It doesn’t enjoy the lofty and romantic image of the swallows returning to San Juan Capistrano, but if you want to set hearts to fluttering among this area’s saltwater fishermen, simply whisper the words “fall mullet run.” It’s on, as you’ve likely noticed if you’ve gone anywhere near the surf or intracoastal this past week. Much of this week’s fishing roundup revolves around the arrival of those silver masses of baitfish.
SURF, PIERS: When you think bait for pompano, you generally think sand fleas, but it appears the mullet are getting their attention right now. “We had one guy in here who got 11 — only three of them keepers (11-inch minimum, daily bag limit of six), but that wasn’t bad,” said Tom Farnham at Your Rod & Reel in Daytona Beach Shores. Usually, Farnham said, the pompano run is thicker in late March and late October, so this is a bit early. “Not saying we’re having a run, but maybe a few schools.” Of course, whiting and reds are also active in the surf as the waves of mullet come through from the north.
OFFSHORE: The big-water fishermen are getting some mackerel near the party grounds and tossing back some red snapper, as well as boating a few amberjack here and there, according to Greg Stone at New Smyrna Marina. Down there at the marina, they’re keeping an eye on the calendar and awaiting the Oct. 22-24 Sailfish Classic. “They’re getting some sailfish now; they’re getting ready to get into that prime season,” said Stone.
HALIFAX RIVER and PONCE INLET: Mangrove snapper seem to be plentiful up and down the Halifax. “A massive amount of mangrove snapper,” is how it’s described by Stephanie Brown at Granada Bait & Tackle. “Snook are running, too, but mainly in the morning behind the baitfish.” Donald Parksey, at Don’s Bait & Tackle in Port Orange, said a few flounder and black drum are also coming in, but he agreed with the mangrove assessment and offered a cooking tip if you get a legal catch (10-inch minimum, five per day): “I put them in cold water and leave them overnight before cooking. I use a beer batter — some flour, salt and pepper — and deep-fry them.”
TOMOKA BASIN, RIVER: How thick is the mullet run? “You can walk on ’em,” said Capt. Kent Gibbens (BackCountryCaptain.com). “The snook and tarpon are free-jumping, just blowing up through them. Sometimes you don’t even want to fish; you just want to stand there and watch them.” He said the jacks are also enjoying the mullet. “If you want to have fun chasing jacks, just ride along, look for those big blow-ups of mullet, throw in a plug and you’re ready to go.”
MOSQ. LAGOON, INDIAN RIVER: Capt. Drew Cavanaugh prefers sight-fishing with artificial bait, and the mullet run is producing some rollicking water that makes things easier. “Throw to the roll,” said Cavanaugh (FloridaShoreFishingCharters.com). “We’re getting good numbers of decent redfish and a lot of back-country tarpon down near the Titusville area of the Indian River. On the north end, some nice redfish are starting to school up, chasing the baitfish with that fall mullet run starting.” Some decent-sized trout are appearing, and should become more plentiful as the water cools.
MATANZAS INLET, RIVER: Henry Miles, at Devil’s Elbow Fish Camp, doesn’t necessarily recommend trying to walk on the schools of mullet, but does say it looks as if you could. “If you have a cast net, you can catch all the bait you need with one throw,” he said. The reds, he said, are “wide open,” particularly at the end of the outgoing and beginning of the incoming tides.
ST. JOHN’S RIVER: David Stewart, at Bull Creek Fish Camp, thinks all the recent rain has brought life to Dead Lake and the surrounding fisheries. “Got some bream biting,” he said. “A couple of guys came out over Labor Day weekend and caught bream like crazy, off crickets. A couple other guys were out there three hours and caught seven keeper bass. It’s definitely picking up a little bit.”
By Ken Willis of the Daytona News Journal