Fisherman and wildlife photographer Allen Hoffacker gave his friend the ultimate birthday present March 13. Hoffacker invited Ron York to go fishing in the Florida Keys, leading to a beautiful 40-pound permit for the birthday boy.

“It’s not often that you’re blessed to spend a day on the water, much less their birthday, with one of your dearest friends in the beautiful Florida Keys, but that’s just what happened,” Hoffacker said.

Hours of effort led them to a shallow area where they hoped to see a few large singles “tailing” on the last of the ebbing tide. They used crabs for bait — a delicacy for permit — and began probing the water for one of the most elusive saltwater fish.

“After many years of paying our dues, and after poling our skiffs for miles and miles over the gin-clear flats,” Hoffacker said, “we had a shot at the ultimate challenge: the wily and almost impossible-to-catch permit.

“We spotted the very large fish (roughly 40 pounds) cruising in about two feet of water. Ron cast the crab perfectly just in front of the permit. It took the bait, and after a 15-round championship battle of 150-yard runs, along with ‘jack-type slugging it out,’ I tailed this beautiful gift from God.”

 

The relentless battle of a hooked permit.

The relentless battle of a hooked permit.

 

The two brought the iridescent fish alongside the boat, removing the hook and releasing it unharmed.

“After a few photos — including the best one of all, ‘The Release’ — we gave each other a hug and sat down in my skiff, satisfied beyond satisfaction,” Hoffacker said.

York couldn’t have had a better friend along to share his birthday and present with. Hoffacker is a professional photographer and former fishing guide who grew up in the Everglades and knows the salt better than almost anyone. Retired, he is able to spend much of his time in South Florida and the Keys, locating fish and catching them with rod, reel, and camera.

While York couldn’t take his present home, he now has pictures worth far more than a thousand words.

 

"The Release"

“The Release”

 

Incredibly, Hoffacker has only been photographing wildlife for five years, having saved up for a Nikon D810 following his retirement. In that short timeframe he has won several awards, including the Florida Wildlife Federation’s 2015 photo contest. He spends at least eight hours a day developing his craft.

“I would tell those who aspire to improve their skills to not be afraid to work their tails off and wear out a shutter,” Hoffacker said. He has done just that, having to replace his Nikon’s shutter after five years of near-constant shooting. He rarely leaves home without the camera — something aspiring photographers would be wise to emulate with their own equipment.

 

For more of Hoffacker’s breathtaking images, visit half-crackerphoto.com today.

 

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