Striped Mullet?


Well-known member
At Two Harbors, I saw many fairly large (16-20 inch) mullet swimming around in the shallows and occasionally jumping. I would like to catch some for bait and for consumption while on the island, yet have no idea how to go about doing so. I doubt that they would bite processed baits like doughballs or bread, but I would really like to avoid having to snag them. Does anybody else here catch them with some regularity, and if so, how to go about doing so?
No sure way to catch them. I've gotten two in my life that actually hit a krocodile spoon while fishing for bonito. They seem to be attraced to the noise and erratic movement on rare ocasions.

Ken Jones

Staff member
Most that I've seen were taken by snagging although the dough ball technique is used by some. Here's the addition I wrote to the article on striped mullet

I must admit I am not an expert on catching mullet. On a trip to Honolulu in Hawaii, I watched large schools of mullet in some canal waters and tried to catch them without success (using shrimp as bait). Later, while on a trip to La Paz, Mexico, I again watched some large schools of mullet in the waters of a marina. At the time I was unable to try for them.

Since then I have given considerable thought to mullet and read quite a bit about them and their feeding habits as well as looked at different recommendations from many sources.

One of the best sources I have read is from Fishing Hawaii Style. Volume 2, by Jim Rizzuto. It’s a book I picked up on a trip to Hawaii and gives a good glimpse into both the fish of Hawaii and the different techniques used to catch them.

From Fishing Hawaii Style — “Fishing for mullet with hook and line requires patience and special techniques…If you are looking for a challenge (perhaps even the ‘ultimate light-tackle challenge’), mullet is your adversary. It’s hard to find…hard to hook (a vegetarian, in fact) and hard to land (hooks tear easily from the soft mouth)…Our grandfathers used to watch the paths the schools took as they traveled across the reef channels into the calm waters of bays, canals, harbors…they marked these routes with fishing platforms…they carefully baited the still waters with breadballs mixed with sand to carry them to the bottom where the schools passed…the baiting process would go on for months until the mullet were trained to look for bread in the area. The angler was ready for a fishing season to begin…The breadball on the hook had to hang suspended about six inches above the bottom…A slight twitch marked each “strike”—really no more than a quiver. If the angler did not meet the strike with an instantaneous response, the mullet was gone with the bait…A hooked fish had to be lifted free of the water with a minimum of fight to avoid scaring the rest of the school away. This was difficult because the soft issue of the mouth provides the weakest of anchoring points…Mullet swim into…brackish water, shallow and protected, and fertile with mossy algae spreading across the bottom…Anglers collect the algae…and baiting the hook is done simply by swirling it around in the pail until a suitable-sized mass of fibers clings to it…Most fishermen rig a pair of hooks (#6, 8 or 10) in tandem, about 2 inches apart. The two-hook rig not only holds more bait but gives a second point that sometimes acts as a snagging hook…To suspend the bait the required 6 inches off the bottom, the rig is floated with a light bobber…light enough to quiver at the slightest touch of a mullet…The leader should be weighted with just enough shot to pull the bait down…As with all fishing for wary fish, the lighter the leader the better. Some fishermen feel they can get away with 4- to 6-pound test. Others swear that 2-pound test is essential.”

In some ways, the quest for the best mullet techniques reminds me of the quest for the best opaleye techniques and I think some of the same ideas can be followed.

Remember that mullet typically feed on the bottom — on marine invertebrates, algae, and various detritus. Most mullet seen in California are seen in bays where they are typically feeding on the bottom. Some mullet are seen every years hanging under piers, sometimes large schools with large fish. Rarely are they hooked but sometimes they are snagged. It’s hard to say those fish are feeding when they are sometimes seen in the top water layers.

Ideas I would try (and I am not including snagging them):

Line—I would use 6-8 pound fluorocarbon line (large enough for the occasional large mullet).

Hooks—I would try size 8 and smaller hooks, preferably size 10 or 12.

Rigging—I would try the double hook (basically high/low rig) together with a slip-bobber and a split shot used to get the bait down by the bottom.

Bait—Reports talk of anglers in Florida and Hawaii catching them on dough balls. I would try the following: (1) Moss such as used for opaleye in the Los Angles and San Diego area. It’s available at some bait shops. (2) Frozen peas as used for opaleye. (3) Dough balls. There are many dough ball recipes on the Internet but I think the following would be a winner: Use a mash made of cooked oatmeal by itself or oatmeal and cornmeal (or flour). Mix it with moss or peas and add a small amount of water to get the right consistency before forming small dough balls that match the size of your hooks. You want the dough balls to be firm enough to stay on the hook but not to firm that they will be torn up when putting on the hook. And, if too soft, they may simply disintegrate in the water. You could also try using a fish attractant oil, i.e., ghost shrimp-flavored, instead of the water when preparing the dough balls.

Handle all with care much as you would any soft bait, i.e., fresh mussels (and mussel juice might also work as an attractant with the dough balls).

Last but not least experiment and practice until you find the right approach for your tackle and your needs.
Cool, I think a carp fisherman may have an advantage on figuring out how to catch them. You may need to figure out what to put in the dough bait and something else. I have my own hypothesis, through experiences, about why mullet go out into the open ocean during summer and late fall but I don't want to give them up yet.

Plus, I know some fishemen get angry when I give up fishing tips and info I know that may be a secret to them.

There was a fishing book that I skimmed through once, that I never got a chance to buy, that said that stripped mullet can sometimes be caught using small spinners and rooster tails. I've never tested that out. Maybe, somebody can. I mean the two fish hit my krocs when reeled in crazy. Ways to catch them may be a regional thing too. I think the author of the book was out of Florida.

