Common name: Grey Mullet
Latin name: Mugil labeo, Mugil capito, Mugil labrosus
Mullet make an interesting target for the shore based angler, not least because the largest specimens and best fishing is often found only a few feet from the shore! This is reflected in the record weights with the boat best thick lipped weighing a whopping, yet the shore best is an enormous 14lb 2oz 12 drams. Similarly, the thin lipped, although not as large as its relative follows a similar trend with a boat caught best of 5lb 15oz and a shore best of 7lb exactly.
Distribution: Found around the South coast of England extending up to the Wash and South Wales. Often found in Estuaries, often several miles from the sea.
Features: Three species of mullet are common around the British coast, the grey mullet is the smallest species, reaching only around 30cm. The first dorsal fin has four rays, the lips are smooth and are roughly the same thickness as the diameter of the eye. The thin-lipped mullet is larger reaching 50cm, has lips thinner than the diameter of the eye and the lips are smooth. The thick-lipped mullet has much thicker lips and these are covered with 2 rows of small wart-like lumps.
Scales are very large and easily dislodged from the body of this sleek silvery fish. The main feature of the mullet family though is the large mouth and eyes, which give these fish their characteristic appearance.
Diet: The mullet family specialise in feeding on very small food items. Often they will be seen picking pieces of filamentous algae from pilings. They will also feed upon silt, sifting the food items from the detritus. Small crustaceans and young molluscs make up the bulk of their diet, along with algal cells, which are ground up in the muscular gizzard at the beginning of the gut.
Spawning: Mullet return to the sea to spawn in the months of July to September. The adults form large shoals just off shore where they spawn in shallow water. Mullet produce large numbers of eggs for such a small fish. Each female can often produce eggs numbering several million each year. The young hatch after a few days and can drift for long distances before finding themselves again in estuaries and close to shore.
Growth: A slow growing fish, often not reaching sexual maturity until at least the age of four.