Mullet an overlooked fishing target
Published: Thursday, November 8, 2012 at 9:55 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, November 8, 2012 at 9:55 a.m.
It does not strike artificial lures, or even the usual natural baits, but the predatory game fish that do depend heavily upon it as forage.
For generations, Floridians have likewise rated it highly on the table. A good case could be made, in fact, that it is Florida’s single most important fish.
But, among hook-and-liners, the mullet is an overlooked target.
Tricking the hard-fighting mullet into biting requires plenty of technique and know-how — and that’s why many resort to snatch-hooking. I know … this doesn’t sound very sporting. But it’s a blast. Almost everyone I’ve known to try mullet snatching has become an immediate fan.
Because traditional fishing methods don’t work with the fork-tailed grass eaters, there’s lots for the beginning mullet-snatcher to learn about seasons, spots and setups before he can succeed.
But, right now, a quick learning curve shortcut is available. Just take a drive to the Shands Bridge over the St. Johns River at Green Cove Springs and watch the mullet melee. The fish there are abundant, sizable and full of roe … three things that fire up the mullet lover.
Last weekend, Ren Gallon and Tim Clark set up on a Shands Bridge seawall. After drawing fish in with a mixture of laying mash and oatmeal, they started rapidly whipping treble hooks through the chummed area. Though invisible in the dark river water, swirls barely noticeable at the surface gave away the presence of fish, and the trebles soon found their mark. By day’s end, the Gainesville anglers returned home with a 100 nice-sized mullet — many full of well-developed, bright yellow roe.
Cooling water has, as expected, put speckled perch in a feeding mood on nearby lakes.
Saturday, speck specialists, Bruce and Steve Tinney, took their first trip of the season to Lochloosa. In a thick fog, the Gainesville brothers made their way out to water 8 feet deep, where they tipped Crappie Sliders in chartreuse and white with minnows. Soon, they were pulling in fish of impressive size. When they counted and weighed their fish later at Lochloosa Harbor, they had 39 specks ranging in size from 1-¼ to 2-pounds.
Upon filleting the slabs, Bruce found that many were full of mature roe. During normal years, the speck spawn peaks in January or February. The Tinneys feel, however, that the crappies’ move into the Lochloosa shallows this season could be a month or two early.
When James Rippy and Lee Holloway arrived at the Lochloosa boat ramp mid-morning Sunday, the fog was still thick. The High Springs anglers headed across the lake to Little Lochloosa, where they set minnows under floats. In open water 4 to 5 feet deep, they hauled in around 40 specks and kept a fine stringer of more than 20 big ones. They called it a day at 5 p.m., long after the sun had broken through.
“They bit best in the two hours before we left,” Rippy said.
Crappie activity has been slower to fire up on Lake Santa Fe, but catches there are finally sounding better. Brian Roe launched at Santa Fe in Sunday’s morning pea soup and eased out into open water. In the disorienting fog (“I didn’t know where I was until a quarter of 11”), he put out Beetle Spins and Crappie Slider jigs and trolled through the damp, white blanket.
The bites didn’t come fast, but steady enough. Roe pulled in a dozen specks, each at least a pound, up to 1-pound, 11-ounces. To boot, the Gainesville fisherman boated 10 hybrid sunshine bass and two largemouths that found the little speck lures irresistible.
Redfish and trout stories have been as good as the freshwater reports.
Dr. Mark Chance and son, Spencer fished Cedar Key last Sunday. In a creek north of Cedar Key, they bagged a great mix of redfish and trout while casting jigs. The elder Chance nailed the first fish of the day, a big trout. A few minutes later, the duo had a double hookup of big “Gator” trout. When they left the water that afternoon, they had on ice 10 hefty trout and four keeper reds topped by Spencer’s 25-inch beauty.
A little ways up the Big Bend coast, the trout and redfish-catching is also excellent at Suwannee. Last Friday, Terry Nelson and Ralph Sheffield fished a few favorite spots along the East Pass of the river. Tight-lining frozen shrimp on the bottom, the Gainesville friends landed 16 redfish, 44 freshwater catfish, two trout, and three black drum. Of these, they seemed most pleased with the catfish.
Gary Simpson, a veteran tournament angler, operates Gary's Tackle Box at L & S Auto Trim.