Although Thick-lipped Mullet are reasonably abundant on the north coast of Ireland, the other two species, namely Thin-Lipped and Golden-Grey Mullet prefer the slightly warmer seas that Southern Ireland has to offer. If I wanted any chance at all in finding the three species in one trip, that’s where I had to head. I do not doubt, with rising sea temperatures, that eventually these and other sub-tropical species will venture further up the west coast in the future. However, I don’t believe in waiting around, so for angling mate Andrew Wolsey and I, it was back down to the Cork and Kerry coast-line on yet another mini-adventure. Hopefully, if we had luck on our side, we could meet the considerable challenge of finding all three Mullet varieties in one trip.
For the first day, we were going it alone, planning to meet up with local angler Sid Kennedy later in the week. However, from previous excursions, I knew my way around this area and there were a few good hot-spots to try out. We found the shoals of standard “greys” quite easily, and they were more than happy to oblige. I think this surprised Andy, as similar to me; we are used to the Mullet not wanting to play. Up north they should be called “tight-lipped” rather than thick-lipped! It wasn’t long before we were both playing fish, and Andy soon had his first “south ‘o the border Grey Mullet” in the net.
Moving further down the estuary, we ran into several large pods of smaller Mullet, and with a switch of tactics from float-fished bread flake to rag-worm baited Bombarda floats, it wasn’t long before we had mullet species number two in the landing net for a quick catch-photo-release. Delicate, mini-versions of their larger cousins, silver with a beautiful blue shimmer running through, fine angular pectorals and of course, that bright, yellow-golden patch on each gill cover. These really are pretty little fish.
On the second day, Sid and his son Derick joined us, and we had already moved on, discovering fresh hot-spots to try out. The shoals passed by, tantalisingly close, and we soon learnt the art of distinguishing “goldies” from juvenile “greys”. The yellow patches on the cheeks were a give-away when the sun shone; otherwise it was the finer, scissor-like tail fins and pectorals that told us they were “goldies”.
As the tide ebbed, it was necessary to follow the shoals out towards the open sea to stay in contact. Just behind the main surf that was gently breaking on the shore, we could see the vague, ghost-like shapes of numerous mullet, hanging back in the calmer waters. Although it was impossible to tell exactly which species they were, they were tempting enough to drop a baited hook behind. By over-casting, then slowly drawing the bait back into the shoal, we were less inclined to “spook” the fish, which worked a treat! Sid, Derick and I had baits out there in seconds, poor Andy ended up “barged” by the wayside on this occasion. I think he soon realised when fishing with this team, it can be a bit of a “dog eat dog” scenario! Stretch or starve mate, stretch or starve.
Sid struck into a fish, followed seconds later by Derick, and almost immediately again by me. With three mullet on at the same time, Andy graciously decided to stand back and watch the action. This was a pity really, because the ensuing disturbance caused the main shoal to drop back and out of casting range.
Sid was first to land his fish, a Golden-Grey just under specimen weight, with Derick following close behind. It soon became clear that Derick’s fish was our sought after Thin-Lipped, and celebrations were in order with the achievement of all three species taken on this trip. There was still the small matter of my fish, fighting every inch of the way, using the strong tidal currents to its advantage. This was a lot bigger than Derick’s fish, and my imagination ran riot. Could this be a specimen Thin-Lipped, and a new species for me, a double-whammy?
In the net, and pushing five pounds, it was immediately obvious it was the standard grey. Ah well, how could I be disappointed? What a fight, and amazing to be in a situation where three mullet were hooked up at the same time, and three separate species into the bargain! As it transpired, we could have achieved the original challenge between us at the same time, one cast each! Fantastic stuff.
Ideally you want a standard fresh-water match rod, or quiver-tip, twelve or thirteen feet in length. These have the perfect action for presenting soft baits, lifting line over distance during the strike and playing and absorbing the powerful runs and dogged determination of mullet, especially Grey Mullet. They are also light-weight, important when on the move and holding a rod all day.
Pic10 A specimen Goldie taken on Shakespeare feeder rod and Mitchell reel
Float controllers, the type used in carp angling are ideal for carrying a delicate bait out to distant shoals, and suit the standard practice of taking mullet on the surface. The Golden-Greys tend to feed slightly lower in the water column, and Bombarda floats can be very useful here. They come in a range of floating, sinking and slow-sinking systems, and being self-weighted, cast extremely well. This allows the angler to cover all depths and casting ranges in search of feeding fish.
I fish with 8lb nylon for the main line, and 6lb hook lengths. This is due to the tough mullet conditions usually encountered in Northern Ireland. Sid however, uses 15lbs straight through, which did nothing to hamper bite rates and hook-ups. The obvious benefit of that and the method behind the madness is if a Bass or Guilt-Head Bream happened along, he would stand a fair chance of landing them, whereas I would probably be “smashed” in a nano-second!
Mullet will take a whole range of baits offered to them, including fish flesh, fish intestines, sweet-corn, bread, mussel, fish fry, shrimps, maggots etc. The trick is finding the correct bait they are willing to accept at that current time! Floating crust and bread-flake either on the surface or sub-surface is the norm for the Thick-lips. Harbour rag or “maddies” are ideal for the “goldies”, although we managed to catch all three species on “maddies” on this occasion.