If you haven’t seen a mullet run, you have missed out.
Sure, they get their little legs moving and – naw, that’s not right. Mullet can’t really run, or can they?
Each year when the ocean temperatures begin to cool to the north, hoards of mullet head south to warmer climes. As the big schools move right along the coast, they attract lots of hungry predators. In Volusia County, we can expect plenty of big red drum to be trailing and, on occasion, even fish we would normally catch farther off shore. King mackerel, cobia and tarpon will be there to compete with schools of marauding jacks to get their fill.
When will this happen? Unfortunately I can’t tell you exactly. The mullet run because of some unknown signal only they hear.
At this time of year, it is in our best interest to be paying a lot of attention to the surf. When the mullet do begin to pass by, they will be very visible. On a calm day, look for the slightest disturbance on the surface. Some of us old salts call it “nervous water.”
Most of the time, the big predatory fish following the mullet will give it away as they splash and jump. At times it can be quite a show. Add to that the seabirds hovering above and diving for the scraps and it won’t be difficult to spot.
The best way to fish the mullet run is to cast net a few finger mullet from the surf and toss that live bait out to the edges of the passing schools. The game fish will stay just off the edges looking for a mullet that is having trouble keeping up. Like us, they hope to get an easy meal.
Fishing your own bait off the school will make it appear to be easy pickings. Casting into the center of the school will make your bait more difficult to see.
As for me, during the mullet run, I usually leave my rods and reels home to opt for the cast net. I am happy just to net some tasty mullet for frying or smoking. When times are good, three or four casts with a small net will fill a medium sized cooler. Ocean mullet are cleaner than those we catch inshore and therefore better tasting.
It has been said that the lowly mullet is the most consumed fish on the planet and I would have to agree. They are found in fresh, salt and brackish waters in practically every country on the planet.
Once the mullet make it into the rivers, they can be caught with hook and line from docks and piers. Since they are mostly herbivores, you should chum them with small pieces of light bread. Once they begin feeding, moisten bread and roll it into balls to dry in the sun. That will make the dough balls a little tougher and better to stay on a hook. For this type of fishing a cane pole and no weight is about perfect. If you do it correctly, you can have a lot of fun and some very good eats.
Smoked mullet dip is one of my favorite things and, properly fried, mullet filets can be delicious. (I like to use a thousand island and horse radish dip with mine.) So, for the next few weeks, keep an eye on the surf and try to be there to see the mullet run.
Dan Smith has fished the waters of Volusia County for more than 40 years. Email questions and comments to email@example.com. His book, “I Swear the Snook Drowned,” is available for purchase for $10.95 at (386) 441-7793.