There’s just something about sight casting to a large permit cruising crystalline water. Swimming just below the surface in the flats or other shallows, the permit’s large, broad, silvery body often reflects sunlight, lighting up and magnifying its stature. Pitch a live crab in front of its nose, wait for the bite and then hold on — you’re in for a workout with the fish making powerful runs toward deeper water and around the boat.
Permit resemble pompano, especially when both species are small in size, and permit are sometimes even referred to as “round pompano” or “great pompano”. However, permit easily outgrow pompano in length and weight. To tell a small permit apart from a pompano, check out the fish’s chin, belly and fins. Small permit have orange patches there while pompano have yellow coloring.
You can find permit in the western Atlantic Ocean from Massachusetts to Brazil, including the Gulf of Mexico and the West Indies. Although the all-tackle world record for weight was taken off Brazil, the rock and roll zone for gigantic permit is South Florida.
Permit root for food in the sand on shallow flats, preferring mollusks, crustaceans and sea urchins. While sight casting in shallow water is probably the most fun approach, some permit are caught when fishing over reefs, wrecks, deep channels, offshore oil platforms or along the bottom. Permit head to deeper water near structure to spawn. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, permit are multiple-batch spawners. One fish can produce and shed eggs more than once a season with reproduction often taking place offshore over reefs 33 to 100 feet deep. They’re often less spooky and easier to catch in deeper waters — live crab or jumbo shrimp is the go-to bait
Permit can be caught with shrimp, streamer flies, bonefish jigs, weighted bucktails and plugs, but crabs seem to be the best all-round favorite. Fly anglers need to be persistent and dialed in — permit can be annoyingly picky and surprisingly spooky.
Here’s a look at more than 10 top permit catches, as recorded by the International Gamefish Association (IGFA).
All-Tackle World Record Permit
The world record all-tackle record permit is held by Renato Fiedler. His permit, caught Dec. 14, 2004, off Ilha do Mel, Paranagua, Brazil, weighed 60 pounds. The fish was 41.34 inches long with a 37-inch girth. Fielder was using a Shimano rod matched with a Shimano Corsair CS301 reel. His reel was spooled with 50-pound Magibraid line. Fielder was jigging a twin tail shrimp.
All-Tackle Length World Record Permit
Keith Brandner holds the all-tackle length record with a 35.83-inch permit he caught April 23, 2011, while fishing off Miami Beach, Florida. Brandner was wielding a Captain Harry’s rod with a Penn 7500 reel spooled with 50-pound Stren line. He was casting a crab when the fish bit.
All-Tackle Length Fly Fishing World Record Permit
The longest recorded permit taken on fly fishing tackle is a 30.71-inch fish caught by Tommy Robinson on April 5, 2022. Robinson was fishing off Key West, Florida, using a Hardy rod and Hardy 10-weight reel with Yo-Zuri pink line. He was flinging an SS Robinson Crab fly.
Female Junior World Record Permit
Hayley Henry has the honor of being the female junior record holder with her 40-pound, 13-ounce permit caught on April 7, 2013 off Homestead, Florida. Hayley’s permit measured 37 inches long and had a 32-inch girth. She was using a Quantum Boca rod paired with a Fin-Nor reel. The line was 30-pound PowerPro braid. She was jigging a crab for bait, a permit favorite.
Male Junior World Record Permit
The male junior record holder is Joseph Ferguson. His permit weighed 48 pounds, 12 ounces and was 41 inches long with a 35-inch girth. He caught the fish on Feb. 11, 2017, while fishing off Delray Beach, Florida. The equipment included a Shakespeare rod and a Penn reel spooled with 65-pound line. He was surf casting from the shore, using crabs as bait.
Men’s 4-Pound-Line World Record Permit
IGFA records show many notable catches with four line-class records for fish exceeding 50 pounds. There are also some remarkable accomplishments in the light-line arena, such as the 44-pound, 12-ounce permit caught off Key West, Florida, on April 20, 1987 by Bill Riesenfeld. His fish is the 4-pound line-class record on conventional tackle.
Men’s 20-Pound-Line World Record Permit
Thomas Sebestyen’s 56-pound, 3-ounce permit is the record on 20-pound line. He caught the fish on June 30, 1997, while fishing off Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The permit was 41 inches long and sported a 37-inch girth. The type of rod used isn’t listed within the records, but the reel was a Penn 850 spooled with 20-pound Ande line. Sebestyen was jigging a shrimp.
Men’s 50-Pound-Line World Record Permit
Another 50-pound-plus permit is the world record in the 50-pound line category. Angler Roy Brooker’s permit tipped the scales at 53 pounds, 4 ounces. It was 43 inches long with a 35-inch girth. Brooker caught the fish on March 25, 1994, while fishing out of Lake Worth, Florida. He was using a custom-built rod and a Penn Jigmaster 505 reel loaded with 40-pound Ande line. He was casting a calico crab when the big permit decided to bite.
Men’s 30-Pound-Line World Record Permit
The 30-pound line-class record for men is held by William M. Kennedy, with a 51-pound, 8-ounce permit he caught on April 28, 1978, while fishing off Lake Worth, Florida. Kennedy’s fish was 38 inches long with a 35-inch girth. He was using a Daiwa rod matched with a Penn 200 reel. The line was 20-pound Ande. He was bottom fishing, using a calico crab for bait.
Men’s 8-Pound Tippet Fly Fishing World Record Permit
Del Brown’s 41-pound, 8-ounce permit is the heaviest recorded in IGFA’s fly-fishing records, holding down the 8-pound tippet position. The fish was 39 inches long with a 32-inch girth. Brown caught the permit on March 13, 1986, off Key West, Florida. The gear included a Fenwick rod with a Seamaster Mark II reel. The line was 8-pound Mason. The type of fly he used to entice the fish isn’t specified in the records.
Men’s 20-Pound Tippet Fly Fishing World Record Permit
Fly fishing angler Jonathan Olch caught a 36-pound, 8-ounce permit off Key West, Florida, on June 7, 2008, to claim the male 20-pound-tippet world record. Olch caught the permit off the Florida Keys on June 8, 2008. It was 34.10 inches long with a 29-inch girth. He used a G. Loomis flyrod and a Tibor Riptide reel. The line was 16.5-pound Seaguar. He was using a fly in a crab pattern.
Men’s 16-Pound Tippet Fly Fishing World Record Permit
The male 16-pound-tippet record is held by fly angler Kenneth Marlin. The 36-pounder was caught April 3, 2005, off Key West, Florida. It measured 36 inches long with a 32-inch girth. Marlin’s gear included a custom fly rod with an Emery reel. The line was 15-pound Ande. His fish couldn’t refuse the white streamer Marlin presented.
Editor’s Note: Anglers interested in supporting sport fishing worldwide should consider buying a membership to the International Game Fish Association (IGFA). Salt Water Sportsman is a strong supporter of the IGFA and their mission. IGFA members receive access to the IGFA World Record database, historical videos, a monthly International Angler digital publication, and discounts on tackle and charters from IGFA partners.