In the world of sports fishing, Permit are truly a rockstar gamefish! They are something to aspire to, to appreciate and to respect. For these reasons, permit have become a target of many anglers that travel to South Florida in hopes of accomplishing the goal of catching one. The charter business in Florida is big business, and Permit represent a nearly year-round resource for that industry. Measures to protect permit and the philosophy of catch and release for these gamefish is more then just the right thing to do it good for the economy… it’s rockstar economics!
Florida is the world’s finest saltwater fishing destination and the permit that live here are generally also the biggest. The water’s surrounding the Florida Keys are responsible for the majority of the permit world records. Analogies to TPC Sawgrass, Augusta National, Fenway Park, or other sacred places in sports are appropriate with one huge exception… this is a living ecosystem where the game cannot be played without the fish.
Sports fishing tourism draws millions of dollars in revenue to this region annually. The health of our sports fishing industry is important not only to guides but also to hotels, restaurants, airlines, tackle shops, marinas, and more. The unique thing about permit, the special feature that separates them from the other major gamefish on the flats, is they are pursuable year-round. This means that they have the ability to support the sports fishing economy when other species such as tarpon might not be available. The growing recognition that Permit is a gamefish to be prized is helping to keep anglers coming to South Florida in months Like September, October, November and December because the fishing gets really good when the first cold fronts of the year begin to move through.
Historically the main attraction in the sports fishing world has been Tarpon which appear in numbers here in South Florida from March to July. Bonefish, especially in the upper Keys are also an attraction. But they too appear in numbers from March to July. Anglers who love the sport of tarpon fishing and bonefishing have begun to test their skills with permit as well. The fact that there is a good chance of finding them 365 days a year is an enormous benefit to the economy of South Florida.
Importantly, Permit are emerging not as the alternative when there isn’t anything else around, but as the pinnacle of the sport. There are no other fish that will test your skill and dedication like a permit will. You DO NOT get lucky with permit; they are really hard to catch. There are times when Tarpon are hard to catch and times when bonefish are hard to catch, but Permit are always hard to catch. Anglers increasingly look forward to those first cold fronts because it is then that large Permit show up on the flats in big numbers.
Few instances in the life of a fly fisherman are as profound as their first encounter with a permit. They have an alien-like presence; a black sickle tail piercing the water’s surface; a silver-green fish moving erratically across the white sand flats. A misstep, an extra false cast, too much movement or the dictates of their own private world and they are gone. As guides, anglers and caretakers of this resource, we simply cannot afford to make a misstep when it comes to permit conservation! We need to keep fishermen coming to South Florida for decades seeking to catch this highly prized saltwater trophy.
The FWC has been active in advancing the protection of Tarpon and Bonefish. It has done a great job with these species. Permit have literally earned the same level of protection. In fact Permit are the critical economic linchpin for the saltwater flats sportfishing industry. They carry the guides and the anglers through the cold parts of the year. If the romance and the rarity of the specie does not in itself earn it the same level of protection as Tarpon and Bonefish, then its value in cementing this important commercial fishery and in protecting jobs in the lower Keys does.
Project Permit is sponsored by Costa Del Mar and BTT and is on the cutting edge of this effort to protect permit and find out more about this important economic resource. Please check out these cool programs to learn more about conservation issues and the movement to consider the economic importance of the recreational and charter fishing industries.