Twelve-year-old Griffin Haas was having a perfectly good time catching whiting and Spanish mackerel from the beach in Fort Morgan, Alabama. Then he found himself in a tussle with a highly prized game fish he had never heard of. When it was over, Griffin had landed the state record permit, an 8.5-pounder that bested the previous record by more than two pounds.
Permit in the Surf
The memorable catch came on Oct. 17 as Griffin fished with his father, Ryan Haas, and their guide, Capt. Scott Kennedy of Whistlin’ Waters Kayak Fishing, on a public beach a few miles west of the Alabama-Florida state line. “After about 90 minutes a rod tip snapped down and I knew it was going to be a strong fish,” Griffin said. “When I started to reel, the fish shot off and pulled me down the beach about 100 yards from where we hooked up.”
Griffin was using a 9-foot spinning rod with a pyramid sinker and hook baited with a local ghost shrimp. “Scott and Dad reminded me to reel down and pull the rod tip up during my struggle with the fish. The drag was set light, so Scott had to adjust it as I fought the fish to come in. When I saw it, I thought it was a large pompano, but I could tell from Scott’s reaction that it was something special.”
Indeed it was. Permit aren’t unheard of along the northern Gulf Coast, but the prime fishing for the species usually occurs in south Florida, the tropics, Mexico, and Central America, as well as the Indian Ocean. Kennedy had caught two or three over the years, all much smaller than Griffin’s 20.5-inch record fish.
More Permit in Alabama?
But Kennedy has also noticed a trend toward more and bigger permit in the area. The record Griffin appears to have broken, a 6.5-pound fish, was caught in June by Annalise C. Wilson of Madisonville, Louisiana.
“I’m sure she probably expected that to stand for a while,” Kennedy said. “Part of me thinks this one is going to stand for a while, but after seeing the trends recently and talking to the wildlife biologists, this one might not last so long either.”
Griffin got a glimpse of the fish during the fight and guessed it might be a large pompano. Kennedy saw it too and knew what he was seeing, but didn’t want to jinx the young angler, so he kept quiet until the fish was on the beach.
“When he got it in, I told him this was the fish of a lifetime, and probably the state record,” Kennedy said. (Griffin recalled his guide “spent a lot of time texting people after we had it in the cooler. He was very excited about our catch.”) The permit was brought to the Alabama Marine Resources Division facility in Gulf Shores, where it was examined by biologists, and the certification of the record is pending.
Ryan and Griffin had fished with Kennedy before, and Ryan credited him with offering Griffin the choice of releasing the fish or keeping it for the record. “He is much more than a guide, he is a teacher and takes time to explain what he does and why he does it,” Ryan Haas said. “He has made Griffin and I much better surf fishermen and conservationists.”