite a bit of visiting angler attention and on a glass calm day even the flats boats can run out to it safely.
As we slipped the mooring at Bud n’ Mary’s Marina and Greg eased the “Cloud Nine” down the channel to the open sea, I discovered I had been given the position of deckie, as this was only a casual few hours fishing, and I would have to take Greg’s commands from the tuna Tower as to where and when to make that critical cast. Now the pressure was really on, as along with my son Mike we had top marine photographer Ron along for a ride and a possible photo opportunity on a big Permit. Considering just an hour earlier we were wandering the docks wondering what to do with a fishless day we were now just delighted to be out on the water on a fabulous flat day with blazing sun. Capt Greg runs the “Cloud Nine “gameboat with the backup of experience in 42 countries, covering the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans. It is 48-foot long with a power pack of twin MAN 610hp engines. He is involved in the Keys Tournaments, which run to a high standard and emphasises the point that the harder you fish, the more you catch. Time off for Greg usually sees him archery hunting, but the only hunting on our day in question was over the wreck of the “Eagle”, where our quarry was any sickle-tailed silver specimen of 20/30lbs that we could hang a hook in.
When Greg throttled back we could already see a boat or two had been picking away at the occupants below, but I noted they had no tuna tower. A height advantage that allows Greg to look right down through the depths with polarising glasses in an effort to spot the shoal. Terminal tackle and bait was simplicity itself. A 20lb fixed spool spinning outfit, but loaded with 30lb mono as the moment the steel sets on a wreck Permit his target is the rusting hulk of the wreck. Anything lighter and you just pop them off. I gently worked the point of our single hook through the outside edge of our Blue Claw crab, checked the drag and put the bait in the live tank to keep it fresh while I waited for Greg to give me the target and its range. Our two anglers were relaxing in the shade while I had to stand out on the hot deck, praying that Greg would spot something.
“They’re deep “said Greg “they’ve been getting a lot of attention for the past two months and are about ready to leave the wreck in the next couple of weeks”.
After about twenty minutes Greg shouted down…”OK…I got them. Make a cast about 80 feet, at 2 O’clock. Then free spool the crab as it sinks”.
The cast was duly made, but was too much to one side. Then another shot, too far. Then too close. Eventually we got crab bait and Permit to coincide, and as Greg wound the tension up with “OK…get ready, they are coming for it”. He could actually see the take by the silver flash the Permit make as they roll and crunch the crab. I got the orders to lock up and wind, and as everything came tight I jammed the rod into Mike’s hands.
The biggest pleasure I got was not from the bent rod, but the fact I could now stand in the shade as Mike was battling it out in the sun. Greg gunned the boat to try and pressure the Permit away from the wreck as Mike’s reel started melting line, until eventually everything slowed. The Permit was away from the superstructure, and after a slug-it-out match Greg tail-lifts Mike’s first Permit, a super fish in the mid twenties. Job one done.
Now it was Ron’s turn, and we prayed the spooky Permit God would smile again. A first fish always eases everyone’s tension, so I set up with a crab again.
“Better tie on a lead head jig “shouted Greg, “it will get the crab deeper as those Permit are way down, I can barely spot them”.
The added weight of the jig made casting a lot easier, and Greg found the shoal at the opposite end of the wreck
”There’s some big Permit down that deep Graeme, I can’t see them flash at that depth, you’ll have to decided yourself if one has got it”.
Great, I need some extra pressure.
Second cast out is long, 100 feet with a big crab. It flies through the air in an arc and sends big ripples out in the flat calm. In the clear water of the Gulfstream Greg can see it going down
”Deeper, feed line out slowly; don’t even twitch the rod top, I don’t want them to see any movement at all”.
A minute seemed an eternity.
“OK Graeme I don’t see the bait, you’ll have to judge for yourself”.
I feel a bump, flip the bale arm over and crank the stretch out before ramming the hooped rod into Ron’s hands. Now then, I’ve hooked the odd fish or two over almost 50 years travelling the globe, but let me tell you, as Greg gunned “Cloud Nine” away from the wreck this enormous fish took off like a heat seeking missile, screaming drag like you wouldn’t believe. The “Holy fxxxs” drowned out the roar of the engines as ¼ spool went, 1/2 spool went, 3/4 spool went, and I mean this was on 30lb test, and I had also tweaked Ron’s drag up a turn. I have never in my life ever seen an entire spool of 30lb test rip out, and I promise you Ron’s hands never even moved from the rod foregrip to take a single turn on the reel handle. As those last few yards of line peeled off “its Goooiiiingggg!!!” The stop knot was reached, the tip slammed down, Ron staggered to the stern and there was a noise like a pistol shot. Silence in disbelief, and then laughter, mostly in admiration at the incredible power of this fantastic fish.
”We get some 50-plussers out here, and that was definitely one of those guys” shouted Greg.
Another jig was tied on, and Greg assured us that he would have to get back as he was going out. One more cast, and again with the jig. Pressure on for poor Ron? I certainly thought so. At Greg’s command I made the cast, let it sink, felt the bump, and locked up, passing the rod to Ron. This time we got Lady Luck on our side and after a permanently bent rod, Greg finally netted the fish.Superb,at 25 /30lbs.Ron got his picture of the Permit, and as we planed back towards Bud n’ Mary’s the babbling conversation was all about the “big fifty”, or maybe would it be the “big sixty “after a few beers? With anglers you can never tell, but all I know is that I couldn’t keep my hand on the reel spool afterwards where the drag had cranked up the casing to melting point. And all this happened because Richard Stanzyck saw us at a loose end, wandering the dock looking sad. Now we had beaming smiles and babbling stories. And if you want to try for a giant Permit you really should give Capt. Greg Ecklund and the “Cloud Nine” a call. You don’t even need a full day fishing. A dozen crabs and half a day could get you the fish of a lifetime. “PERMIT POWER”….I love it.
Contact Greg Ecklund-(305)360-7476(Cellphone) or try firstname.lastname@example.org
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