Ken Jones

Staff member
Dug into the archives to find this old article:


Billy Warden, one of the best known of local salt-water fishermen, claims to have solved a piscatorial puzzle that has perplexed the minds of many scientists. He has found out what the gray mullet feed on, and has succeeded in catching them in Alamitos Bay with the hook.

Mullet have always been even more mysterious in their habits than are most fish. Nobody knows from where they come or to what places they resort. McGarvin and other professional fishermen some years ago made big hauls in Alamitos Bay with their nets. Warden opened the stomach of a mullet one day and found it full of a sort of gelatinous grassy fiber. Recognizing the plant he fastened a wad of it upon his hook and cast out, being awarded promptly with strikes. He took two fish in this way and lost many baits, declaring the sport was keen enough if one could get the bait.

Mullet are very active on the hook. Their mouths open like a fly trap and no one would accuse them of being shy biters from their facial makeup, but such they are. Always fat and unusually sweet, they are accounted among the best of fish and command a high price in markets.

They seem to be getting rarer as the years roll by. In markings they resemble the striped bass but have a bullet head and cylindrical body. In weight they range up to corbina size, possibly larger, though big gray mullet are not known on this coast as they are in Florida, where specimens of huge size are sometimes taken. They bite more freely on the other coast and are a popular game fish though never easy to catch anywhere.

Warden, who bears the average reputation among fishermen for truth and veracity, is a great prospector and has uncovered many good places for surf* and bass that are yet unknown to the ordinary run of sea anglers. He and his partner, Jerry Mullen, used to walk eight or ten miles south of Long Beach for surf fish long before the electric line was completed.

Los Angeles Times, August 17, 1904

* = In those days corbina were often called surf.


Well-known member
fener said:
Found the picture I was looking for.
fener said:
Mullet is considered a good catch and eating in Turkey.
I used to spear them, and commercial fisherman used cast-a-nets.
However, many Turkish recreational anglers use a rig that is very successful over there.
It is made of about (10) or so #6 hooks snelled together about 2” apart.
The other end is tied to a small float and the main line.
Next, a piece of bread with crust is rolled so the crust side is on the inside. The crust prevents the bread from falling apart too quickly.
The row of hooks is wrapped around the bread.
The hooks are situated, so they would stand up from the bread.
The rig is cast out and the float is watched for movements.
The bread is also floating at the same time.
Here is a link to one video. It is in Turkish. Just put it in mute mode.
At the end, he says to make the distance between the float and the hooks about 3 feet.
Good luck.
Let us know if it works.

I added the swivel and the sinker.

Ken Jones

Staff member
Perhaps we could have a "PFIC Mullet Get Together" some time to try out different baits and techniques? Only problem is I don't know a reliable pier. The best pier might be the Bayside Park Pier in Chula Vista but I'm not sure as to what the best time of the year would be. Perhaps a spring or early summer date but we don't seem to have much in the way to reference. I wonder if other California sites have discussed fishing for mullet?

Maybe a dumb idea?
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I've once tried various breads, flour dough, and corn meal. Heck, I've even tried cheetoes. Top smelt, love the stuff. The local mullet just ignored it.

Perhaps we could have a "PFIC Mullet Get Together" some time to try out different baits and techniques? Only problem is I don't know a reliable pier. The best pier might be the Bayside Park Pier in Chula Vista but I'm not sure as to what the best time of the year would be. Perhaps a spring or early summer date but we don't seem to have much in the way to reference. I wonder if other California sites have discussed fishing for mullet?

Maybe a dumb idea?
Bayside Park Pier in Chula Vista IS your best bet for the bay. The mullet start "showing" late spring, increasing into summer, and leveling off into the fall. Before people learned to snag them and the bayfront park development in the 80s, you'd see huge specimens put on a show, breaking the surface in tandem. Nowadays, you'd just see a foot and a half sized specimen jump here and there. The funny thing is that when a person, ignorant of stripped mullet habits, sees one jump out to the water, they'd wait on me for 10 to 15 minutes to catch it. Hey, I'm just bass fishing. Lol It's almost like those mullet are inadvertently getting those people to mock me.

For an ocean pier, your best bet is a southern pier close to an estuary. The mullet start showing near shore from mid summer into fall. Imperial beach pier is a good one but you can no longer fish the shallows during the day. Soooo... You'd have to fish in the evening and compete for space against the shortfin corvina fishermen.

Hopefuly, the puzzle will be solved one day. Large cear water bay corbina (bay beans) were once impossible to catch but some insightful fishermen figured it out through obsevation. Be it though, the techniques and spots are still kind of a secret.

Ken Jones

Staff member
Was in the doctor's office this morning, one that had a dearth of interesting magazines, so was reading Garden & Gun, the Oct/Nov edition. Came across an end of magazine column called "End of the Line" by Roy Blount Jr. The current column was titled "Fish Food" and in the article he gave reference to fishing for mullet. He said a guide told him mullet could be caught on hook and line by anglers using "balls of fatback soaked in vanilla." He also referenced "Gulp" and their "juice" as an attractant for mullet. The vanilla-infused fatback seems a little weird (who knows?) but perhaps a dough ball that incorporated a little "Gulp juice" would be successful?

Ken Jones

Staff member
I haven't had much success with the Gulp products but I know they work for many (especially perch fishermen). Here I am just wondering about the juice as an addition to a dough ball.

Ken Jones

Staff member
BTW, I think if I were seriously interested in doing some fishing for mullet, I would go to my anticipated fishing spot for several days and chum with dough balls. Get 'em used to the dough balls and then serve up the same thing on hooks the day of the actual fishing.