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Permit Fishing Key West; "The Twilight Zone"

Report Date: September 4, 2003


Leaving the Key West Bight on this sultry September afternoon, I explained to my customer that Phsycologist should consider Permit Anglers for a case study. Permit fisherman have this innate ability endure all conditions for a shot at a fish. One might stand all day, perched atop the casting deck in 90 degree heat with no breathe of air, while wiping the sweat from his brow. . A guide and his anglers might dare to cross the Northwest Channel in strong north winds against a tide with seven-foot swells. Just to reach the Lakes where they can find shelter from an island and perchance find Mr. Permit.

On this day, the winds were less than variable. The sun was not an option, as for the visibility, 40ft or less. due to high clouds from the tropical depression just south of us. However, I knew the tide and for two hours we would have unbelievable Permit fishing. We would have to fish tails, and or nervous water, due to this lock down cloud cover. Now heading to a special place west of Key and no I?m not speaking of the Marquesas. This place has been host to many caught and released Permit for Jon and I over the years. Arriving at this spot at about half past five, I trimmed the motor up and pulled onto the flat. The visibility was about thirty feet in front of us if I polled with the sun at my back. The water appeared to look like the mirage you might see on the road while driving through the high desert mountains in August. The Ocean was still as a freshly drawn bath, only a slight ripple to drift past us that we had created when we motered in ten minutes ago. Two hours before the sunsets this place will come alive with fish. The ?twilight zone?, as I?ve grown to call it. Imagine for a moment that these Permit are deer and they are going to the lake to drink water just at sun down. Well these Permit come out of the deeper channels and onto the flat to feed at the twilight hour.

The first tails came up an hour after we arrived at the spot, and very ready we where. Now Jon, once we are in range you need to throw the crab past this fish ten feet and slowly wind the crab back to him. With this calm water we have to take all precautions approaching these Permit. Once in range Jon raised his arm to make the cast and the Permit spooked. Not uncommon in the world of Permit fishing. Now out in front of us about 100yrds away, another large disturbance of water. Perhaps a large school of Bones, however, I?m guessing Permit. Taking some time to get in range, Jon and I laughed about the intensity of this type of Permit fishing. Not a breath of air, watching bait fish splash at 250yrds away, silent enough to hear each others stomach churn as we approached this next group of fish. Lets just fish this nervous water like they are Permit, and if they are not we have nothing to lose. I want you to take this cast at your max. Range Jon. Throwing far in front of these fish and let them swim to the crab. Now, take the cast Jon! Hold the rod tip up and if it comes up tight set the hook. Eagerly watching the ripples where the crab had landed suddenly a tail appeared, and then another. It was amazing they where Permit and they where fighting to get to the crab. Fish on! The line now smoking from the reel. We got a Permit Jon chuckled and boasted. Not yet I explained, we have hooked a Permit now you have to catch her. So after a few miraculous runs and a big scare with the line under the boat we tailed a Permit at the boat. A pretty lil? Permit of about 10lbs in weight.

While I took time out to re- rig, Jon pointed out another tail on up the flat into the glare of the now setting sun. This was a big flag (tail) standing completely erect out of the water for a few second then down again. Then re appearing ten feet further with the same amazing appearance. This is a big fish Jon, so once again I?m taking extreme caution approaching this fish. Once in range you need to throw as far past this fish as you can in the directions he?s working and walk the crab on the surface back to his sight. Lowering his whole body down in anticipation, Jon looked liked a cat preparing to pounce a mouse. Lowering your body will aid in giving less movement in the horizon for the Permit to see. Ready, set, aim, and fire, the crab was air borne. Like a Hail Mary from an OSU vs. Michigan game, a cast for all the marbles. The crab landed and the ripples had subsided and most importantly the Permit did not spook. Now very gingerly wind the crab back toward him. With only a few turns on the reel the Permit came alive and erupted toward the crab, spun around and ate. Fish on! With the fish nearly spooling us I polled down on him like my life depended upon this. Big fish man, I muttered to Jon. As a guide there is one think that we are acutely aware of when a customer is fighting a fish. That is the presence of a Shark. And the reason I mention this is that, we now had a shark engaging on our Permit. Jon, we got a shark around and if he locks his target in on the Permit we have got issues. Now vigorously shaking the push pole in the water I try to scare the Black Tip Shark. Jon, if he surges on this Permit, open the bail and let the line free spool and see if the Permit can stay away from the Shark. Oh man, Jon we got a Bull shark now barreling in from your 1:00 position, he came in from that channel to our west. Open the bail and let him run. Quickly I jumped down from my perch and cranked up the motor. Now with the noise of the outboard motor starting the first Shark spooked, however, Bull Sharks are not very intimidated. As I put the boat in gear I told Jon took get low, as I was going to idle the boat closer now to the free spooling Permit. Within about 25 seconds this Bull Shark swam directly across the bow of the boat and slammed into the side of the Permit. The Permit never stood a chance. After what appeared to be a spin cycle of a washing machine the bull Shark swam away. Hey what the hell did you have to do that for, Mr. Shark? Poor Jon proceeded to scream this repeatedly at the Shark. This Shark left no evidence of our once hooked Permit, nor did I even see any blood. I?m most assured that this 250lb Bull shark at this Permit in one bight.

As a guide I did all I could do to keep that Permit alive. Keep in mind this is not a daily occurrence when catching a Permit and I prevent this from happening when possible. The Shark had won this battle.

Jon had made note that we had already caught one Permit so anyone after that was a bonus. So with the sun now resting on the horizon, turning the sky a palette of orange and purple, I poled the skiff toward the deeper channel and then idled off the flat. Tomorrow is another day and in the morning at first light I need to get Jon a Tarpon, so back to the barn we go. Hey Lenny this place is awesome, check out those tails up over there. Jon, as I told you when we first got here, you have just entered ?the Permit Zone?.

If you would like to get in on some twilight Permit fishing or great daytime fishing, just give me a call and I?ll get you out.

Lets Go Fish!
Capt Lenny
305 296 2802



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