Florida Keys Permit Fishing Guide - Flats Fishing Charters


with flats & backcountry fishing guide Capt. Luke Kelly

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Florida Keys Permit Fishing

A fish of much respect, the permit remains the most captivating fish of the flats. Those who fish for them seem to never grow tired of it. In fact, those who fish for them sometimes give up all other fishing. Nothing else quite lives up to a large permit feeding in shallow water. Once witnessed someone may be able to understand. Yet, for some reason it’s truly hard finding words capable of describing the act of permit flats fishing. It only takes one to make your day.


A large, strong fish which at times inhabits depths of water less than they are long. Patience, and a respect for the hunt and environment are essential. Permit are plentiful in the lower Florida Keys, getting them to take a hook is the trick. Seen as one of the greater challenges in shallow water sight fishing, permit will demand the very best of an angler. When fished for with live bait, we have the upper hand. When fished for on fly, we give the permit an advantage.       


Truth is, Keys permit fishing is in a class of it’s own because of where it all takes place. Some of the Keys’ best permit fishing flats are of the most beautiful. The lower Florida Keys are host to hundreds of these clear-water flats, which are surrounded by thousands of underwater reefs, ship-wrecks, and rock piles; a truly perfect environment for this fish.

Catching Permit on the Flats

A well placed bait or fly is ultimately what it takes from an angler. Though it’s the events leading a hook-up that make it all so challenging and unique.


The window of opportunity in successfully hooking a permit is small when considering the entire act of permit fishing. There are also many different scenarios when it comes to actually seeing permit in shallow water. All being said, the permit’s dead giveaway is it’s long, black, fork like tail. At times, that tail will pierce the surface of the water (a tailing permit). Most of the time, it’s underwater.


Learning to see the permit’s most revealing feature, it’s dark tail and fins against a current-swept shallow flat, takes a bit of concentration from the angler’s behalf. Though once seen in good sunlight, the permit can’t be missed.  A novice angler can sum it up with a patient, practiced cast once the permit is seen within casting range.

Light-Tackle Permit Fishing

Using live crabs to catch permit is the easiest method. When using a light-tackle spinning rod, casting a well placed live crab to an unsuspecting permit will ultimately result in a hook-up. The permit is very aggressive when comfortable. Once alerted by boat or angler, that’s it, the jig is up, and the permit never gives second chances.

Fly-Fishing for Permit

Using a fly rod to catch permit is everything but easy. The angler must have a true sense of how permit behave when feeding in shallow water. There’s no way around it, catching permit on fly is the ultimate when talking saltwater fly fishing. Experience will get you there, but only when preparation meets opportunity. The rest could fill a well criticized book.

Best Time of Year for Keys Permit Fishing

The best time of year for permit fishing on the Florida Keys flats is during the first signs of spring, ( typically late February thru early April). These months are known as the “permit pre-spawn months”. Permit that invade the flats and backcountry during this time typically range between 10 and 40 pounds in weight. Most permit seen during this time are grouped together in schools. Aggressive in nature when found in these pre-spawn schools, a seemingly confident sense of competition takes over their behavior. The entire month of March is a personal favorite, seen as a great time of year for permit on the flats. Late April and May mark their departure from the flats to deeper water in-order to spawn.  


Months June and July also spark another great time of year for permit fishing in the Florida Keys flats and backcountry. Marking the arrival back from their spawning period, June and July are great months to find large hungry permit mixing in areas alongside bonefish. Recognized by many as the best permit fly fishing months.


More opportunity exists during the fall season, Late September through early November. This again is a good time of year to find permit and bonefish together in a shallow depth of water. Once the cold water winter temps set-in with December, we typically say goodbye to this species until the following spring season.

Whether preferring fly or light-tackle permit fishing. First priority is providing a pleasant, memorable, and successful Florida Keys permit fishing charter.

Explore the Florida Keys inshore flats and backcountry while sight-fishing for bonefish in a clear and shallow depth of water. A unique Florida Keys fishing experience, second to none!

Phone: 305-304-3152      Email: keyflat@mac.com

Capt Luke Kelly