Many anglers try to catch mullet, but most fail. Mullet can be difficult, that’s a fact, but they can be caught with a little thought and good preparation.
Mullet can be caught right through the winter in the far southwest of the UK, but the season traditionally starts in late April along the South and West Coast, with Wales and the southeast seeing their first fish inside the estuaries in early May. They stay through until early November most years, before moving out to sea.
Mullet have also been making their way further north with fish now appearing as far north as Scapa Flow in the Orkney Islands.
HOW TO FIND MULLET
The first thing to do is find your mullet. They favour harbours, marinas, estuary creeks, jetties, breakwaters and piers. One advantage with mullet is that they can be easily seen working the surface layers of the water, or flashing their flanks when working at depth as they scour mud for food.
Obvious places to start are harbours, especially working harbours where commercial boats and charter boats are washing decks off. This puts lots of small bits of fish in to the water that gets sluiced off the deck by the deck wash. Tourists are also constantly throwing in sandwich crusts, old chips and takeaway food which give the mullet a steady food supply. The same applies to marinas.
In estuary creeks they work inwards with the flooding tide feeding on the edges of mud banks sifting out minute organisms, but will also chase small fry occasionally, plus will take flies and floating food items off the surface.
Around jetties and piers they move in with the tide to feed on food again dropped by tourists and anglers, but also on algae and organisms they suck off the pier and jetty supports.
The very best spots for mullet fishing are where sewer pipes and discharge pipes enter directly in to the sea. Mullet are foragers and will capitalise on any food source that is constant. Such pipes bring food directly to the mullet and they will often swim up inside the pipes a little way to feed. You’ll often see the mullet feeding with their tails poking above the surface slick where pipe discharge directly falls in to the sea.
WHEN TO FISH FOR MULLET
Around the discharge pipes you can take mullet throughout the tide if the water depth allows the fish constant access.
In harbours they will come in with the flooding tide staying over high water, but quickly disappearing on the ebb as the water shallows. In deeper harbours they will be present the whole tide through.
They move up through the estuary creeks with the flooding tide, feeding hard over high water, but again drop back quickly as the water leaves the creeks as the tide ebbs.
Off piers and jetties, again if the water is deep enough over the whole tide, they will stay permanently, but where the pier supports dry out, then the mullet will leave early on the ebb preferring to have a good depth of water over them for protection from predators.
The best time to fish for mullet is when the flooding tide occurs around dawn. It’s quiet then with minimal human activity and encourages the mullet to feed. This applies to jetties, piers and estuary creeks. In harbours they become more accustomed to people and boats working and can be less shy.
The biggest advantage when mullet fishing is to have slightly coloured water. In gin clear water mullet can be very skittish, and if they can see you then the chances are they will not feed easily.
The discharge pipes and the wash off from boat decks does some of the pre baiting for you and concentrates the mullet. Even so, it still pays to put ground bait in the water.
The best way when fishing harbours and marinas is to use the small mesh bags that washing powder tablets go in and fill these with a mix of fish type cat food, bran and pilchard oil, or plain white bread. These can be lowered in to the swim and tied off to keep a constant trickle of food going in to the water to get the mullet feeding.
The small bags can also be replaced easily, use minimal groundbait but are fully effective, plus are easily repositioned if need be. Have the bag just touching the surface water to slowly leech the food out.
You can use the same tactic from piers and breakwaters.
In estuary creeks look for rocks that jut out in to the creek. Try filling the cracks in the rock with bread and groundbait at different levels. As the tide floods, the bread and groundbait leaks out at a constant rate and will hold the fish in the swim.
Anglers from the Channel Islands also use Chervy, a mix of minced meat, sweet corn, sometimes bread and mackerel. This is made in to a thick soup like consistency and is added by hand intermittently with a large spoon or ladle. Again it is very effective wherever you use it.
Top baits for mullet are bread flake both sub surface and fished floating on the surface, small bits of ragworm, mackerel flesh with the skin removed, cheese paste especially Dairy Lea, plus they can be weaned on to pasta, cat food, sausage meat, and pretty much any other food stuff for human consumption.
They also occasionally take whole small ragworm and tiny bits of lugworm, plus will take maggots and are especially vulnerable during the July to September period when the weed on the shoreline has the blow fly maggots in it that wash in to the sea as a natural groundbait and lure the mullet in.
For estuary creek fishing a rod such as a soft tipped 11ft Avon type is a good all-rounder matched to a fixed spool reel carrying 200-yds of 6lb line.
Inside harbours and marinas, and off breakwaters where the fish are feeding close in amongst the boats are near to solid structure, then a more powerful rod like the Fox Mullet Master or a 13/4 test curve barbel rod is the better choice as it allows you to fully work the line and bully the fish away from potential snags.
When float fishing there is also an advantage in having a rod over 11ft in length as it gives a quicker lift up of the line to strike as the floats signals a bite.
When rigging for mullet with a float, add 4ft of clear 4 to 5lb breaking strain Fluoro carbon line below the main line, which should also be clear, using a 7-turn grinner knot for strength.
The float needs to be a clear weighted Waggler with a black top as black is easier to see against surface water. Add just a couple of small shot about a 12ins away from the hook to get the bait down in the tide current.
Occasionally the mullet want the bait as it drops, so if bites are slow try removing the shot below the float to let the bait sink more naturally.
Let the fish fully take the float down in the water and strike as fast as you can. It pays to add extra shot if required to get the tip of the float only just visible so bites can be seen more clearly.
When ledger fishing a simple paternoster using a short 10-inch hook length of 5lb Fluoro carbon positioned within 12-inches of the weight to just keep the bait up off the bottom can work well in areas of deeper water such as marina’s and harbours when the fish are feeding on the bottom.
The best hook for general mullet fishing is a size 10 Drennan Super Specialist, though any tough not too brightly finished hook in the same size for general barbel or carp fishing will be okay.
Some good catches of mullet are also taken fishing a small plastic feeder full of maggots that will wash down with the tide. Use a 12-inch 5lb Fluoro carbon hook link below the feeder to give the bait some natural movement.
They also take surface fished bread. You can either freeline this at close range with no additional weight, just dunk the bread in the water prior to casting, or use a clear bubble float with a 15-inch length of 5lb Fluoro carbon to the hook. Make sure the bread and float ride the surface naturally. Any surface skid on the bait and the fish will not take.
FIGHTING, NETTING AND HANDLING MULLET
It’s a myth that mullet have soft mouths. Thick lipped mullet have a tough rubbery lip that will hold a hook securely if it gets a good initial grip.
Mullet will run fast and hard, so have the clutch of the reel set with this in mind to protect the main line. Let the fish run, but use side strain to steer the fish away from snags and work the fish hard when it stops running regaining as much line as you can.
When netting mullet, use a big wide net and have the net under the water bringing the fish over the net and lifting the net upwards to secure the fish.
Mullet need gentle handling and its best to use a wet soft cloth to avoid removing the slime off the fish and them loosing the odd scale. Hold the fish in the water to regain its composure and it will swim away when ready, usually with a sudden sweep of the tail.
It pays, if possible, to release mullet well away from the main feeding shoal as a spooked fish will scare the others and put them down.