Apart from eels, I dont think any fish has quite captured my imagination more than the elusive thick-lipped mullet. There’s something so magical about them, whether it is their unusual feeding behaviours, their mysterious movements with the tides, or how they can completely ignore your hookbaits for hours on end and evade capture, leaving you bewildered and doubting everything you’re doing!
I don’t know what it is exactly, but I absolutely love the challenge, their secrets and just everything these fish provide. And when you’re lucky enough to actually hook into one of these incredible fish none of our freshwater species comes close to the pace and stamina that mullet have, after all they’re not nicknamed the “British bonefish” for nothing.
Feeder fishing and trotting are both very effective methods for targeting mullet and by far the most popular, but in recent years I’ve almost completely forgotten about these methods when fishing my local marks on the south coast.
By far the most exciting and a very productive method of capturing thick-lips is floating bread, at dawn! Mullet are very cagey fish and easily put off feeding by the disturbance of heavy boat traffic, paddle boarders, swimmers ect, all things you have to deal with in most mullet environments. Making that little extra effort and arriving before the sun’s up has really given me an edge to my fishing. Whilst the world sleeps and before all the boat traffic starts, the estuaries and boat yards I target can really come to life. Mullet starting to stir, creating disturbance to the water surface as they cruise just below, bass hunting fry, kingfishers, oystercatchers all coming within close proximity of me for a spot of breakfast, it is a magical time to be chasing fish.
My go-to method is very simple, yet has been highly effective for me in recent years. As the fish begin to show I’ll introduce a scaterring of floating crust, usually a whole slice, wait for the ripples as a nice mullet comes up for an early morning feed then get my hookbait out to them. As im not fishing at range, I have no need for a big surface controller so I have opted for a 5g Pellet Flyer float, this is held in place via 2 medium Float Stops either side. This is so i can easily adjust my hook length throughout the session without messing around with spilt shot as the Pellet Flyer floats are already loaded. These Pellet Flyers are also transparent and short so they are far less obtrusive to the fish, which gives me a bit more confidence when fishing for the wily old mullet.
I’ve experimented with many hooks over the years but now I think I’ve found my favourite pattern-the size 8 Specialist Barbel Hook. Apart from the teflon coating which helps reduce sun glare the most benificial feature of these hooks is how immensly sharp they are and with the ever so slight curved shank to them they provide instant penetration and the fish are rarely able to eject them. Rods and line are dependent on the areas I’m fishing. Usually I’ll use 8lb Supplex along with the 13ft X-tension Compact float rod, but when fishing those dangerous ares where anchor ropes, boats, pontoons and other snags are present I will step up to a 1.5 tc Twintip Duo, loaded with 10lb Syncro XT, this stuff is super abrasion resistant, ideal for these snaggy environments. This may seem overkill but I’ve lost so many fish over the years from being undergunned that now I wouldnt fish any lighter than this if i think there’s any chance of losing a fish to snags, as the last thing i want is for fish to be trailing line or hooks, and don’t worry about that ‘line shy business’, I’ve never noticed any behaviour where the fish are put off by a higher diameter line.
So a nice piece of fluffy white bread about the size of a 5-10p coin is hooked through, turned 180 degrees and pulled back down. This is then cast beyond any feeeding fish and slowly dragged into them. Wait for the ripples and then for the float to slide away!
As the sun gets up and boat traffic starts the mullet tend to seek refuge under pontoons and boats and can become extremely frustrating, or impossible to catch at time, you could literally be waiting hours on end for a 30 second feeding spell. I find the fishing in general is just not as good after that early morning feed, where the fish behave alot more confident.
During this time, allowing tidal currents to carry your hookbaits under the pontoons or along side boats can sometimes be an effective way of tempting a bite. Of course every venue is different and tide dependant so it may take a bit of groundwork to see which tide sizes/phases are best suited for the venue you’re targeting.
So this year I’ve managed dozens of thick-lips on this method, with a couple of 5lb+ fish and a beautiful 6lb 9oz. Mullet numbers have declined in recent decades and the bigger fish are becoming a bit of a rarity. They are very long lived, slow sexually maturing fish and actually one of the least sustainable fish in our waters, making them extremely vulnerable tocommercial exploitation and certainly need some protection. So please, enjoy and appeciate this species as a fantastic sport fish and return them safely.