The Mullet Run

Plug Florida’s Epic Migration

Capt. Steve Dougherty September 20, 2010

While volumes have been written about the proper tactics and techniques to approach the annual fall bait run there’s one aspect that cannot be overlooked—this incredible migration is highly anticipated by anglers of all ages and skill levels. As tropical weather patterns churn the Atlantic, water temperatures begin to fall and prevailing southeast winds gradually veer to the north. The changing of seasons initiates an incredible phenomenon known simply as the mullet run. Millions of silver silhouettes ride the waves south and inundate area beaches, inlets, shorelines and shallow backcountry venues. With predators offered a seemingly endless supply of forage, primarily black and silver mullet, it’s best described as a full-on feeding frenzy lasting for weeks. Large dark shadows moving down the beach become common sights, as mullet masses flee the pursuit of hungry snook, tarpon, sharks, jacks, Spanish and king mackerel, bluefish and redfish. Although there are numerous offerings that will certainly get you in the game, perhaps no enticements offer as much action and excitement as topwater and subsurface plugs.

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Photo: Steve Dougherty

Commonly referred to as hardbaits and stickbaits, there are a wide variety of walking, popping and subsurface swimming plugs that will tempt nearby predators. While numerous factors will affect your selection and presentation, walking baits create an irresistible twitching action that’s known as “walking-the-dog.” Popping baits, also referred to as chuggers, are similar to walking baits except they feature cupped faces that create irresistible surface commotion. Subsurface seekers are often outfitted with a plastic lip to help reach deeper depths and whether you choose to pop, walk, or dive there’s a plethora of available options.

…there are a wide variety of walking, popping and subsurface swimming plugs that will tempt nearby predators.

While old-timers and seasoned salts will tell you stories of how much better the mullet run used to be, if you put in the effort you will definitely be rewarded with quality action from a variety of predators. Rather than a conveyor belt of billions of baitfish, the migration we know today typically pulses south in waves, so it makes common sense that finding concentrations of baitfish is key to your success. It’s pretty much impossible to predict the exact size, location and duration of the run so you must keep your eyes on the water and the weather. One solid northeast blow or October groundswell is all that it takes to ignite a hot bite.

Game On!
When focusing your efforts along East Coast beaches signs of life will be easy to spot. Clouds of mullet invade area shorelines and quickly give away the presence of feeding game fish. The bite really turns on when the seas kick up. With a stiff breeze in your face you’ll need a plug that’s matched to your outfit to effectively cut through the wind. While some plugs feature loud ball bearings in an effort to emit a deadly effective frequency and pitch, this addition also helps to increase castability. When you’re stalking the suds and spot a cloud of mullet just beyond the first sandbar, lures such as Rapala’s 6-inch Glidin’ Rap are a great selection. This go-to weighs 2 ½ ounces, can be cast a country mile and features a slow-sinking, weighted body to cover the water column. If you’re blind-casting the beaches, something like a Skitter Pop may be a better choice, as it features a concave face that creates a loud surface commotion to seduce nearby game fish, especially those prowling the wash.

Inshore, mullet will be traversing inlets and passes to reach safe backwater venues. Follow nervous water and keep your eyes peeled for surface action. The combination of mullet, current, and structure will lead you to snook, jack and tarpon. Try tossing a MirrOlure She Dog under murky conditions, as this highly buoyant lure features twin rattles, which emit a deadly effective high frequency. Under clear water conditions a MirrOmullet resembles a wounded finger mullet and with a smaller rattle and profile, it’s the perfect choice for a subtle presentation.

When it comes to color selection it makes sense that silver/black patterns work well as they clearly match the hatch, although sometimes it makes sense to choose a brighter color pattern that provides a distinct contrast. While in no way a new player in the game, Yo-Zuri recently took the industry by storm with their revolutionary Sashimi series plugs with color changing technology. With the ability to change colors every time the lure moves, these innovative offerings are the only lures that can precisely duplicate the color changing behavior of natural forage species. If you’re skeptical about treble hooks flailing around your appendages, Yo-Zuri has done it again with the first circle-hook factory produced series of lures. While not only safe for you, circle-hooks are proven to decrease release mortality.

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