Fishing For Permit The “Fancy Jacks”

Permit fishing the structures of Key West. Fishing report and how to.

May 2nd 2018 – I have never been a fan of the different names for fish. Such as “poon” for tarpon or “bonnies” for bonefish. One of my least favorites is anglers and guides calling the revered permit a “mitt” I always found it annoying. However just a few months ago I head the newer nick name for a permit “fancy jack” and I thought that was fun and correct. So, I now call the permit that we catch off of structure such as wrecks or natural things a “fancy jack” thanks to whoever started that – value added.

Permit fish

Rebecca was fishing out of Key West with me on a reef trip last week. We stopped for a permit at one of my spots. She worked for this permit. reeled him in during a huge down pour of rain.

Fishing out of Key West These last few weeks the permit have been on their yearly stroll about in the deeper waters off the flats and looking for love. There are certain spots on the reef that this spawning happens in a huge concentration of fish numbering well into the 1000’s but lets talk about where i have been fishing lately and catching permit that are hanging off the wrecks and large natural structure that I take people fishing the reefs West of Key West. Smaller numbers of fish and no sharks there to pick them off after they are hooked. I am not a huge fan of fishing the spawning aggregations of permit as they get hammered by sharks.

In this report I will tell you about what I have been doing out there and how you can do it too and not kill  a bunch of fish needlessly by feeding them to sharks after hooking them up.

The Fishing

I ususally fish for permit on structure on my Key West wreck and reef fishing trips or my signature All In Wonder Key West fishing trip. The permit are thick on a few of my “special” spots that don’t ever get looked at by anyone else. These spots hold fish for me from late January through the summer offering my anglers the shot at going toe to toe with a 25 – 35 lb permit pretty regularly. Using crabs my anglers can sight fish these guys and get a great hook up. These last few weeks fishing on board my 36′ Yellowfin have been pretty good out there and lots of fun for my anglers looking to catch a “fancy jack” permit. I love fishing these areas because they are super close to my grouper and mutton snapper grounds. It is a 3 minute run to change it up. Also these areas hold huge barracudas and super sized jack crevalles to entertain my anglers even further.

My last few fishing charters out that way have produced several permit in the high 20s and one slob over 30 for my anglers. The fights have been incredible. Not only exercising an anglers tenacity but also the power of the boat to maneuver and pull these fish the way I need to so they don’t get wrapped up in structure. using the lightest tackle I can and still have a prayer  we have had a ball picking on these fish before we move on to the fish killing portion of our day. Good news is, so far I am 9 – 0 with the sharks 9 fish to the boat and none to the sharks. The image here with the girl and her permit was a hell of a story. She hooked up on this permit and I was all excited for her. Then I looked up and on the horrizon was a squall line. It kept getting darker and closer as she was fighting the fish. All of a sudden this squall was on us like a big wet blanket hammering us with rain so thick it was hard to breath not to mention the 30 mph winds that came with it. She was a trooper and kept on that permit with a vengeance. Soaked to the bone she kept working him and taking the angles I was trying to give her while driving the boat. At one point I came out from under my t-top to check to see where the fish was and the t-top drained right down my back inside my Simms foul weather jacket. I had my hand on that fish just as it stopped raining. That day one of my anglers was having a bit of time staying hooked up. He was 0-5 for the day while his wife, mother in law and father in law all boated a fish each. I felt bad, but, what could I do. I only carry so many crabs. Better luck next time.

If you would like to get a shot at a “Fancy Jack” AKA Permit and catch a bunch of other fish as well.
Drop us a line and we will set you up on a fishing charter that will really be a lot of fun..

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Fishing For Permit Tips

Where To Find Permit

permit and anglers Key West

Great fish for a first timer. Patience and consistency win the race when fighting a permit on structure.

Well its no secret wrecks hold permit however on any given day the competition on the wrecks from other fishing guides and warriors trying to get a shot will be a bit overwhelming and can certainly close in on my personal space so I look for the less obvious spots. Good flow, high peaks or large patch reefs are my little secret. Fun fact, I really dont run all that far to find good spots that hold nice permit. Sometimes looking in the most obvious places is key.

How To Fish For Permit

After I have established a spot for holding permit I am super careful not to run it over with the boat. I want these fancy jacks to remain calm and stay hungry. Use your chart plotter to set out a perimeter a safe distance away. Study your drift and Keep your eyes peeled. As you get closer to your spot permit will come right up along side and behind your boat. They are super curious. Take note when you see them where your structure is, this will matter later. Toss your crab toward the permit and let them eat. come tight and let the drag burn. Now…. this is where things get fun. Have your angler keep the tip up on his rod. that way you can see from the helm of your boat where the permit is headed. Note on your chart plotter where the structure is in relation to the boat. If the permit is headed away from the structure (they often do) Let him go. Back off the drag if needed. The farther he runs away the better chance you have for your photo. Sometimes the permit will try and stay with his group, this can be good but mostly bad as the group will stay near the structure.

How To Boat The Permit Safely

When it comes time to boat the permit and get your hero shot DONT USE A GAFF.. its not needed. The permit is conveniently equipped with a very large tail and handle right before the tail. Grab him there then support his head by reaching under his chest between his pectoral fins with your other hand as you lift him out of the water. Remove the hook with your hands if you can. Usually the hook is in the gummy area of his mouth for easy removal. A trick I use to make sure I get a great photo with my anglers is to put his head in my bait well. This will charge him up while we get the photo gear ready and make a great release.

Here is A Video I took of the Proper way to boat a permit. How To Boat A Permit Video

So, in review. Approach slow in a drift. Feed the fish with your crab. pay attention to your surroundings and where the fish is going. light drag if going away, heavy drag if going to the structure to try and turn him. Boat him nice and easy and get your photo. Have fun.





About Capt. Steven Lamp
Dr Catcher Is - Capt. Steven Lamp - Owner of Dream Catcher Charters is a veteran Key West fishing guide for flats fishing, deep sea fishing, wrecks and reef fishing, and fly fishing. An expert waterman and licensed captain since 1986. A Veteran of the United States Coast Guard Heavy Weather Search and Rescue, I.G.F.A. Certified Captain and Standing regional board member of The Florida Fishing Guides Association