Saltwater Sportsman - - Mullet Mayhem -

The morn­ing was a washout. No­body had caught any fish. I sat sip­ping cof­fee in the park­ing lot of a Jer­sey Wawa about noon when I got the call. “Get down to Sea­side, man. Mullet are be­ing de­stroyed,” said Charlie’s Bait and Tackle shop owner Pete Kup­per. I hit the road. As I pulled up to the sand dunes, I saw gan­nets and gulls div­ing about and dis­ap­pear­ing be­hind the dunes, a sure sign some­thing was go­ing on out there.

When I walked over, a vista of the At­lantic opened up in front of me en­com­pass­ing may­hem the likes of which are the mak­ing of leg­end. Striped bass to 30 pounds and blue­fish to 15 pounds were ab­so­lutely crush­ing mullet schools in and out­side the breakers. It was an a-thou­sand-casts-a-thou­sand-bass type of day, all sparked by the run of sil­ver mullet in the surf.

While more-south­ern wa­ters have striped mullet crash­ing about in bom­bas­tic fash­ion, their smaller sil­ver mullet cousins run along the North­east and mid-at­lantic coasts in a more sub­lime fash­ion yet at­tract the same at­ten­tion from preda­tory game fish.


Dur­ing spring­time, sil­ver mullet fry about 1 to 2 inches long grow in the ditches of Jer­sey back­wa­ters. By fall, they are fin­ger-size, while full-grown year-old mullet seem to show up in July, rid­ing the warmer oceanic cur­rents that bring them in­shore.

“Mainly, we see sil­ver or white mullet up to 6 inches long; those are the bait mullet in tackle shops,” says Capt. Dave Show­ell of the Ab­secon Bay Sports­man. “Oc­ca­sion­ally, we also get a few striped mullet, or corn­cobs, 8 to 12 inches long, but sil­ver mullet are the main species in Jer­sey.”

From June through Septem­ber, sil­ver mullet stack up in shal­low bays: Barnegat, Great Bay, Ab­secon and Cape May Har­bor, where north­west winds keep them pinned against the sod banks as blue­fish, striped bass and weak­fish ham­mer the schools. An­glers jump on the chance to fish the schools in the bay be­fore they head sea­ward.

“It’s pretty easy to find schools of sil­ver mullet,” Show­ell says. “Look for the pods V-wak­ing in the shal­low

is to get fresh ones to use as bait.”

To ac­quire the fresh­est baits, Show­ell rec­om­mends

3 ⁄ 1 throw­ing a 8- to ⁄ 2- inch mesh, 1 ⁄ 2- pound, 8-foot cast net on top of the schools when they are balled up. With fresh baits in the livewell, Show­ell em­ploys a rig con­sist­ing of a 36-inch sec­tion of 20- to 30-pound fluoro­car­bon leader tied to a 1 ⁄ 2- ounce in-line sinker and a 3/0 to 6/0 Oc­to­pus cir­cle hook, to set­tle the score with bass, blues and weak­fish. Hook the mullet through the nose for a nat­u­ral drift with the cur­rent.

“Now that you have the right bait, go with your knowl­edge to find each

PICK ’EM OFF: Stripers busting bait schools make ideal cast­ing tar­gets. Long A, to the size of the mullet.

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