Trachinotus falcatusCobbler

Geographic Range

Permit are native to the Nearctic and Neotropical regions. They can be found along the Atlantic coast of the United States, extending from Massachusetts to southern Florida. Permit are also found throughout the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea south to the Brazilian Coast. (Smith, 1997; Sweat, 2010)


Permit inhabit a large variety of aquatic habitats throughout their lives. Adults utilize tidal flats, near-shore reefs, near-shore wrecks, and offshore waters. Although juveniles primarily inhabit near-beach shorelines and windward sandy beaches with sparse sea grass, they can also be found in and around mangrove swamps. Larvae are pelagic before settling on the aforementioned juvenile habitat. Permit are most often found 0.5 to 100 m below the surface of the water. (Adams and Blewett, 2004; Adams, et al., 2006; Armstrong, et al., 1996; Graham and Castellanos, 2005; Smith, 1997; Sweat, 2010)

  • Range depth
    0.5 to 100 m
    1.64 to 328.08 ft

Physical Description

Permit are often characterized as short, compressed and deep-bodied fish with a sloping head that terminates in a blunt snout. The body is silvery gray and progressively darkens in a ventrodorsal manner to bluish gray. Their upper jaw is narrow and ends under the midline of the eyes. They have small, conical teeth that are slightly curve toward the caudal fin. Many individuals have a dusky spot near the pectoral fin. Juvenile permit are capable of altering their anal and pelvic fins from silver and black to silver with bright-orange to dark-red. Normally, the dorsal fin has 5 to 6 short spines followed by one larger spine and 17 to 21 soft rays. The first spine on the dorsal fin may be resorbed in larger fish. The anal fin consists of 2 spines followed by a larger spine and 16 to 19 soft rays. The largest specimen on record weighed 23 kg and measured 122 cm in length. Females are generally larger than males. (Crabtree, et al., 2002; Graham and Castellanos, 2005; Smith, 1997; Sweat, 2010)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • female larger
  • Range mass
    23 (high) kg
    50.66 (high) lb
  • Range length
    122 (high) cm
    48.03 (high) in


Permit develop in three life stages; larvae, juvenile, and adult. The life cycle of a permit begins in a cloud of gametes during spawning. Upon fertilization, eggs develop into planktonic larvae in pelagic waters. Approximately 15 to 20 days after hatching, permit measure between 8 mm to 10 mm, and begin settling on windward sandy beaches. After settling on coastal habitats, larval permit begin developing into juveniles. As juveniles, permit measure between 10 mm and 400 mm. Once permit reach sexual maturity they are considered adults, which typically occurs between 400 mm and 500 mm in length and 2 to 3 years of age. (Adams, et al., 2006; Crabtree, et al., 2002; Graham and Castellanos, 2005; Sweat, 2010)


Permit are broadcast spawners, which spawn in large aggregations of 250 to 500 individuals near offshore reefs. Between 4 and 10 days after a full moon, large aggregations begin to form near reef promontories around sunset. Schools gather between 5 m and 20 m in depth prior to descending to deeper waters, from 25 m to 50 m. Small subgroups, consisting of 5 to 10 fish led by a large female, rise to the apex of the school to commence spawning. Pursuit males force the vent of the lead female upward as the group ascends through the water column. Once the lead female stops its ascent and begins releasing eggs, pursuing males position their vents as close as possible to that of the female while releasing sperm. Once gamete release is complete, the spawning subgroup quickly descends to rejoin the larger group of conspecifics. (Armstrong, et al., 1996; Crabtree, et al., 2002; Graham and Castellanos, 2005; Sweat, 2010)

Permit spawn multiple times per year and spawning season varies geographically. In general, the farther south a population is, the longer the spawning season. Although some populations spawn from May through July, more southerly populations spawn from February to October. Prolonged settlement of larval and juvenile permit on sandy, windward beaches, suggests year-round breeding in some populations; however, this has not been verified. Average age of reproductive maturity is 2.3 years in males and 3.1 years in females. (Crabtree, et al., 2002; Graham and Castellanos, 2005)

