|4/1/2021 2:57:00 PM|
No, we’re not talking about some dark-haired beauty running down the beach, but another name for what most of us
Mullet are everywhere. You’ll find them in both fresh and salt water on both sides of the state. Over the years, folks have tried lots of ways to enhance demand for mullet; even to the extent of renaming them. Lots of us only know mullet as smoked planks available at local fish markets. They make great smoked fish dip. What locals know is that they are also great fried and are a Florida favorite when fresh caught, immediately iced and fileted just before a fish fry. The challenge with marketing mullet has always been their limited shelf life. That restricts them to spots close to where they’re landed.
Speaking of catching mullet, they frustrate many a novice saltwater angler since they ignore most every lure and bait presented, insisting on their vegetarian diet. Back in the day, a fisherman was charged with netting mullet illegally. The defense attorney got him off by convincing the court that mullet were not fish but birds since “only birds have gizzards”. Mullet do have gizzards but they can only “fly” short distances while they surround a frustrated angler.
They actually can be caught or captured by several methods and there is a generous 50 fish limit if you are planning a fish fry for the whole neighborhood. As mentioned though, use them all quickly as they don’t keep or freeze well. If they are to be kept for later, smoking is really the best option. Mullet caught in saltwater taste better than their freshwater cousins who can taste muddy.
As a kid, Les fished for mullet with his grandfather in the canals of Ft. Lauderdale. A cane pole with stout line, a monofilament leader, small hook and a bread ball or small piece of worm was the best rig. Suspending the bait a few inches under a tiny float was the standard presentation. As they swam by, the mullet would occasionally inhale the bait and the battle was on. Don’t underestimate a mullet when hooked. They are powerful fish that pull hard and jump. Recently, we learned that up in the panhandle folks chum for them with bread and use a tiny piece of a white plastic bass worm on the hook when fishing from docks.
It is legal to net them with cast nets but unless you’re good at throwing a big heavy net, most of us leave that to the professionals. What we can do legally to capture a mullet for the table is to snag one. If you find yourself faced with big schools of mullet and nothing else is biting, tie a large, unweighted, very sharp treble hook onto your line and toss it across the school as they swim by. Hooking one this way is not very sporting but works to put a fish in the pan. Hooking up a big mullet this way will keep you busy for a while since they pull like a redfish, especially when foul hooked.
Les accidentally snagged a big mullet a few years back. He was throwing a jig nearby to see if any redfish were shadowing the big school. Redfish do this hoping for a crab or startled baitfish to appear. It’s always a good plan to toss a jig around mullet for redfish. This fish had Les convinced, for a few minutes, that he had actually found a redfish as 10 lb. braid peeled off the reel. He finally landed this fish after convincing it to leave the school and come home for dinner; it was delicious.
There are seasonal nighttime closures in Charlotte County that affect mullet fishermen so check out the FWC page for details to avoid any problems. Whether you call it a common mullet, cefalo, macho, machuto, liza cabezuda, liza blanca or even just liza, it’s a fish you’ll see every time you’re near saltwater around here. So, if nothing else is biting and you need a fresh seafood dinner, bring Liza home.
Kimball and Les Beery, authors of Angler’s Guide to Shore and KAYAK Fishing Southwest Florida, contribute these excerpts from both Waterproof books to promote the excellent fishing available in the Englewood area. They are available locally at Old Florida Gallery on West Dearborn, and Cook’s Sportland in Venice. Or visit www.anglerpocketguides.com.
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