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June 29, 2009

Top Five Florida Keys Fishing Opportunities

Local experts offer up prime bets for July and August

Sam Root

3. Permit on Gulf Wrecks

While permit gang up on wrecks in spring to spawn, many of the bigger fish - in the 25- to 30-pound range - remain through summer. They typically choose wrecks with high super-structure. "The bigger the wreck, the better," says Capt. Tony Murphy of Key Limey Charters in Key West (305-293-1814;, "Steel-hull ships in 40 to 60 feet seem to work best; the fish get on some shallower wrecks, but they're much spookier on those."

Most of this structure lies 25 miles or more from Key West. Once Murphy finds a site holding permit, he anchors slightly up-tide to draw the fish away. If he sees a school, he tosses a live crab directly into it. If not, he chums for mangroves and cobia and baits a 1-ounce jig with a live crab (jig weight depends on crab size) and sets the rod in a holder.

(Note: Since June 2008, federal fishery managers have required that Gulf anglers use circle hooks with live and natural bait when reef fishing, so lead-head jigs must incorporate a circle hook.)

Murphy rigs his 7-foot spinning combos with 30-pound braid tied to 14 feet of 30-pound fluorocarbon leader. "That may sound like a lot of leader," Murphy muses, "but these fish do have big eyes."

On any given summer day, expect a dozen shots. However, Murphy notes that around full-moon periods, permit feed more at night. The fish remain, transiting back and forth between wrecks, until the first cold fronts sweep through in October.