“What’s that?” I said to Jim VanPelt, probably a little too loud. “It’s a permit!” he excitedly called back as I cast my bait crab toward the black tail about 50 feet in front of me.
This was the moment Jim and I had been waiting for. We launched with veteran kayak guide Randy Morrow a couple hours earlier from the end of Blimp Rd on Cudjoe Key. I had been there before at Randy’s suggestion, but I could never get the tides right. This time, Randy made sure we were at the right spot at the right time.
“He’s turning on it!” I said, now practically yelling. There it was, my prey, interested in the live crab I tossed in front of it. Suddenly, the line shuddered and started to take off. I set the hook and my drag started to sing. “Fish on!” I yelled loud enough for anyone in the lower keys to hear. The fish took drag and I reeled in. We performed this dance for around 10 minutes on the light action tackle before the fish was close enough to see. “It’s a big jack!” I said, only a little disappointed after such a good fight. The jack snapped up the bait just before my intended victim did.
This is what Jim and I travelled to the keys for. We just wanted a chance at permit. Randy was just the guy to get us close to the fish. He has been fishing this area from a kayak for 8 years. Catching multiple bonefish, permit and tarpon on any given day is his specialty. Just the evening before we fished Cudjoe Key, Randy texted me a picture of a 30-inch permit he had just caught in a nearby pass.
We launched from a concrete boat ramp at the end of Blimp Rd. The road is aptly named after the large blimp borne antenna close by. From there we paddled northeast along a flats area. We were looking for redfish at the tail end of an outgoing tide. Randy informed us that this year he found less bonefish and many more redfish than usual. We were looking in the extreme shallows and backwaters. Jim and Randy spotted a few, I saw none. In the crystal clear water, I saw large jacks, rays and sharks. The shoreline was mangrove and the bottom was very hard coral covered by an inch or so of sand. There were vast patches of grass as well.
When the tide changed, Randy led us to a sand bar cutting through a large grassy flat. We paddled up to the flat looking for movement and slowly drifted back away. We kept at this until we started seeing the fish. They were actually pretty easy to spot. Permit have a very black and forked tail and a black dorsal fin that was in stark contrast to the white sand of the bar. Occasionally they would stick their nose in the sand after food, and their tails would come out of the water, similar to a feeding redfish. Jim and I saw many and we were able to make a cast at many of them with the only taker being the big jack.
With sunset closing in, we called it a day. “Sometimes they just won’t bite and other times they are all over the bait” Randy explained. We were far from disappointed however. We had the chance to see a lot of permit and learn much about their behavior. The Florida Keys provides vast opportunities for kayak fishing, but its vastness can be overwhelming. Kayak guides are very hard to find here. Randy has spent years not just fishing, but learning behavioral patterns of these fish. He is a full service guide and stays pretty busy, so I suggest calling him and booking in advance. Randy can be reached at his cell phone at 305.923.4643 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.