Mullet-O-Mania - The Fisherman


Monomania is defined as an obsessive zeal for, or interest in, a single thing, idea, or subject. For example, there’s a striped fish on the move in our estuaries and back bays; by the middle of the month, these fish will be weaving their way along the sedges, inlets, and sandy beaches en route to southern waters, chased down by monomaniacal anglers in motorized buggies racing along the shoreline.

While these monomaniacs will be out in force after Labor Day with binoculars trained on the surf line, the adrenaline-fueled obsession won’t really kick in until the middle of the month, typically as beaches reopen to permitted 4WD anglers. Mark my words, by September 15 the mad rush will be on, a monkey on the back of the afflicted causing work absences, cancellation of family functions, and a home “honeydo” list that grows longer as each day grows shorter.

If you think I’m talking striped bass, you’ve probably never really paid attention to the surf junkies cruising behind you in dry sand, barely slowing down even as you’re buttoned up to a good striper. No sir, I’m talking striped mullet; fish wonks and scientists know them as Mugil Cephalus, but to the rest of us they’re just finger mullet.

Well, not just finger mullet. After all it was mullet that led to the largest striped bass ever taken in the surf, a 78-1/2-pound monster for Al McReynolds on September 21, 1982, during a raging nor’easter while tossing a mullet-looking Rebel at the Vermont Avenue Jetty. Twenty years after that catch, it wasn’t stripers but the mullet migration that kept McReynolds on the road every fall, chasing v-wakes down the coast with cast net in hand.

For a period of three to four weeks, my plug bag will be packed with mullet patterns; 4-inch metal-lip swimmers, olive and silver colored swim shads, SP Minnows, Mag Darters, and my favorite Little Neck Poppers. While I myself become obsessed with the short but sweet mullet run with stripers blowing up in the surf, I really can’t say that I’ve ever met a more fanatical bunch than those mullet maniacs who spare the rod in favor of nets.

Sandpaper writer/editor Jay Mann and I sit on the committee for the Long Beach Island Surf Fishing Classic. A dozen of us meet every month to coordinate varied tournament essentials; however, I know I won’t see Jay at our next meeting, or the one after that. Jay is haunted by the mullet run, and unless we hold a meeting at the tip of Holgate there’s not much chance of seeing him anyplace else.

Often bluish above with silvery sides and belly, each scale on the upper part of the striped mullet’s body has a dark spot at the base, which forms the striped pattern. Somewhat rounded towards the head and compressed at the tail, this species can grow upwards of 3 feet, the bigger specimens referred to as corn cobs. Those smaller, younger versions v-waking along this month are those delectable fingers that school up and run the autumn gauntlet in the surf.

The Fisherman subscribers are familiar our new segment that appears in the second weekly edition of each month, Profiles in Angling (if you don’t subscribe you don’t get the weeklies – hint, hint!) In our September 13 edition, I’ll be sharing parts of a conversation I had with fly-fishing legend, Bob Popovics. Known the world over for his saltwater patterns, Bob has probably put more flies to stripers than most of us could ever dream of with bait and conventional gear. So yeah, it kinda surprised me as we finished lunch and I asked Bob, “What are you looking forward to most about the fall,” and he responded with “chasing mullet.”

“It’s the hunt,” Bob said with a monomaniacal gleam in his eye. “Observing the water, fulfilling a challenge, it’s a blast.” That “blast” is coming my friends. So let the fall madness begin!


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