By Captain David Lifka
As the days get shorter and temperatures begin to decline, the annual southward migration of baitfish goes into full swing. One of the many varieties of fish taking part in this migration is mullet. Both fingerlings and adult mullet will congregate along the Atlantic coastline, forming schools that can seemingly last for miles, steadily pushing south till their winter destination is reached. Timing for this bait run can never be certain as weather can often speed up or slow down this event. Frequent checking at the beach this time of year should eventually reveal schooling mullet in the surf, and when the run is actually taking place.
Prime times to encounter mullet closest to the shore is usually early in the morning, or very early evening just before dark. Being right up on the beach makes them easier targets for cast netting. On a good outing, reaching the state limit of 50 mullet can be an easy task. Unlike river mullet, ocean mullet are a much more desirable table fare. They are especially good for frying and have a very light flavorful meat.
With the fall mullet run comes another little bonus. That bonus happens to be all the larger fish looking to make meals of the schooling mullet. One species of fish we can surely expect to be in the surf at this time is the bluefish.
When blues are running in the surf, fishing for them can be a nonstop blast. With their colossal appetites, you might be lucky if your bait ever reaches the bottom before hooking up. Losing hooks repeatedly is common, as their razor sharp teeth can easily bite through your leader. When hooked, blues like to run, sometimes jump, and often fool you into thinking you have hooked something much bigger than what you actually have. Any cut bait on a heavy mono leader (or even wire) will be all you need to ensure some classic battles when they are biting. One trick to cleaning bluefish is after removing the skin, cut a V in the darker lateral line and lift it from the remaining filet. By doing so you will have removed the strong fishy taste most people don’t care for. Soak the filet in buttermilk, dredge in your favorite batter mix, and deep fry. Should be pretty tasty.
Whether you catch one, some, or none, the family time spent fishing will last a lifetime.
Fishing Report : A minor late shrimp run has occurred. Not enough shrimp for shrimping, but enough to bring on a decent fall bite for drum, sheepshead, reds, and an occasional flounder off the end of docks and pilings. Best bites have been south of Buckman all the way to Green Cove.
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Photo courtesy Bill Braman
Bear Braman, with a Redfish caught off a live croaker south of the Shands Bridge in mid-September. The fish “put up one heck of a fight” according to Bear’s dad, Bill Braman.