Mullet shoals are a common sight from the harbours and piers of seaside towns, but their shyness deters many fishermen from tackling this strong, wary, fighting fish.
Mullet are probably the most frequently seen and easily observed marine species around our shores. They are strong sporting fish which lend themselves to lighttackle fishing, yet are little fished for except by enthusiastic specialists. Due to the mullet’s natural caution and unique feeding habits, myths and legends about their virtual uncatch-ability abound. Difficult they may be at times, but uncatchable they are certainly not.
Three species of mullet
Three species are found in British waters. The thick-lipped grey mullet is the commonest and is found all round our coasts. It is also the largest, attaining weights in excess of 10 lb, but the average size is about 2-4lb and a 5lb mullet is considered a specimen. The thin-lipped grey mullet is smaller on average and has a more localized distribution, being found mostly off the south coast of England, in Cornwall and the Channel Islands. The golden grey mullet is the smallest and scarcest of the three species. Mullet are inshore fish frequenting sheltered beaches, bays and coves, harbours and estuaries.
They have considerable tolerance of freshwater and will travel a long way up estuaries, tidal creeks and lagoons, even penetrating for a while into freshwater.
Mullet will be seen from time to time scouring the bottom, sucking and blowing mud and sand as they extract diatoms and other tiny creatures from the waste matter. As their food is available to them vir-tually everywhere and at almost all times their feeding patterns are un-predictable. Such food is impossible for the angler to imitate, but in places the mullet become used to feeding on other than their natural food and are consequently vulnerable to the angler.
In harbours where trawlers gut their catch or dump waste fish and fish offal, or where fish factories and processing plants pipe their waste into the sea, mullet acquire a taste for fish. In holiday resorts or places where waste food is regularly dumped or near sewer outlets, mullet will again become accustomed to feeding on a mixture of scraps and can be caught on a large variety of such baits as cheese, ham fat and bacon rind. Generally, however, the most frequently used and most successful baits are pieces of fish, bread flake, dough and small Ragworms. These mullet are fished for as soon as they are observed feeding on the waste, and all that is required is to introduce your hookbait without frightening the fish. At other times it may be necessary to groundbait with fish or bread to interest them in food and bring them on to feed.
Mullet feeding on their natural food require a very different approach. They must be weaned onto feeding on something which the angler can use as bait. This requires careful planning and patience. Choose places where mullet come to feed on the tide and spend time before moving on. The groundbait such as fish frames or skeletons, bread, or a mash made of fish waste mixed with fish oil, should be spread on the bottom at low water. Mullet like to move around a lot when feeding and will not remain in one spot, so they must be given a choice. Groundbait in three or four different places but ensure that all are within casting range of where you will be fishing. Fish frames should be tethered to the bottom, so that they will not be swept away by the current. No effort should be made to actually fish for the mullet for three or four days until the fish have become ac-customed to and have accepted and started feeding on the groundbait.
Ordinary coarse fishing tackle is ideal for mullet fishing. Indeed, in many ways they are a coarse fisherman’s fish, as his techniques, tackle and methods are best suited to catching them. A long flexible rod, a freshwater fixed-spool reel, 5lb b.s. Line, hook sizes 8-14, floats, lead shot and a few Arlesey bombs are all that is required. When the water is not too deep, or mullet are feeding near the surface, float fishing with a fixed float set at the desired depth can be most effective. Sufficient shotting should be used to give the float the least possible positive buoyancy compatible with visibility. Mullet are cautious and the less drag they feel from the float the better.
At times, mullet take floating crust and the bait must then be presented to them on the surface. A controller float is used to give casting weight but a fixed float with all the shot bunched immediately under the float will also work. The float should always be drawn away from the floating crust in case it obstructs or frightens the mullet when it trys to take the bait. On occasion mullet taking surface bread may try to sink it and break it up before actually taking it. In these circumstances, a two-dropper terminal tackle is very useful, as one bait can be fished on the surface and another in the water. When wishing to float fish but at a depth which makes casting either awkward or impossible, a sliding float should be used. A stop in the form of a piece of elastic band which will run through the rod rings without catching may be used to regulate the depth of the bait.
When fishing from rocks, piers or harbour walls for mullet which are feeding close-in either on the bottom or along the wall or rock face, a one or twohook paternoster can be used. If the fish are feeding well off the bottom and the depth is ascertained, an elastic band fixed to the line can be used as a gauge. For this kind of fishing the rod should always be held and a finger kept on the line so that the slightest indication of a bite may be felt. Mullet take very gently and may either let go again or strip your bait without signalling a bite unless the rod is hand held.
For the novice, mullet makes the perfect introduction to sea fishing. And with tench, bream or roach tackle, he is likely to do better than the sea angler using heavier gear.