Best Lures for Permit: The Complete Guide

February 28, 2021

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Permits are widely recognized by anglers as an extremely tough fish to catch. They are fussy about their food, wary of visible fishing lines, and easily spooked by sound. Their habitat, social, and eating habits vary greatly, depending on whether they live in solitude or shoals. So what are the best lures for Permit?

You’ve come to the right place! In this article, we’ll go over our top 5 best lures for Permit. Let’s jump in.

Our Top 5 Best Lures for Permit


1. Berkley Gulp! Crab Lures


The Berkley “peeler crab” lure is just about the perfect size for a larger Permit. These can be purchased as an assortment with 3″ shrimp lures to suit a better variety of locations and species. Jigging to bounce lures along the seafloor is an excellent way to replicate the behavior of a live crab.

The larger packs of Gulp! Alive! Lures come in a handy resealable Tupperware. The lures are soaked in a powerful attractant liquid which acts like chum around the lure. These lures are said to be slightly less durable than previous iterations as they are now biodegradable. But they should still last longer than a live bait.


2. Savage Gear Crab Lure


This 2″ blue crab lure from Savage Gear is a great size and color to attract Permits. These are not provided with an attractant liquid. Soft lures smell quite rubbery when they are new and should be soaked before use. 


3. Crippled Herring Skimmer Lure


Crippled herring skimmer lures are said to be quite successful for hooking Permits. Skimmers look nothing like the small crabs that are their food of preference. But there is something about a crippled herring skimmer that attracts bites from Permits.


4. Berkley Johnson Silver Minnow Gold Lure


This 1/4oz 2″ Berkley Johnson SIlver minnow spoon is a fantastic little lure. They are either silver or gold plated, eliminating corrosion and providing the greatest reflectiveness. 


5. George Anderson’s Umpqua McCrab Fly


George Anderson’s Umpqua McCrab fly is a great fly for Permit fishing in the flats. Another great option for fly fishermen seeking Permits is the #6 Permit Crab lure from Super Fly.   


Soft Lures for Permit

Soft lures must be removed from the line when not in use. Replacing soft lures in the attractant liquid will refresh the smell and prevent them from drying out. Once a soft lure has dried out, it effectively becomes useless. Dried lures become stiff and hard. When this happens, it gives the game away because they no longer mimic the motion of a live bait.

Using Attractants for Permit

It is a good idea to dedicate Tupperware to your soft lures. You can fill the Tupperware with chum or Berkley’s attractant liquid. There are other attractant liquids that provide specific scents, such as this Blue Crab Super Gel from Pro-Cure. As blue crabs are considered ‘Permit Candy’ this Pro-Cure scent should give great results.

If you have leftover blue crab from live bait, you could save yourself a few bucks. This can be used to create your own attractant chum for your lures. Just keep it in the freezer, and take it out for your trip. You shouldn’t need to defrost the tub in advance. Just don’t put the Tupperware in an insulated bait bag.

Identifying Permit

Permits are quite flat-looking when viewed head-on. They have a very large tail that makes them a great fighting fish. They are dark brown / almost black along their back, but bright silver along their flanks. They have a bright yellow patch that extends from the anal fins on the belly. 

Permits have a long narrow dorsal fin that often rises above the waterline when they cruise the flats. When they eat, they go nose down to the floor. This can leave the tail exposed above the surface. The tail and dorsal fins are the best markers for the inexperienced to watch for.

Permit Behaviour

Permits have very good eyesight, a great sense of smell, and they are clever too. It is strongly advised to wash your hands with seawater or use gloves prior to handling bait or lures. If they smell the oils that are secreted by the fingertips, it’s doubtful they will take the bait.

These strong swimming, streamlined fish put up a great fight for their size. Once hooked, they will immediately seek deeper water and cut you off on deeper reefs, wrecks, and rocks. If you fish from a pier or the keys, be aware that Permits will wrap around and hide behind pilings. 

The fine strands of braided lines are easily frayed by chafing on concrete pilings. The monofilament line stands up to the abrasion from the pilings much better than braided.

Permits are shy of sound and movement. They may not feel comfortable enough to eat with the boat floating right above them. Maintain a dead slow approach to where you drop anchor. This will reduce the chance of spooking the fish.

Best Weather for Permit

The weather does not have much impact on the eating habits of Permit. In choppy water, you will be able to get much closer to the fish before they become spooked. A slight chop will break up the definition of shadows cast on the seafloor. Any activity and noise from the boat will be more difficult for the fish to detect too.

The same holds true when fishing in shallow waters. If you only have a long rod, you may find more success with a slight wind to disturb the surface. In calm conditions, use a shorter rod for fishing in the flats. The moving shadow from fly casting can easily put off these cautious fish.

