Florida’s favorite bait drives fish wild!
Along the beaches and lagoons of Florida, the fall mullet run is an angler’s dream. The shear number of mullet busting the surface and being chased by predators makes this sensational migration both exciting and dramatic.
Mullet are of the family Mugilidae and are most noticeable by their inverted v-shaped mouth and long, sleek silver bodies. While there are many species of mullet, in Florida, the most common include the black or striped mullet, silver mullet and fantail mullet. Along the state’s Atlantic seaboard, the mullet run is typically more prominent when the wind is out of the northeast and thick schools of baitfish cloud the surface and blanket the ocean. When the mullet run is on and in full swing, both beach and boat going anglers can easily find action by searching for diving birds and leaping game fish.
The mullet run is highly anticipated by many Florida anglers, inshore and off. Finding huge schools of mullet can lead to catching a variety of hard-fighting game fish including bluefish, Spanish mackerel, king mackerel, dolphin, cobia, shark, ladyfish, jack crevalle, snook, tarpon, trout and redfish. While mullet are commonly caught using a cast net, at times they can also be captured on a Sabiki rig or tiny gold hook tipped with a minute piece of shrimp or squid tentacle. When using a cast net it is necessary to throw an appropriate sized net for the size baitfish you are targeting. Keeping in mind that cast nets are measured by mesh size from the bottom and top knots, a proper cast net for mullet ranging from three to six-inches will have 1”-1.25” mesh size which will allow the net to sink rapidly - enabling you to maximize your catch. Compared to a pinfish or blue runner, mullet are hard to keep alive in a bait pen or bait motel for long periods of time. However, keeping mullet alive in a well-aerated baitwell should not be a problem. The following are a few general tips to help increase your strike ratio when fishing Florida’s favorite bait.
When fishing around large schools of bait, expect to find various species of predators attacking mullet on the surface.
• Use a 4/0 or 5/0 circle hook tied with a loop knot rigged just behind the dorsal fin.
• This will ensure the mullet will swim with its tail skimming the surface, creating turbulence and an enticing wake that game fish find irresistible.
• A J-hook can be used, but circle hooks guarantee solid hookups without the need to set the hook.
• Pitch your free-lined mullet into the melee, hold your rod tip up high and wait for a strike, then its game time!
With thousands of mullet busting the surface and only one rigged with a hook, it is sometimes better to separate your offering from the rest.
• Hook your mullet in front of the dorsal fin to keep your bait swimming in the water column just below the surface where you will increase your chance of a strike.
• You can use a circle hook or J-hook, just remember that circle hooks provide consistent hookups in the corner of the jaw, promote healthier releases and lessen the chances of break offs due to frayed leaders.
The same circle or J-hooks tied with a loop knot can be used when targeting fish towards the bottom, the only difference is hook placement.
The fall bait run is special to many Florida angler’s because of the availability of bait and the aggressive nature of nearby predators. With the proper techniques and tactics, this year’s mullet run will give you the opportunity to connect with an assortment of game fish, both inshore and off, and provide you with enough memories to last until next years migration.
Catch ‘em up!
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