Catching dozens of Florida mullet may not carry the esteem of reeling in a large mackerel, but these small bait fish can provide fishermen with the opportunity to get larger catches. Found throughout the state in its estuaries, bayous and lagoons, mullet can be caught using cast nets and lines with multiple hooks, then used as bait to catch Florida's larger sport fish.
Mullet are small, elongated fish found throughout the subtropical waters of the state of Florida. The most common types of mullet in the state are the striped mullet and the white mullet. Mullet are vegetarians that eat aquatic plants and algae floating on the surface or attached to the bottom of shallow waters. They travel in large schools and frequently jump into the air, allowing them to be easily spotted by fishermen.
Mullets can be found throughout Florida in the state's many canals, lagoons, rivers and coves. Indian River County on the central eastern coast of the state is a common mullet fisherman destination; Fort Desoto Park, located on the Mullet Bayou outside of St. Petersburg, is also a popular mullet fishing spot. Though mullets can be fished on both coasts of Florida, the Gulf Coast side of the state is where most of the commercial mullet fisheries are located.
Because mullets travel in large schools, maximizing your catch requires you to use a large fishing net or a line with several hooks and bobbers attached to it. Typically, mullet fishing is done with a cast net that has mesh no larger than 1/4-inch in size; this allows fishermen to trap mullets of many different sizes. The cast net should also be 3 to 6 inches in size to cover an area large enough to trap many members of the school of mullet. Whether fishing with a net or a line, you can bait the area using an oatmeal mash to lure the fish.
Because mullets are not considered a sport fish in the state of Florida, the regulations for taking the fish are quite lax. Mullets can be taken from any freshwater source in Florida, except specially regulated areas, and they can be fished using a cast net of up to 14 feet in size. All mullets, regardless of size, may be taken, and there are no regulations regarding the amount of mullet you can take in one day. Any other sport fish trapped using the cast net must, however, be released back into the water source.
Florida mullet fish have a variety of uses. Once caught, they can be filleted and then cooked or smoked. Additionally, Florida mullets are frequently used for baiting larger Flordia game fish, including cobia, dolphin, shark mackerel, ladyfish, jack crevalle, bluefish and Spanish mackerel. The mullet is threaded through a hook in front or behind the dorsal fin, then skimmed along the surface near other bait fish runs to entice bites from larger predator fish. It can also be hooked through its belly to fish for bottom-feeding fish.
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