WSF takes a look at how to catch Mullet from the shore – one of the most sporting and hard fighting fish, pound for pound you are likely to encounter in the UK.
Identification of the three true mullet species is not easy unless you have a practiced eye. The body shape of all three mullet are similar, it’s the lips and eyes that give the species away.
The thick lipped mullet has the upper lip broad, its depth being more than half the eye diameter. The thin lipped sports a thinner upper lip, its depth less than half the eye diameter. Also the pectoral fin if folded forward does not reach the eye. The golden grey also has a thin upper lip, again its depth less than half the eye diameter, but if the pectoral fin is folded forwards it fully covers the rear edge of the eye.
Colouration of the thick lip mullet is dark grey, sometimes greeny grey, with 6 or 7 grey bands running lengthways down the flanks and a white belly. The thin lipped mullet is more grey/blue on the back, silvery on the sides with faint grey lines running the length of the flank, often with a dark spot at the base of the pectoral fin. Golden grey mullet are grey/blue on the back, silver sides with grey lengthways stripes running along the flanks. It also sports a conspicuous golden spot on the cheek and gill cover, though all mullet types sometimes look slightly golden on the gill cover.
Thick lipped mullet are found all around the UK and Ireland, as far north as southern Norway and the southeast corner of Iceland, right down the European coast, throughout the Mediterranean and in to North Africa. Thin lipped mullet are most common in the southern half of the UK and Ireland, venturing north as far as the southern tip of Norway and southward taking in the Mediterranean. Golden grey mullet have a similar distribution to the thick lipped variety.
Mullet feed by sifting mud extracting worms, small copepods and plant matter, but bigger mullet also feed on small fish and even crustaceans. Golden greys eat worms, also shrimps and probably small fish.
Mullet are migratory showing first in the south of the UK mainland and Ireland in April and working further north through May and June. The fish typically leave in October with the first frosts, though in the south it can be later. Golden greys are often the last mullet to arrive showing in May and June, and they leave earlier in September, especially at the northern extreme of their range.
Little scientific work has been done on mullet, but it is thought they do not breed in UK waters, breeding taking place to the south.
WHEN AND WHERE TO FISH
All mullet favour harbours and marina’s, but the thick lip, and especially the thin lip, will travel right up to the freshwater divide line in estuaries and can often be seen swimming inside estuary drainage creeks, across mud flats and in the mouths of small bays well inland. Thick lips also work open beaches, especially in late July and August when weed maggots are available.
The golden grey mullet differs by also working open surf beaches tight in amongst the surf tables, deeper marina’s, and will also frequent open rocks marks that drop on to clean sand.
Thick and thin lipped mullet are cautious shy fish, so are best fished for at times when boat and people traffic are low such as dawn and towards dusk in estuaries, but in harbours they get used to people and can be fished for at any time. They tend to come in with the new flood tide and stay until about an hour after, generally speaking.
Golden grey working open beaches show with the new flood tide and will work the beach until high water, then often disappear on the ebb. Again this is common but not certain.
SHORE MULLET TACKLE
Every mullet angler will have his own preference, but a good all round choice for open water, harbours and marina’s is a light Avon type rod about 12-feet in length. This has the backbone to turn fish away from pontoons and structure, if need be.
Match this to 3000 or 4000 sized fixed spool reel such as a Penn Sargus or Shimano or Daiwa equivalent. Line again is a personal thing. Some anglers prefer mono between 4 and 6lbs. Others prefer 12/15lb braid, but use a 15-foot section of 8lb Fluoro carbon which can be equally as successful.
Clear loaded Waggler floats are most commonly used for the mullet fishing in many situations with a little shot added to set the float just in the surface film, but clear bubble floats are also highly effective especially when trotting floating bread baits down to surface feeding fish. Hook sizes need to be from size 6 down to 12, a size 8 or 10 again is a good common size for bread baits.
