Fishing for Mullet: Baits, Tackle and Fishing Methods
Mullet are often reported as being caught on the oddest of titbits, and presumably it is the kind of very mixed feeding to which they become accustomed in harbours that makes them susceptible to such baits. What these baits have in common, it is worth noticing, is that they are usually soft and often light in colour — banana and macaroni are two often-quoted examples. It is extremely doubtful, however, whether mullet cruising far up an estuary and feeding on a natural diet would take much notice of one of these exotic baits unless a huge programme of pre-baiting had been arranged.
Used in the right conditions, a wide variety of baits will take mullet. Apart from the two mentioned, bread paste, worm, cheese, and partly boiled cabbage stalk are among the most effective. Ragworms are probably the best of the worm baits.
Mullet will often suck at the hook-bait and tease it until there is nothing left. This can be most exasperating when you are using a tender bait like ragworm. Bread paste or cheese will often stay better on the hook if a twist of cotton wool is added.
Since mullet are nearly always taken in calm water of no great depth, in sheltered places, very light tackle can be used and indeed is advisable since the fish are often shy and the bait ha, to be presented to them perfectly.
One of the best rods for mullet is that known to coarse fishermen as an Avon type, of the kind first used by F. W. K. Wallis and designed by him. The original consisted of a whole bamboo butt piece and two top pieces of built-cane, the whole thing being about 3.3 m (11 ft) long. The equivalent these days would be a three-piece rod in fibre-glass. The Avon rod is ideal for several reasons. It is light, for a start, being much lighter than the glassrods that many sea fishermen think adequate for mullet. Its length is important also. Very often the fish are feeding close to the angler and a long rod helps him to keep out of sight. For mullet, also, it is advisable whenever possible to fish right under the rod point. Mullet are difficult fish to strike and I find that the best way of making a successful contact is by means of a direct lift of the hook, which implies a gentle upraising of the rod point. Finally, although this rod is light, it has a lot of power in it, which is often necessary to turn a mullet away from an obstruction.
The best reel to use is, I find, a centre-pin of the sort designed forin river fishing. The Speedia is an excellent mullet reel. A is an alternative many anglers choose, but its main advantage — being able to cast a light line a good distance — rarely comes into play in mullet fishing. There are its disadvantages, chiefly in loss of directness when playing the fish to be overcome. In either case, the line need not exceed 3 kg (6 lb) b.s. monofilament nylon, and should not be less than 2 kg (4 lb). Mullet are very strong fish, and even on 3 kg (6 lb) line have to be played very carefully indeed.
Most mullet fishing is float-fishing, and here an interesting point, and something of a paradox, arises. We are told to fish as light as possible for shy-feeding fish, and in ninety-nine per cent of cases this is good advice. One’s instinct in mullet fishing is to use as fine a quill as possible, for the good fishing reason that it will be less conspicuous and offer less water resistance. However, I have found on using such a quill that it is too sensitive. With a mullet bite it is always best to delay the strike untilis moving firmly away, and it takes so little to pull a light quill under that there is a tendency to strike prematurely. A light, cork-bodied Avon type is probably better; when this goes firmly under it is time to strike, and the mullet don’t seem to mind the extra resistance. Unless the water is very clear indeed, therefore, and the mullet particularly shy, there is no need to use an ultra light float. Hook size will depend of course on the bait being used, but an 8 or a 6 will usually be adequate, though you can fish smaller if you like.
Generally speaking,is absolutely essential for success in mullet fishing. If the fish are feeding in completely natural conditions on diatomic life, it may take a week of massive ground-baiting to persuade them to look at your bread or your ragworm. In most circumstances there may be no need for this long seige, but some ground-baiting will nearly always have to be done.
Most successful mullet ground-baits have a base of bread or bran, with which are mixed bits of oily fish, like herring, or pilchard. A cloud-bait effect should be aimed at. (This is the stuff known in the Channel Isles as `Shirvy’, only there it is made principally from ground-up shrimps.) Theis most effective when you can see the mullet in the water and can feed it directly to them. All mullet fishing, for that matter, is better when you can see the fish, and for this Polaroid sunglasses are most effective. I have known occasions when it has been necessary to lower the bait right under a mullet’s nose before it would take; if it was 7.5 cm (3 ins) away to the right or left it wouldn’t look at it.
Timing the strike will come by experience. The commonest mistake is to strike too soon. Once the fish is hooked it is important not to try to ‘horse’ it in. The hook hold will often b a weak one and many mullet come off the hook before they art landed. A good-sized landing-net is useful.
As an alternative to float-fishing where deepish water is involved a very lightmay be used. Such a paternoster should bear little relation to the ones used in boat fishing or surf casting. A 7 g oz) pear-shaped lead is all that is necessary. Bites are much harder to judge by this method and I prefer to use whenever possible.
Big mullet are occasionally taken by surf fishermen on quite large hooks. This occurs so infrequently that it is certainly not worthwhile making a special fishing method out of it.
Mullet are not really worth carrying home to eat and I make it a practice to release them as a rule. A comment on their culinary value is made by the fact that the only commercial market for them is provided by zoos which have seals to feed!
The Channel coast of England has always been productive of good mullet. Most piers and harbours are visited, and so are the estuaries. The Arun estuary at Littlehampton has a good reputation, as has that of the Cuckmere, also on the Sussex coast. In the West Country there are many small estuaries and harbours which give good mullet fishing and there is open-sea fishing from the rocks as well. Portland Bill has also supplied many other specimens. Some of the most unlikely places offer excellent mullet fishing — a large commercial dockyard such as that at Swansea, for example. In winter, huge catches of fish are sometimes made at Sennen Cove in Cornwall, and the Channel Isles are particularly noted for great mullet catches. The range of mullet extends beyond that of bass in a northerly direction, but detailed information is scarce. The vast complex of creeks that feed Milford Haven are full of mullet most of the year, and as I have already mentioned some of the biggest mullet I have ever seen were in the fish docks at Milford itself, gorging themselves no doubt on the vast quantities of fish scraps and offal available to them there. Alas, fishing is forbidden.
Mullet are plentiful around the coast of Ireland. The places which are particularly well stocked with catchable mullet include the estuary of the Colligan at Dungarvan, and that of the Ilen at Skibbereen, Co Cork, Courtown Harbour and Kilmore Quay in Co Wexford, and Ballycotton and Kinsale Harbours in Co Cork. Dingle Harbour in Co Kerry can be excellent.