  • Breeding interval
    Permit spawn multiple times a year.
  • Breeding season
    Spawning season varies geographically, but generally occurs during spring and summer.
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    3.1 years
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    2.3 years

As broadcast spawners, permit provide no parental care to offspring. (Graham and Castellanos, 2005)

  • Parental Investment
  • no parental involvement


Although permit can live for up to 23 years in the wild, most individuals captured during recreational fishing events are between 10 and 15 years of age. (Crabtree, et al., 2002)

  • Range lifespan
    Status: wild
    23 (high) years
  • Typical lifespan
    Status: wild
    10 to 15 years


Permit live in small schools throughout most of their lives. Most large aggregations of permit form during spawning, which occurs in deep water near ocean currents. Spawning near ocean currents helps disperse gametes to nearby nurseries. Large adults have been seen solitarily patrolling intertidal flats during feeding. (Adams and Blewett, 2004; Adams, et al., 2006; Graham and Castellanos, 2005)

Home Range

There is no information available regarding the average home range size of permit; however, they are thought to move great distances through the year.

Communication and Perception

There is no information available regarding communication and perception in permit. However, they likely use sight and olfaction to perceive their local environment. The lateral line system allows them to sense changes in pressure and temperature throughout their immediate environment, helping them find food and avoid potential predators.

Food Habits

The diet of permit changes throughout their life. Larvae are planktivorous, and as juveniles, permit begin feeding on copepods, amphipods, mysids, shrimp and larval fish. Once they reach 35 mm in length, they begin feeding on benthic prey, including crabs, clams, polychaetes, gastropods, echinoids, and pelecypods. The development of small, conical teeth during adulthood allows them to crush the hard exoskeletons of their prey. (Finucane, 1969; Sweat, 2010; Zahorcsak, et al., 2000)

  • Animal Foods
  • fish
  • aquatic or marine worms
  • aquatic crustaceans
  • echinoderms
  • other marine invertebrates
  • zooplankton


No information concerning the potential predators of permit is currently available. However, it is believed that because juveniles inhabit exposed, sandy beaches they fall prey to piscivorous fish and avian predators. Adult permit are capable of becoming very large and are believed to be preyed upon by large marine carnivores, such as sharks and porpoises. In addition, permit are a highly esteemed game fish and are often sought by recreational fishermen. Their tendency to school and coloration are probably antipredator adaptations that help reduce risk of predation. (Armstrong, et al., 1996; Sweat, 2010)

  • Anti-predator Adaptations
  • cryptic

Ecosystem Roles

In all stages of life, permit are both predators and prey. Permit are also host to a number of parasites. As juveniles, they are often found with ectoparasitic isopods and fish lice attached to the mouth, gills and skin. Juveniles are also found with mature and immature roundworms in the viscera or within a body cavity. (Finucane, 1969)

Commensal/Parasitic Species

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Permit are a large part of the recreational fishing industry throughout their geographic range, but specifically in Florida and Belize, and are often the subject of studies investigating marine aquaculture. (Armstrong, et al., 1996; Graham and Castellanos, 2005; Jory, et al., 1985; Sweat, 2010)

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no known adverse affects of permit on humans.

Conservation Status

Permit have not been evaluated by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) or any other conservation-based organization. In Florida, commercial landings peaked in 1991 with approximately 91,000 kg. Combined commercial and recreational harvest in 1991 for Florida was 272,000 kg, and has not exceeded 136,000 kg since. As a result of perceived population declines, permit are only to be caught with light tackle (i.e., hook and line) via recreational vessels. In addition, Florida has established fishing regulations that limit fisherman to 6 permit per person per day, ranging from 28 to 51 cm, and only 2 fish per vessel exceeding 51 cm. (Armstrong, et al., 1996)


Shea Rolf (author), Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, Mark Jordan (editor), Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, John Berini (editor), Animal Diversity Web Staff.



living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.

World Map


living in the southern part of the New World. In other words, Central and South America.

