Order – Perciformes
Family – Carangidae
Genus – Trachinotus
Species – falcatus
Carolus Linnaeus originally described the permit in 1758, classifying it within the jack family carangidae. He initially named it Labrus falcatus, but later taxonomists reclassified the permit within the genus Trachinotus, grouping it with similar species such as the Florida pompano (Trachinotus carolinus), the palometa (Trachinotus goodei), and the blackblotch pompano (Trachinotus kennedyi). Though the permit has been confused as all of these fish, Trachinotus falcatus serves as the only valid scientific name for the species. Falcatus, a Latin adjective that translates to “armed with scythes,” appropriately describes the large sickle-shaped dorsal fin that breaches the surface when permit feed.
Autiranon (Palicur), blå taggmakrell (Norwegian), blå taggmakrill (Swedish), carangue á plumes (French), carangue plume (French), cobbler (English), fausse karang (Creole, French), palometa (Spanish), pampanillo (Spanish), pampanito (Spanish), pampano (Tagalog), pámpano (Spanish), pámpano de bandera (Spanish), pampano erizero (Spanish), pampano palometa (Spanish), pámpano palometa (Spanish), permit fish (English), pompaneau plume (French), round pompano (English), sereia-de-pluma (Portuguese), sernambiguara (Portuguese), sernambiquara (Portuguese), sierpnik okragly (Polish), sinipompano (Finnish).
Permit inhabit the western Atlantic from Massachusetts to southeastern Brazil. They occur throughout the West Indies and the Gulf of Mexico, and less-frequently in Bermuda. The species has been reported in the eastern Atlantic, but does not regularly occur there. The species is most abundant in southern Florida.
Permit primarily occupy inshore regions such as flats and sandy beaches, and deeper cuts, channels, and holes adjacent to these areas. The substrate of the flats may vary from sand, mud, marl, or sea grass. Permit often swim in water depths less than 2 feet, though due to large body depth, large individuals cannot occupy waters as shallow as other flats species such as bonefish. In deeper waters up to 30 m, permit often congregate around structures such as reefs, jetties, and wrecks where they frequently occur in large schools.
The deeply forked tail and elongated anterior dorsal fin provide the more distinct characteristics of the permit. Looking like long sickles, these fins impart the fish’s species name falcatus. However, one can also identify the permit by its highly laterally compressed body, making the fish appear thin and tall. From a lateral perspective, the permit shape looks round in juveniles, but becomes oblong as the fish ages into an adult. In addition to the long anterior dorsal fin, inserted directly above an elongated anterior anal fin, permit also possess 17-21 soft dorsal rays, and 16-19 soft anal rays.
Permit have bright silver sides and bluish-green or brown backs. The belly will sometimes show yellow or an occasional black splotch. The fins appear dark gray or black.
Permit have no teeth other than granular teeth that occur on the tongue, designed for crushing mollusks and crustaceans. The teeth are most conspicuous in younger fish.
Size, Age & Growth
Permit reach a maximum length of at least 48 inches (122 cm) and a weight of 79 pounds (36 kg). They grow rapidly until an age of 5 years, at which point growth slows considerably. Permit reach sexual maturity at about 2.3 years for males, and 3.1 years for females. Their size at sexual maturity ranges from 19.1 inches (486 mm) for males and 21.5 inches (547 mm) for females. Permit can attain an age of 23 years, though they probably live longer. Other carangids, such as the Florida pompano (Trachinotus carolinus) and the white trevally (Pseudocaranx dentex), are known to reach ages of 7 and 49 years, respectively.
Larger adults feed on prey such as this blue crab.
courtesy National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
© Doug Perrine
Permit primarily forage on flats and intertidal areas, entering shallow water on incoming tides from deeper adjacent channels and basins. They usually travel in schools of about ten, but may school in larger numbers; larger permit tend to be more solitary, feeding alone or in pairs. Permit also congregate around wrecks and other deeper-water structures.
Like the bonefish, the permit uses its hard mouth to dig into the benthos and root up its prey. These food items usually consist of crustaceans and mollusks, which the permit crushes with its granular teeth and pharyngeal bony plates. However, as opportunistic feeders, permit will eat a variety of animals, including amphipods, copepods, mollusks, polychaetes, fish and insects. Developmentally, permit exhibit planktivorous feeding habits as juveniles, eating copepods, amphipods, mysids, larval shrimp, and fish. As they increase in size, permit begin to feed on benthic prey including mole crabs, coquin clams, flatworms, gastropods, and sessile barnacles. Larger adults feed on gastropods, sea urchins, bivalves, and crabs.
Permit spawning may last all year, but occurs primarily from May through June in the Florida Keys. Spawning peaks during these summer months, with extended spawning seasons occurring outside this main period and a decrease in spawning activity during the winter months. Researchers have found that permit may spawn over natural and artificial reefs or in nearshore waters in the middle and lower Florida Keys. Males reach sexual maturity earlier than females, 2.3 versus 3.1 years, and at respective sizes of 19.1 inches (486 mm) and 21.5 inches (547 mm).
The primary predators of permit include most large piscivores, such as sharks and barracuda. Bull, lemon, and hammerhead sharks often venture onto the flats to hunt for feeding permit. Anglers often report that, while fighting a permit on the line, these shark species will tear their prized-for sportfish in half, leaving the angler with only the head.
© Keri Wilk
© Doug Perrine
Permit suffer from many parasites, including the branchial parasite Bicotylophora baeri, the intestinal parasite Serrasentis socialis, and trematodes from the genus Lobatostoma. When cultured together in fish farms, permit may become susceptible to bacteria such as Vibrio anguillarum and the dinoflagellate Amyloodinium ocellatum. The latter infests the skin and gills of the host, eventually causing death through toxins or by interfering with respiration.
Click here to view full article: http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/fish/gallery/Descript/permit/permit.html