How to Catch Mullet – The Underrated Sport Fish

How to Catch Mullet – The Underrated Sport Fish

When we think about what makes a quality sports fishing target we tend to think about a long powerful runs and a never give up attitude. You might describe it as a fight well above their weight. Well, it might come as a surprise but the common mullet fits well into this category. I guess you have to be fairly tough when you spend most of your life at the bottom end of the food chain.

People target mullet for a number of reasons whether it be for bait (alive or dead), for their excellent eating qualities (BBQ or smoked) or maybe like me, purely for sport. There are several species of mullet with the most common around southern Australia being the sand, yellow-eye and sea or bully mullet. There are also small poddy mullet that are primarily caught for bait and large diamond scale mullet of northern Australia.

In many states of Australia it is illegal to use cast nets or jag mullet so anglers must learn the finesse of catching a fish that spends the majority of its life eating tiny marine invertebrates, insects and algae. I say finesse because mullet can be incredibly frustrating to catch. Some days they will be impossible to tempt with any presentation, then other times they will be a fish-a-cast proposition.

Where to find mullet

Mullet are quite prolific during the warmer months and tend to hang around in schools of 20-50 fish. They can usually be found anywhere from beaches through to bays and rivers.

Areas where they tend to congregate and feed include:

  • the back of large shallow bays
  • where a creek meets a larger estuary system
  • up the tidal reaches of stormwater canals
  • inside breakwalls and marinas

Mullet have a definite preference for shallow water and very large fish can be seen comfortably milling around in less than a meter of water. They are quite active around a high or falling tide as well as around dawn and dusk.

When selecting a location try and position yourself with the wind coming in behind you. This will aid with the distribution of burley and casting unweighted rigs.

Rigs to catch mullet

Keep the rig as simple as possible. Mullet are incredibly20151011-BreadBait fussy at times so very light fluorocarbon leaders of 4 to 6lb are in order. Try using a very small circle hook tied on with a loop knot to ensure that my baits bob around as naturally as possible. Often the hook is all that is required, no swivel and definitely no lead.

If there is a bit of wind to contend with or a long cast is required to reach the fish I will add a small float to the rig. Small fly indicators make great floats as do small foam floats and clear bubble floats. You may need to work on the positioning of the float depending on the conditions but generally leave between 40 and 60cm between the float and the hook.

Top baits for mullet

Bread is the most productive bait. The cheapest and nastiest sliced white bread seems to do the job a lot better than your more expensive varieties. Fish that eat scum every day aren’t going to be impressed with your grainy wholemeal or artisan sourdough varieties.

Start with a burley trail of small pieces of bread, mostly the crusts which don’t make good baits. To start off try chucking in 2 full torn up slices then slow down. As the bread drifts away try and space the pieces 3 to 4 meters apart. This will give the fish a nice consistent trail to follow back to your position.

To prepare a bait tear off a piece of bread from near the centre of the slice. Try and keep it nice and fluffy so that it will bob around on the surface of the water. Now fold it in two and pinch the crease down firmly. This creates a doughy section to put the hook through. Now it is ready for a nice and smooth lob cast so as to not tear the bait off the hook.

If some additional casting weight is required the bait can be quickly dipped into the water immediately before casting. Don’t wait for the bait to become waterlogged as it will just fall off the hook. Another option is to create a multi-hook rig and the weight of several bread baits might be enough to get the extra casting distance.


The burley trail should now be attracting all types of fish. 20151011-Bream2Mullet generally eat the floating bread in quite a soft splashy fashion. The burley will also attract lots of bream and these will make either a kissing sound as they suck the bread in or very aggressively smash the bread off the surface. You may also find you attract luderick and trevally which enjoy a feed of bread.

Float the bait out to where the action is. If you have picked a good location the wind and tide will assist in getting your bait out there. Now just wait until something decides to smash your bread bait off the surface. When using circle hooks it isn’t necessary to strike at the fish, just let the line come tight as it swims away with the bait. Remember mullet have very soft mouths and you should be using quite light line so play them out carefully. It is also a good idea to use a net to land them.

Mullet Top Tips
  • Mullet hang around in shallow bays, creeks and canals
  • Warmer months are the best
  • Use bread baits and keep your rig simple
  • Don’t be discouraged if you don’t catch them. They are fussy so try another time, tide or location
  • Get out there and give this underrated sport fish a go!

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The charm of fishing is that it is the pursuit of what is elusive but attainable, a perpetual series of occasions for hope.

John Buchan