BUILD A MULLET BUBBLE FLOAT RIG
A simple but highly effective float rig for mullet uses a simple bubble float which can be cast to greater distance than traditional float tackle and is perfect for working surface floating baits.
1. The best bubble floats are the clear, cylindrical Okuma or Bonnand ones which are instantly adjustable, plus you can add water to the float to increase casting weight.
2. Remove the plastic plug. Slide the reel line or Fluoro carbon through the slot in the top of the plug, pass the line down through the centre of the float pulling about 18-inches of line through, and replace the plug in the float.
3. To the end of the reel line below the float, tie on a small size 10 rolling swivel.
4. To the end of the swivel add about 5-feet of 6 to 8lb Fluorocarbon line.
5. Finish with a Kamasan B980 Specimen Eyed size 10, which is a good general choice.
You are not using the float for visual indication. It is there to give casting weight and to suspend the line on the waters surface allowing you to let surface floating bread wash down with the tide to feeding fish. You only watch the bread bait looking for the bread disappearing in to a swirl as a mullet takes the bread off the surface.
BAITS FOR MULLET
Bread is by far the best bait. A cheap white sliced loaf is perfect for thick lips as it is doughy and can be moulded around the hook to leave the hook point just clear. Use a piece about the size of a 10p coin, though mullet will often take much bigger bits when feeding well. Thick lips will also take small bits of mackerel flesh without the skin in harbours where boats clean down. They also learn to eat other man made foods that wash in to harbours and creeks such as bits of pasta, sausage meat, corn, flakes of cooked shrimp and will often take small bits of ragworm and lugworm fished in front of floats.
Thin lips can be caught using small Mepps spinners with a single size 8 hook attached baiting this with a single maddie ragworm, though recent success has also been achieved using the smaller 4” Gulp sandworms in the Bloody colour which act lifelike when moved.
When targeting golden grey mullet in the surf, use a small drilled bullet stopped by a small bead and swivel and use a 36-inch length of 8lb Fluoro carbon to a size 6 long shank hook. Bait with a small bunch of maddie rag and allow the lead to be washed in along the surf tables, but keeping a tight line to feel for the plucking bites. Often you’ll see the fish swimming through the shallow surf right in front of you in small shoals and just a few yards out. Casts of just 20-yards are often enough.
A good general mullet groundbait is just mashed up bread with some thinly shredded mackerel flesh and a little pilchard oil added. A good method is to suspend a small mesh bag of the mash in the tide by letting it just touch the waters surface to trickle scent and bits of food in to the water and draw the fish to you.
TOP TIP 1
Mullet are intelligent and learn when food will be available. This especially applies to waste pipes that run in to harbours. Mullet will collect here just before the pipe is scheduled to flow and will feed on domestic food rubbish that washes down. These are excellent places to fish.
Also fish in lagoons where people feed swans with bread as the mullet will learn to take bread freely off the surface in these conditions.
TOP TIP 2
When ground baiting for mullet in harbours, creeks and on mudflats, do this at the same stage of tide every day, not at the same time of day. Mullet will associate a particular state of tide in that place with food and once used to feeding there will return day after day and become catchable.
When it comes to fishing, only lightly groundbait to keep the fish occupied but not fully fed.
TOP TIP 3
When fishing creeks, estuaries and harbour walls with no cover, keep a low profile. Mullet are shy fish and even a shadow from a moving rod will put them down and scare them off. Try to blend in with the background by wearing dull clothes, keep below the skyline and keep movement and noise to an absolute minimum.
TOP TIP 4
Mullet can be caught ledgering too. Use a 2-hook paternoster with 12-inch hook snoods from 8lb Fluoro carbon. Gently lower this to the seabed using a light lead weight to fish above bread groundbait. This works especially well in harbours and marinas.
TOP TIP 5
A good method for GG’s and thin lips is to rig a small lightweight plastic silver spoon above a series of small pearl beads with a size 8 hook baiting with maddie rag. This is highly effective in harbours, river mouths and from the open beach when fishing the surf using a simple slow retrieve.