March = Permit
March in the Florida Keys means permit for the flats anglers/guides.
The big tides and warming waters put the pre-spawn permit on a food mission. Spawning for most species is a time of spending lots of energy making sure the next generation will someday swim. The months leading up to the spawn - typically in April - lend fly anglers a huge opportunity to catch a permit on fly. These ocular feeders are certainly catchable year round in the Florida Keys, but March and October are when permit are much easier to fool.
Combining weather as mild as 2012 has been to date equals higher water temps early, and water temps are a key factor to seeing permit on the flats. As an angler ,look for moving water a bit warmer in the spring with open water access. Transversely, in the summer look for water that is slightly cooler. These little changes in the fishes environment are part of a series of factors that make the permit mission easier.
Stealth is vital. Poling a flats skiff is standard practice but not the only way. Bay boats, high speed skiffs like the Lake and Bay Boca Grande, or even offshore center consoles all have an opportunity to target permit in the different habitats that they occupy throughout the Gulf and southern Atlantic. Staking out in places that funnel fish or using modern trolling motors are becoming the norm. I don't personally favor a style of sneaking up on permit but rather let the angling method dictate weather to pole or troll. Flats present a real challenge for permit anglers and the flats are where true commitment and skill make fishing magic.
March is also is the month that many of the tournament fly anglers descend on the lower keys for the March Merkin Permit Tournament. Bonus points are awarded for tagged permit which aids in information gathering so our fishing futures are productive too.
Crabs. Crabs. Crabs. Are typically going to be the best pattern and bait. On occasion they will eat shrimp, minnows or various other critters but for simplicity a crab fly or live crab will do the trick when presented properly! Permit are, to me, one of most spectacular species one can target and, with some conservation-minded catch and
release, your children's children should have the opportunity to catch one of these hefty, hard fighting fish. Permit!
Stay tuned for my next blog post about Tarpon!
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