Sea mullet start hitting in the spring along the southern coast and are one of the most popular targets for anglers fishing off of ocean piers and in the surf. People are often confused about when and where sea mullet are biting because they have so many different regional names that it is difficult to talk about them without getting mixed up.
In reality, three species of this feisty little panfish are caught during the spring along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts, but it doesn’t matter what you call them since the point is they area fun pier fish and very tasty on the dinner table.
Sea mullet are not really mullet at all and belong in the drum and croaker family. They go by a host of different names such as kingfish, whiting, roundheads, Virginia mullet (in NC), and sea mullet. Whatever you call them they are a fun fish to catch and eat.
You fish for sea mullet on the bottom with standard high-low rigs and small number 4 or 6 hooks. Sea mullet have small mouths and it’s harder to hook them if you are using big hooks and baits. You don’t need fancy spinners or floats on your rig, just a couple of small hooks above a sinker of about 2 or 3 ounces.
You can catch sea mullet from the pier or from the surf. They go into very shallow water chasing sand fleas, but they also sometimes hold in deeper sloughs out off the beach in holes that local anglers become familiar with quickly.
As far as baits go, sea mullet are in the surf to suck up shellfish and seaworms, so your choice of offerings should reflect their diet. A good choice is a very fresh-cut shrimp. Many piers and tackle shops sell frozen shrimp, but if you obtain local fresh shrimp you will have better luck with sea mullet as fresh shrimp stays on the hook better and puts out a better scent.
Sea mullet can also be caught with pieces of cut squid, cut bloodworms, or small sand fleas that you dig out from the surf at the beach. You can even catch them on regular old earthworms and also on any bit of cut bait.
If you are looking for a mess of sea mullet, however, it is best to give them what they the bait that they are foraging for in the first place. I like to use a small piece of cut artificial bloodworm marketed by brands such as Fishbites and Gulp and then add a bit of fresh-cut shrimp to the hook. The combination is one sea mullet can rarely resist. One thing is for sure, sea mullet won’t disappoint you at the table. They are a delicious fish that is just perfect for pan-frying. So go out to the nearest fishing pier or beach and get in on some nice sea mullet action.