Day 3 of the 2012 March Merkin yielded no permit on fly. The day started out with rain showers, lots of clouds and wind. We did get a few hours of sun on the oceanside to the west of Key West, unfortunately it was filled with acres and acres of nothing. We saw/scared a total of four permit on day 3, three of which three were together and not a shot. We also watched an airboat come from Key West burned down the flats, with very little water from the tower flats to Boca Grande Key and back. I heard the guy went between a few flats skiffs poling. This has got to stop.
In total 10 permit were taken on fly in this year's March Merkin by seven anglers. Greg Smith guided by Scott Collins won the tournament with four permit. Three permit were caught on day 1. Seven permit were caught on day 2, including three by Greg Smith. Day 2 was the best day of weather and fishing. Zero permit were caught on day 3.
Wow!!! A little dinnerplate "Mexican" permit!!!! I had only seen about 2 shools of them in all my time in the Keys and both times were on the same flat in the back country. Looking back, I guess it was rather comical but at the time these little guys had me totally frustrated. I would simply stand in water about mid-calf deep and watch the school approach along the edge of this shallow U-shaped flat. They'd get about half way to me and something would spook them. They'd settle down and start working/tailing in the other direction......until something spooked them again and sent them back in my direction. Repeat this about 4 times. Back and forth, back and forth. They never did get within casting range.
Anyway, are these little guys more prevalent in the Keys now? Y'all finding them to the West of Key West? I almost hope not, especially if they act like their Mexican/Central American breathren in slightly deeper water. In other words, they are not spooky at all. In Mexico, I have put 4 casts to the same school, catching 2 of them. They also eat flies--almost any fly--as readily as the nearly virgin* bonefish down there.
IMO, what this would do, is take a lot of the glamour out of catching a permit on fly, which is still considered to be one of the great angling achievements left in the world. I have always wondered if Del Brown didn't make a few trips to Mexico/Belize, in order to achieve his 500 permit total. At any rate, if these babies are invading the Keys, his record will be eclipsed several times over.
* By nearly virgin I mean fish that receive almost NO fishing pressure. When bonefish were first discovered in the Tortugas, it was reported that these fish would litterally swarm over a fly, and from as little as 20 feet away. Over time and as more people fished there, they learned fast and soon took on the bonefish characteristics and became quite spooky. In Mexico, I fish where guides rarely go, because of the long run they have to make in their skiffs. I don't see as many fish as they do, because I am on foot. But they eat like champs.....really make me look good as a fly fisherman! BTW, conversely, I have begun to hear complaints from those who have been to Boca Paila, the American-run resort near Tulum. It seems they are seeing bonefish as usual, but they will not eat anything.....much like the now famous bonefish on Shell Key, near Islamorada. This I believe, is due to excessive fishing pressure.
Last edited by Permit Rat; 03-19-2012 at 10:30 AM.
There are areas where I find schools of small permit, though they are not usually this small. Usually between 5 & 10 lbs. of course there was two fish that went by and this one ate my fly. Still good though, it's been a while since I caught a permit on fly.
A 5 lb. permit is small, but still double the size of the one in your photo. I have also caught a few of them to the West of Key West....like 2 I think......The 10 lb. class fish are becoming quite common. Back in the 70's, my permit averaged 15-18 lbs., even though there were places to go where the fish were smaller, say 12 lbs. Nowadays, that seems more the rule than the exception.