Shallow Water Fishing for Permit

There seems to be no set routine to the eating habits of Permits when they are in shallow flats. Regardless of tide, wind, or weather, they eat what and when they want. They are particularly wary inshore, and shoals break up to attract less attention. 

In the shallows, they tend to hunt individually. But if you see one, there will probably be a few more close by. Submerged rocks and the sun glinting on the surface make cruising Permits tough to spot. Their dark backs and brief flashes of silver provide great camouflage. 

When Permits hunt, they turn their tail up to sift the sandy floor for food. When tailing in the shallows, their large caudal fin often breaks the surface of the water. But just because you spot a feeding Permit does not mean that it will take your bait. Be sure to use a pair of polarized sunglasses.

Permit Surf Fishing

Permits are particularly picky eaters, especially so in shallow flats. In numbers in the surf, however, they can be quite aggressive. Shoals of Permits have been known to attack anglers wading in the shore break. 

Permits do not have particularly sharp teeth. As they primarily crush crustaceans, their teeth are rounded. But they do have strong jaws and can deliver a painful bite, even if they don’t break the skin.

Fishing for Permits from the beach is possible, but it can be tricky. There are a number of other fish that search for food on sandy shores. Many of these will pick up the same bait or lures used for Permit fishing. 

If you don’t mind which type of fish you reel in, blind casting from the beach can be great fun. But if you only want to catch Permits, it can be difficult to spot the fish in the churning water. Be sure to use a proper surf fishing rod.

Offshore Permit Fishing

Spinning or bait fishing for Permits offshore is usually much more successful than in shallow water. The main reason for this is due to the behavior of Permits. In deeper waters, the fish shoal together for safety in numbers. In the shallows, Permits become more easily spooked, as there are no deep waters in which to seek refuge.

These fish are much more confident when shoaling near deeper water. When shoaling Permits discover a sandbank that is rich in food, the whole shoal can go on the bite. If you find a feasting shoal with your fish finder, get ready because you are in for a great fight.

Fishing for Permits offshore is probably the easiest way to catch them. The tackle you need is very standard, and they are much less fussy off of the flats, in 30-60ft depths. 

Fly Fishing for Permit

These fish can be found in the shallows (from about 3ft) and even in brackish water. This makes it possible to catch Permits on-the-fly in a flat-bottom boat or wading. 

Fly fishing for Permits is the holy grail of saltwater fly fishing. You can present the fly perfectly in front of the fish. If it feels even the slightest bit wary, it will not bite. Some will take a well-placed fly while they are just cruising. Others that are tail up hunting in the sand will refuse the same fly cast practically into their mouths.

Catching Permit

Hooking into a Permit is challenging by all accounts. They have a tendency to use their powerful jaws first to crush and kill crabs. This stops the fish from receiving any painful nips from the crab’s pincers. They then spit out their prey to ensure it’s dead before devouring it. 

This behavior is another reason these fish can be so tricky. When using lures, you must strike as soon as you feel the bite. Permits are smart, and they will know something is wrong as soon as they bite on the lure. Getting one into the boat, and photographed, provides a great memory and bestows bragging rights of the highest order. 

You must be patient when reeling them in. Keep the drag setting light, and tighten it after their first run. When they want it, let them take a little line, but not too much. Pull and reel when they rest, and just hang on when they start fighting again. Permits have a large profile which, when hooked, they use to their full advantage.

Even when they are not actively working to swim away, they use their intelligence to fight back. By turning their body sideways to the boat, they know it is more difficult to reel them in. Their almost circular shape can make it feel like you’re hauling a parachute through the water.

Be warned that Permits have a habit of turning and running back towards the angler. It is important to keep the line tight throughout the fight. If the fish does run towards the boat, reel like crazy to pick up the slack.

Largest Caught Permit

A Permit record was set in 2002 in Brazil, with a weight of just over 60lbs. Those caught most often in our local waters range from 15lbs up to around 30lbs. Permits have relatively small mouths and eat glass minnows and pilchards, as well as crabs and shrimp. 

As with any fish, lures and bait must be sized accordingly. 

Scented crab lures work for jigging in deeper waters and potholes in grass flats. Permits have been known to take shrimp lures too. Many find success using light-colored paddle-tail lures and crippled herring skimmers. Silver and gold spoons are better suited to taking advantage of currents. 

Conclusion

Many experienced captains regard a small live crab to be the best bait to catch a Permit. Small (approximately 1″) blue crabs are affectionately known as ‘Permit Candy.’ If you can’t find any or don’t have time to catch a live crab, artificial lures can work almost as well. We hope you enjoyed this article on the best lures for Permit.

Happy Hunting!

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