World Map

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.

brackish water

areas with salty water, usually in coastal marshes and estuaries.


an animal that mainly eats meat


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


the nearshore aquatic habitats near a coast, or shoreline.


having markings, coloration, shapes, or other features that cause an animal to be camouflaged in its natural environment; being difficult to see or otherwise detect.


humans benefit economically by promoting tourism that focuses on the appreciation of natural areas or animals. Ecotourism implies that there are existing programs that profit from the appreciation of natural areas or animals.


animals which must use heat acquired from the environment and behavioral adaptations to regulate body temperature


an area where a freshwater river meets the ocean and tidal influences result in fluctuations in salinity.

external fertilization

fertilization takes place outside the female's body


union of egg and spermatozoan


A substance that provides both nutrients and energy to a living thing.


having a body temperature that fluctuates with that of the immediate environment; having no mechanism or a poorly developed mechanism for regulating internal body temperature.

intertidal or littoral

the area of shoreline influenced mainly by the tides, between the highest and lowest reaches of the tide. An aquatic habitat.


offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).


having the capacity to move from one place to another.


specialized for swimming

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


generally wanders from place to place, usually within a well-defined range.


reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.


An aquatic biome consisting of the open ocean, far from land, does not include sea bottom (benthic zone).


an animal that mainly eats fish


an animal that mainly eats plankton


Referring to a mating system in which a female mates with several males during one breeding season (compare polygynous).


structure produced by the calcium carbonate skeletons of coral polyps (Class Anthozoa). Coral reefs are found in warm, shallow oceans with low nutrient availability. They form the basis for rich communities of other invertebrates, plants, fish, and protists. The polyps live only on the reef surface. Because they depend on symbiotic photosynthetic algae, zooxanthellae, they cannot live where light does not penetrate.

saltwater or marine

mainly lives in oceans, seas, or other bodies of salt water.

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


associates with others of its species; forms social groups.


a wetland area that may be permanently or intermittently covered in water, often dominated by woody vegetation.


uses touch to communicate


that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).


the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.


uses sight to communicate


animal constituent of plankton; mainly small crustaceans and fish larvae. (Compare to phytoplankton.)


Adams, A., D. Blewett. 2004. Spatial Patterns of Estuarine Habitat Type Use and Temporal Patterns in Abundance of Juvenile Permit, Trachinotus falcatus, in Charlotte Harbor, Florida. Gulf and Carribean Research, 16/2: 129-139.

Adams, A., R. Wolfe, G. Kellison, B. Victor. 2006. Patterns of Juvenile Habitat USe and Seasonality of Settlement by Permit, Trachinotus falcatus. Environmental Biology of Fishes, 75: 209-217.

Armstrong, M., P. Hood, M. Murphy, R. Muller. 1996. "A Stock Assessment of Permit, Trachinotus falcatus, in Florida Waters" (On-line pdf). Accessed February 15, 2011 at

Crabtree, R., P. Hood, D. Snodgrass. 2002. Age, Growth, and Reproduction of Permit (Trachinotus falcatus) in Florida Waters. Fish.Bull., 100: 26-34.

Finucane, J. 1969. Ecology of the Pompano (Trachinotus carolinus) and the Permit (Trachinotus falcatus) in Florida. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society, 98/3: 478-486.

Graham, R., D. Castellanos. 2005. Courtship and Spawning Behaviors of Carangid Species in Belize. Fish.Bull., 103: 426-432.

Jory, D., E. Iversen, R. Lewis. 1985. Culture of Fishes of the Genus Trachinotus (Carangidae) in the Western Atlantic: Prospects and Problems. Journal of the World Mariculture Society, 16: 87-94.

Smith, C. 1997. National Audubon Society Field Guide to Tropical Marine Fishes: Carribean, Gulf of Mexico, Florida, Bahamas, Bermuda. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc..

Sweat, L. 2010. "Smithsonian Marine Station at Fort Pierce: Trachinotus falcatus" (On-line). Accessed February 15, 2011 at

Zahorcsak, P., R. Silvano, I. Sazima. 2000. Feeding Biology of a Guild of Benthivorous Fishes in a Sandy Shore on South-Eastern Brazilian Coast. Rev.Brasil.Biol., 60/3: 511-518.