Fresh From The Salt

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Feature Stories 2011

 

Volume 2, Issue 6, December 2011:  Mullet Mania – A West Central tradition lives on


In this issue of FRESH FROM THE SALT, Volume 2, Issue 6, December 2011:  Mullet Mania – A West Central tradition lives on, we go back to our roots as we use a mullet-specific cast net to round up our favorite smoked fish.  Mullet cast nets, large and heavy and stitched together with large diameter mesh size, sink fast and heavy and reduce the chances of your haul escaping the net.  Having been used in Florida since the time of the Calusa Indians, our state’s earliest residents, these nets are typically 10 to 12 feet in size and can really load ‘em up if thrown properly.  Most local mom and pop bait stores and tackle shops carry a few different makers of these unique nets.  Sometimes you can find a local commercial fisherman who hand-makes them and these are very often the finest nets you’ll find.  They’re not cheap, ranging in price from approximately $150 to $300, but will last you a lifetime and provide you with an opportunity to catch fresh fish to eat when the game fish just aren’t cooperating.  Last, though smoking mullet is the cooking method most liked and well-known throughout the ages, fried mullet is hard to beat. So, go wrangle up some mullet and fry those suckers golden brown.  They’re not just shark bait, I promise!


This story is also featured in my monthly column, Angler Xtras, in the December 2011 issue of our local Saltwater Angler Magazine, pg. 18.


Sincerely,
Joshua W. Broer (pondfisher)

 



Mullet Mania – A West Central tradition lives on
By Joshua W. Broer

 

Most folks who grew up on our West Central Gulf Coast have eaten smoked mullet at some point in their lives.  From local seafood restaurants with fresh catches to the tiniest mom and pop fish houses strewn up and down the coast, you can usually find delicious smoked mullet on the menu.  No doubt about it, it’s a taste that most locals treasure and that our seafood loving snowbirds look forward to in the winter months.

 

When I wanted mullet, it was to those places I’d go to satisfy the urge for that awesome old-school recipe.  Ten years ago or so, however, a very “salty” buddy of mine gave me a cast net designed specifically for catching large mullet.  I immediately thought of it as a tool better suited to catching bait (mullet) for shark fishing outings, or for tarpon and monster bridge snook.  I soon learned though that my new mullet cast net would do more than just provide large bait, rather, it would add to my own repertoire of seafood cuisine and be one of my most used angling devices.

 

Mullet specific cast nets have a few things in common.  The most obvious part of the design of a mullet cast net is the large mesh size.  The most common bait nets come with mesh sizes ¼” for smaller bait and 3/8” for larger bait.  The mullet net, on the other hand, usually begins with a mesh size of at least 1” and can sometimes be larger.  The reason for the larger size mesh diameter is so that the net will sink fast and lessen the chance of mullet escaping.  Another common attribute to the mullet cast net is their massive size and weight.  Weight, like the larger mesh size, allows for the net to sink quickly on your targeted school of fish.  Size, likewise, increases your chance for a decent haul.  The most common net sizes are 10 ft. and 12 ft.  Nets these sizes with liberal amounts of lead are not the easiest to throw so it does take some practice to get your throws to open nicely.

 

About the same time I was introduced to the mullet cast net I had also met some folks from the Caribbean.  They were surprised that our west central gulf coast tradition was to smoke mullet.  Their method was to fry the fish – and they wouldn’t have it any other way.  And so I did.  To this day, I am a firm believer in fried mullet.  It is arguably one of the most melt-in-your-mouth fried fish I have ever eaten and gives smoked mullet a run for its money…. or beats it!  Just throw your un-skinned fillets in a frying pan for a few minutes, remove, and the meat falls off the skin in delicious chunks.

 

As most boat, as well as shore-bound anglers know, mullet can be found in a wide range of places.  From the bay to the beach to the bayou, you can usually find some schooled up mullet.  On those days when you’re stalking redfish on the flats near a half-acre of mullet, break out your net and put a few in the cooler.  Bayou seawalls are often the most productive areas so this is a perfect net for shore fishermen as well.

 

Just about every good bait and tackle store, from the small, family-owned shops, to the larger marine warehouses, carry quality, hand-made mullet cast nets.  And if they don’t, they’ll surely put you in contact with a local fisherman who makes his own.  These, in fact, are often the very best nets to find.  These beautiful nets are made slowly, carefully, and with pride and skill that is unmatched.  Put this on your angler’s “to-do list” and you’ll have fresh fish for the smoker or fryer any time you want.