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Permit Fishing in the Marls of Abaco
By Jake Wood, Abaco Lodge Manager.
I’m not sure why, but after Hurricane Dorian, the permit population on Abaco has seemed to dramatically increase. At the lodge, the guides are seeing permit every day, and many guests are getting good shots. The fish here are not like others around the world. 90% of the permit we fish to are riding on the backs of stingrays, feeding on the crabs and shrimp that flush out from ray while it is feeding. This changes the typical approach to permit and allows for very visual and exciting fishing. Our permit fishing is best on the warmest days. They can be found year-round when the weather is right, but April-June and October are the best months to fish them. A little bit of breeze is your friend! Having a little chop on the surface to hide your cast is crucial in permit fishing. The flat calm days are always a treat, but the fish can see you as well as you can see them.
Finding Abaco Permit - Tides and What to Look for
Some people say a permit caught in the Bahamas counts for 3, as the number of fish here is considerably less than in Belize or Mexico. However, when you do find them, Bahamian permit are typically more willing than their southern Caribbean cousins.
On the Marls side of Abaco, tide swings are very small. The wind plays the biggest role in determining the water level. If the water is too low, the permit will leave. If the water is too high, the permit can spread out and feed on some of the more secluded flats, making them harder to find. Our standard water level gives guests the best chance to see one.
Most of our permit fishing is done on the outer flats of the Marls. These flats are a little rockier than the mud flats on the inside. These outside flats also have cooler water and a little more current than the flats on the inside. When looking for permit, the first step is finding stingrays that have been feeding. While you’re running or poling, the guide will look for large gray circles on the bottom, indicating where a ray may have been feeding. The darker the mark, the fresher the feed, and the ray is probably close by.
Occasionally, we find them tailing on some of the deeper shorelines, but all the best shots and the most level playing field is fishing to permit on stingrays. If you look at enough rays, you will see a permit eventually.
Fishing for Abaco Permit
When fishing to permit on Abaco, you can expect a large fish feeding erratically around the stingrays. The fish don’t sit with them for fun, if they’re on the ray they are feeding. Most of our permit average 20-30 pounds, so come prepared to do battle with a flats giant. A 9 or 10-weight rod will get the job done, and I prefer fishing 20-pound fluorocarbon or monofilament leader. I would rather fish heavy leader and get rejected than fish light leader, get an eat, and break the fish off as the permit here are quite large.
We have caught permit on a wide array of flies here. From large spawning shrimp to floating crabs, the fly tends to be less of a factor than the cast itself. As mentioned above, if the permit is with a stingray, it wants to be feeding. Making the first cast count is absolutely critical. If the first cast is good, these fish will almost always come and give the fly a look. More often than not, if the fish doesn’t spook you will have a chance to change flies multiple times. As a general rule, light-colored crabs are the ticket. We have also found that these fish have a liking to floating crabs or unweighted crabs. This is because when crabs come out from under the ray, they usually swim to the surface in an attempt to run away from the stingray, unaware that a black-tailed devil is up there waiting.
When presenting the fly, I like to land the fly about a fish in front of the ray or a foot off the inside wing of the ray. This way, when the ray gets near the fly, you can strip it and make it seem like the crab is running from the ray. With floating crabs, the same cast applies, but as soon as the fly lands the slack must be stripped out and the fly needs to slide across or just under the surface. Be prepared for an eat that will blow your mind. You won’t feel it, but you’ll see a permit with its eyeballs out of the water and mouth wide open.
Finally, once that fish eats the fly, give it a hard, but smooth strip-set. Once hooked, I always hit the fish really hard two or 3 more times before the first run to bury the fly. Due to the large size, the fish usually won’t take off immediately as they won’t feel the hook, so getting 2 or 3 more strip-sets in before the first run ensures a better chance of keeping the fish buttoned.
I’ve crafted an impressive collection of lightweight flies that are guaranteed to elevate your fishing game, and you’ll find them readily available at our lodge. Whatever you need, rest assured we have you covered.
These permit are big, some of the biggest in the world in terms of average size. Don’t forget to keep your cool, listen to your guide, and enjoy watching these strange, strange animals do their thing.
Indulge in a truly remarkable angling experience at our newly reopened Abaco Lodge nestled in the heart of the Bahamas. As you immerse yourself in the breathtaking beauty of this angler’s haven, discover the hidden gem that awaits: Permit fishing, the cherry on top of an extraordinary fishing program. Whether you’re a seasoned angler or a curious adventurer, our skilled guides and luxurious accommodations provide the perfect backdrop for an unforgettable getaway.