Permit an elusive, rewarding target


The spring migration of many species is under way in the North Suncoast area. A lesser-known arrival is the permit. Each spring, these coveted gamefish appear around wrecks up and down the coast. They are somewhat sneaky, and anglers usually never know they are there. This combined with the simultaneous arrival of kingfish, cobia, tuna, mackerel and other migrators allows permit to stay off the radar. They seldom bite anything but small live crabs, which are not sold locally, adding to their elusive status. For those in the know, however, the spring permit run provides a fantastic opportunity to battle a spectacular gamefish. Occasionally, during slack tide, they gather in big schools and mill around on the surface, but mostly they remain out of sight below. To figure out which wrecks hold permit, put on freedive gear and swim around looking below the surface. Another method: Drift live crabs over and around a wreck to reveal the presence of permit. Once you figure out their favorite spots, you can usually return there regularly and catch fish. To get the select crabs for bait, walk the shoreline of an estuary with long-handled dip nets. Shuffle your feet to flush crabs out of the mud and scoop them with the net. Each crab is nearly a guaranteed permit bite when cast over the right wreck.

Ed Walker charters out of Tarpon Springs. He can be contacted at