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There are reports this week of mullet jumping and soaring in the air, all along the rivers and canals. I’ve told you to read the water and throw your cast net when you see a school going by. However, I have many callers wondering how to know if it is mullet.
|Maschek at helm of a charter boat out of Marina Jacks in Sarasota.|
Mullet gracefully jump in the air. You might think of them as a ballerina fish, as they perform a ballet for you.
There are about 100 species of mullet throughout the world. Nowhere are they more abundant than in Florida; in pioneer days the water literally swarmed with them.
Mullet are vegetarians, eating grass exclusively, and have a gizzard somewhat like a chicken. Throughout the years it has always been food on the table for anyone who could throw a cast net.
More than any other kind of fishing, it is a specialty, not complicated, but difficult to learn how to catch this fish with a hook and line.
I learned to cast net from a group of anglers from Plant City who fished at Apollo Beach at a spot they named Michelob Point. Shorty Brown who owned a pharmacy in Plant City had learned this art from pioneer anglers.
With a bag of chicken feed, mash, oatmeal, or stale bread crumbs, they would make up a chum to feed the mullet. Waiting about fifteen minutes after putting the chum in the water, they would bait a 0-1 hook with a roll-up ball of the same mixture and throw it into the the school.
Believe it or not, they would hook a mullet on every throw -- before the ball dissolved. One of their buddies would assist with making the balls, while the other would be chumming about every five minutes. Once you have mastered this, you will be able to chum, make the balls and catch the mullet like clockwork.
One day they brought Mel Tillis along to my house to go mullet fishing and master this procedure as well as the Plant City anglers. He came in an old bedded truck which he called “O’Blue.” We all climbed in and went to Michelob Point, which is now private property with million dollar homes.
Talking to some local pioneers, they said they only used fat back for bait with a small 0-1 hook and a cane pole, and they would make a catch in every cast.
The key to this type of fishing is to be very alert, have the touch, or feel when the mullet bumps the line, be ready for a hook setting and pull in.
There is a knack on setting the hook as mullet don’t strike like most saltwater species and will try to spit the hook out. You must set the hook very quickly and prepare for some fun as the fish jumps and jumps before being landed.
Never try this type of fishing on a first tide, as it will never work. Perhaps the best place would be the canals where the tide flows slowly.
Mullet fishing with hook and line is a fun time for a group of anglers. The more chum, the more mullet. As for a time frame, it has been proven that early morning or early evening are the best fishing times for catching mullet with hook and pole.
Smoked mullet is an excellent way to cook your catch. Look in your supermarket and see how expensive it is. The southern way is frying with cornmeal and hush puppies. Anglers say they serve cheese grits with theirs (not the store-bought kind, but grits made from scratch with a lot of butter and cheese).
I remember on one of my interviews asking a fishing guide how he survived on fishing and he said in the summer time they lived on mullet and in the winter on tourists. (This may be true with today’s guides.)
Redfish are abundant in our waterways, but we are told as the water heats up, they swim to the shade of the mangroves or some dive into deep holes to stay cool. Fish early, before the sun comes up, or late at night, if you want to catch a redfish. Your catch cannot be less than 18” or more than 27” with one catch per person per day.
Sheepshead have been the catch of the week for those fishing from piers. This is a lean white meat fish and a great tablefare.
Many anglers are connecting with snook, which seem to be plentiful in all waterways, but they must be caught and released until opening season in September.
Reports of anglers using fiddler crabs for bait have been boating pompano in the ship channels. Some anglers this week have lucked out on mackerel catches.
I saw many people surf casting at Longboat Key using live shrimp and green backs for bait, landing mackerel, snapper, and larger than usual sea trout. Around Bradenton Beach, dozens of boats were anchored with anglers digging for scallops.
Lots of sailboats were out, with full sail, enjoying the day and saving on gas. The charter boats at Marina Jacks were full of families with children, all unloading with a variety of catches, missing the large red grouper.
Congratulations to Willie Ashe of Apollo Beach, whose grandson Chris Colwill placed fourth in spring board diving in China at the Olympics.
All children are back at school; I hope they enjoyed their summer with some fishing, as they are our anglers of tomorrow.
-- Aleta Jonie Maschek is a member of Florida Outdoor Press.
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