Surf Casting Florida

Learn how to catch more fish off of the beach.

What is the difference between a pompano and a permit?

It is extremely difficult to tell the difference between a pompano and a permit. They are very similar in many different ways. They are both members of the jack family. Which is why they both are such great fighters. The big difference between a permit and a pompano and all of the other jack species that you catch is that both permits and pompanos are both very good to eat.

This is probably why surf fishermen are so fanatical about catching these two species of fish. In the southern and central parts of Florida the permit fisherman go crazy for these fish when they move into the waters of their town. In the upper south, central and northern parts of the state, the pompano fishermen go crazy when they migrate through their areas. Both of these fish species have rock star status with their fishermen followings.

Both of these fish are very water temperature sensitive. The permit like it hot and the pompano like it cool. The approximate sweet spots for the perfect water temperatures of the two species have some overlap so you can catch a permit on one cast and a pompano on the next cast if you are lucky.

I am a kayak fishing guide on the Treasure Coast of Florida. I have been fishing the beaches, grass flats, oyster bars and just about everywhere else in Florida for more than 40 years. In the article below, I will teach you the differences between a permit and a pompano and how to catch them.

Let get started.

Watch the video below and learn how to tell the difference between a permit and a pompano.

Pompano:

Size: A big pompano is 6 or 7 pounds. They are commonly caught weighing 3 pounds or less.

Coloration: A pompano is silver with some yellow coloring when they have been in darker, murky waters.

Shape: The body of a pompano is very rounded in the front and has no bumps above the mouth.

Fins: A pompano has very straight fins. There are 22 to 27 rays in the dorsal fin and 20 to 23 rays in the anal fin of a pompano.

Temperature Preference: Pompano like cool water. Their temperature preference is 65 to 75 degrees. They will avoid water temperatures lower than 60 degrees and higher than 80 degrees.

Food Value: Pompano may be one of the most delicious fish in the sea. Their fillets may sell for over $20 a pound at the fish markets.

Permit:

Size: A big permit is over 50 pounds. It is very common to catch 40 pound permits.

Coloration: A permit is silver with orange and yellow coloring on its underside if it have been in darker, murky waters.

Shape: The body of a permit is rounded in the front with a slight bump above the mouth.

Fins: A permit’s fins are long and slope backwards. There are 17 to 21 rays in the dorsal fins and 16 to 19 rays in the anal fins.

Temperature Preference: Permit like warm water. Their temperature preference is between 75 and 85 degrees. They will avoid water temperatures lower than 70 degrees and higher than 90 degrees.

Food Value: Permit have a high food value. They are very good to eat but the large ones can be tough. The barely legal keepers are the best ones to eat.

What is the difference in the size of a pompano versus a permit?

There is a huge size difference between a pompano and a permit. Permit are commonly caught 10 times the size of the commonly caught size of a pompano. The usual pompano that you will catch with be 2 or 3 pounds. You can catch 20 to 30 pound permits all day if you find the schools.

If you are catching what you believe are 7 or 8 pound pompano, then you should take a closer look at the fish. You are probably catching baby permit.

The keeper size for a pompano in Florida is currently 11 inches at the fork of the tail. The keeper size for a permit in Florida is currently 22 inches at the fork of the tail. The regulations change all of the time. So check to see if there are any changes before you keep a pompano or a permit.

What is the difference in baits to catch a pompano versus a permit?

Pompanos and permit eat roughly the same types of foods but the permit can eat larger prey than the pompano. Pompano have very small mouths and prefer to eat sand fleas (mole crabs), other small crustaceans like shrimp and other species of crabs when they are immature like blue crabs and calico crabs. Those crabs are no bigger than a quarter usually.

A permit on the other hand, likes to eat crabs and shrimp too but can handle much larger ones. The perfect sized crab to use for catching a permit will be about the size of an orange or a tennis ball. Those are the perfect sizes of crab to pitch to a permit. You can catch them on shrimp too but you will want to cast the whole shrimp to instead of just a small piece like you would present to a pompano.

What is the difference in locations to find a pompano and a permit?

Both species have overlapping habits that they live in. The main difference is that pompano do not like hot water and permit don’t like cold waters. In Florida, you can catch a permit all year long in the Florida keys and the southernmost parts of Florida. The water is rarely cool enough to catch pompano in great numbers that far south unless we have an extremely cold Winter.

Conversely, a pompano will run up the East Coast of the Atlantic Ocean as long as they can find that 65 to 75 degree water that they like so much. A permit likes it roughly 10 degrees hotter. So they will head as far north as their approximately 75 to 85 degree water sweet spot will allow. As the Summers are getting hotter the permit can travel higher north each year up to and beyond Central Florida if we have a really hot Summer.

You mainly target pompano off of the beaches and on the sandbars inside of the inlets and bridges around Florida. Permit can be caught in the inlets and sand bars as well but they like grass flats more than a pompano does. You can actually sight fish them on the flats as they sift through the grass to find crabs, shrimp and other small marine creatures.

What is the difference in the lures to catch a pompano and a permit?

Pompanos and permits both like to eat jigs. But a permit is one of the most easily spooked fish that there is. They are hypersensitive to movement, vibrations and smells. They have huge eyes and don’t miss much so your presentation has to be perfect. A pompano is much more easily fooled into biting your lures than a permit is.

The extraordinary eyesight of the permit means that you will have to make some extremely long casts to get your lures near enough to catch them before they see you and swim away. Pompano are not nearly as wary as a permit. You can catch them 5 feet off of the beach during high tide.

The slightest vibrations in the water will spook a permit. If you band on the side of the boat or drop something on the floor of the boat, then you might lose your chance to get on a permit. This makes it very hard to wade fish for a permit because they will feel your vibrations and splashes as you move towards them. Pompano do not spook nearly as easily when you are fishing for them.

Conclusion:

Both permit and pompano are amazing fish to catch. Both species have fanatical followings around the state of Florida. I love to catch both species of fish. They are extremely fun to catch and are both good to eat. The great thing about these fish is about the time that the pompano migrate north out of my area, the permit come into my area. I can catch either pompano or permit all year long in my area of the Treasure Coast.

If you have not targeted these two species of fish, then you should. You might just find yourself addicted to fishing for them in no time.

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