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; www.keylimey.com, www.saltwaterangler.com). "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.