The Magic of Mullet

Mullet remain the uncatchable species for many anglers. Certainly they can be difficult, but all mullet can and will be caught if you try hard enough. It just takes observation, a logical fishing strategy, and then usually some patience before success is achieved.

Although on the south and southwest coast of the UK mullet can be caught from early April on, the traditional start to the mullet season is the middle of May for most anglers. By this time the mullet are inside the harbours, estuaries and creeks in good numbers, settled in to their summer environment, and starting to feed hard.

Observation is key! Successful mullet anglers always spend time, without their tackle, firstly locating numbers of mullet, and watching them. You’ll find that mullet often tend to work to a set pattern. They show in one area, but move with the tide in to other areas and the timing of this can be exact with each location favoured at a particular height of tide. This applies to harbours, and also to estuary side creeks that dry out either side of low water. If you note these areas and exactly when the mullet show up as the new tide floods in, this maximises your fishing time and coincides exactly with when the mullet are most likely to feed.

In harbours with constant deepish water, also marinas, the mullet may be present all the time, but again watch them. You’ll see that certain periods of the tide they will feed, other times they just swim about aimlessly ignoring everything. Only fish when the mullet look to be feeding and you’ll see fish sipping bits off the surface, or moving forward and flaring their gills as they suck water borne food items in!

Mullet are an intelligent fish. If a pipe washes dirty water, and especially waste food stuffs, down in to the sea from a harbour wall, the mullet will learn to anticipate exactly when that pipe is scheduled to flow and show up ready to feed a few minutes before. They also learn to work around fishing boats that come in to harbour, as when they clean the decks down, bits of fish and bait get washed in to the sea. Another good spot will be where tourists feed swans, seagulls and the like in inlets and harbours with bread. All these food stuffs going in to the water educate the mullet when and where to feed, gives them confidence to take a bait, plus the food washed in acts as a groundbait holding the fish in the one area and making them predictable.

The most consistent bait for grey mullet is bread because it is a common throw-away food by people and the mullet are well used to it. Specialist anglers can wean mullet on to other food stuffs, but for newcomers to mullet fishing I’d say stick to bread. The best is the cheapest white sliced loaf. These are doughy when fresh and stay on the hook well. Before fishing, just throw in a few 50p sized chunks to float on the surface and watch the mullet come up and suck them in.

When baiting up with bread, take a chunk between the size of a 10p and 50p piece, fold it round the hook but leaving the hook point exposed, then just crimp the top end of the bread lightly around the top of the hook shank to hold it in place.

Mullet tackle at the start needs a little thought. Mullet are powerful fighters, especially in shallow water, so require a rod with some power in the blank. Good options are the Shakespeare Mach 2 XT Commercial which can take lines up to 8lbs, or the cheaper Mach 1 Specialist. Both have the power to set the hook quickly as a fish takes the bait, but have a progressive action that soaks up the power generated by a big mullet. But you can also use a standard 10’ spinning rod if you have one, such as the SALT Spin or Tidewater Spin. 4000 sized reels make a good combination with the above rods, so look at the Mach 2 XT 040 Front Drag fixed spool or the Mach 1 XT 040 Front Drag fixed spool reels and load both with 8lb braid. To the end of the braid add 8-foot or so of 8lb Fluorocarbon.

If the mullet can be seen feeding on the surface and taking the bread, its time to fish. The best way to present the bread is to use a clear bubble float. I use the 30mm Bannand oval bubble floats as these are perfect for the job. These can be fitted on to the Fluorocarbon leader and lock in place, but can easily be repositioned on your line if you want to increase the distance between the float and the bait. With the float in place on the leader, now tie on a small size 8 rolling swivel. To the end of the swivel add 6-feet of 8lb Fluoro carbon. The hook needs to be strong short shank carp pattern; usually size 8 is a good choice, but carries size 6 for bigger baits and sizes 10 and 12 for smaller baits if the mullet are shy feeders.

The idea of the bubble is not as a bite indicator. The float is only there to suspend the line in the surface water column. For bite indication you watch the bread bait. When a mullet sucks the bread in you see a small swirl where your bread was. Strike the instant you see the swirl and the bread disappear.

The bubble float also allows you to trot the bait down with the tide to mullet that are already feeding on the bread you threw in earlier. When you do this, make sure there is no drag or wake on the bread from the float, for if it behaves unnaturally the mullet will just ignore it. If the bubble float skids on the surface due to a side wind, add some water to the bubble float to increase its weight and suspend it further down in to the surface water.

You hear anglers say mullet have soft mouths. This is untrue! What happens is that the mullet are often hooked right in the edge of the lip and the hook will tear free due to the power of the mullet. This is why it’s important to have the drag set slightly lightly in case of a weak hook hold and a rod tip section that will give to a running fish.

A few more good tips include keeping a low profile so that the mullet cannot see you against a bright background, and to also keep movement to a minimum. If you can hide behind something, do so! Wear good quality Polaroid glasses which allow you to see the mullet clearly in the water and will identify fish a second or two before they move in on your bait. Have the drag set to give line easily but under pressure to tire the fish. If a mullet goes for the bottom of a boat, a marina pontoon or other potential snag, drop the rod to the side to turn the fish.

For estuary and creek fishing a landing net is a good addition to your tackle. For harbour walls, then a drop net is often the better choice.

Mullet are not caught by magic! If you follow the steps above you will catch mullet, but remember to find out by observation exactly where the fish are really feeding first, which will make the difference between success and failure.

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