I look around at all of the great Jackson Kayak athletes and anglers and realize I am blessed to be among a set of people who are out pioneering their niche of fishing and paddling; they take their craft to places people never would have thought possible. Eric and Dane Jackson along with Nick and Emily (Jackson) Troutman, Clay Wright, Ben Stookesberry and Rafa Ortiz on the whitewater side of things are always blowing me away with what they’re able to accomplish.
Kayak fishing may not seem as extreme as whitewater kayaking, but there are a lot of “firsts” and ways we can certainly push the limits of what can be accomplished on a kayak. The Jackson Kayak fishing team is full of fishermen and fisherwomen who are all pushing the limits of where we can go and what we can catch in our kayaks or paddleboards! This past spring I had a mission in mind to pull off a true “first” in the world of kayak/paddleboard fishing while using our new stand-up paddleboard – the SUPerFISHal.
I’ve been learning how to fish the beautiful Florida Keys for about a year and a half now, ever since myself and the team at Jackson Kayak decided to make some real big water and salt water friendly fishing kayaks. Through the help of our team member who guides kayak fishing tours in the keys, Randy Morrow, I have learned a lot about the “flats species.” The main flats fish that we target are bonefish, permit, tarpon and redfish. However, the crowning jewel of all and the most difficult fish to sight fish on the flats is by far the permit. I don’t know of the exact number, but it is quite possible that only about 10 or 15 people have ever caught a permit off of a kayak; as far as I, or anyone knows, NO ONE has caught one off of a paddleboard.
My goal this past trip, in April, was to be the first to catch a permit off of a stand up paddleboard (SUP). In a day, with the right wind conditions, and if you’re in the right spot, you may be fortunate to see one or two permit. However the hard part is seeing them and making sure it is indeed a permit so you know which rod/reel to pick up to cast with. If you throw the wrong bait to a permit, it won’t eat. It is easy at first to mistake any fish you see for a permit because there are so many fish that do roam the flats – barracuda, sharks, jack crevele, bonefish, tarpon, redfish. If you are fortunate enough to actually see a permit, you likely have 3-5 seconds to make a cast to it before it sees you or you spook it off by making even the slightest noise. If you bang the side of your boat with your push pole, paddle or even have too much paddle drip coming off your paddle then you will scare the permit off. They have incredible hearing and eyesight and to make matters worse they don’t swim anywhere in a straight line, so it’s hard to know where to cast! Yes, they are very ADHD! Just think of the concentration it takes to be on the water all day, for several days, only to have it all come down to a couple 3-5 second moments that either make or break your chance at this fish, and possibly your entire trip, planning etc. Challenging is not even a word that describes this task!
On April 3rd all the conditions were adding up to be a pretty good permit day – wind was calm, sun was high, tides were just right and the water temp had warmed up enough for them to really get onto the flats. I hit the water with Randy Morrow, Brooks Beatty, Jameson Redding, Alex Tejada and Esteban Guttierez, all members of the Jackson Kayak fishing team. I had rigged up a really cool poling platform on my Jackson Kayak SUPerFISHal and had an incredible view from on high where I could see fish very well.
I had seen 3 permit already and couldn’t connect with any of them for reasons I’ve already mentioned above. I thought I had missed my opportunity on such a perfect day. However, in the afternoon I saw one more in some moderately windy afternoon conditions. Many times a moderate 10-15mph wind can help because it allows you some time before they see or sense your presence. Of course it can make boat control and seeing in the water very difficult as well. In this case I saw the fish and gently laid my YakAttack 12-foot push pole down and picked up my rod with a small live blue crab on it (about the only thing you can get permit to eat consistently). I had one shot at making the right cast. I grabbed my Daiwa Certate reel and made the perfect cast about 5-7 feet away from where it was facing. Sure enough the fish bit and the fight was on!
I was standing on top of my platform, on an SUP, about 30 inches off of the water fighting this fish – it was awesome! It took about 10 minutes or so to land this beautiful permit and it was cool to look back andthink that I am most likely the first to catch one off of a paddleboard. It wasn’t a giant (they can reach 50lbs!) but it was still a very solid permit that I am super proud of.
I love achieving new goals, exploring new water and catching new fish that provide the next personal first or a new challenge. Similarly, it’s cool to be a part of a brand that keeps innovating and pioneering new advances in kayak fishing because the challenge of “firsts” and pushing the limits on what we can all do is what keeps things interesting. I hope this article pumps you up to take on your next challenge or “first;” I know I’m already thinking about my next “first!”
If fishing in the Keys and trying to catch some of these fish of a lifetime on a kayak is something you think you’d want to do, then I would suggest calling Randy up at 305-923-4643. Then, I’d ring Parmers Resort at 305-872-2157 because it is the perfect place to stay since they have amazing accommodations right on the water and give discounts to kayak anglers (just mention my name) and are so close to the good fishing, restaurants and your kayak fishing guide, Randy. Just being there in such a warm beautiful environment is well worth the trip!
Here are ALL the photos of this very historic permit! Enjoy!