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Mullet Madness and Bluefish

Posted 10/01/05
By Paul Kerlinger
Outdoors Editor

When my wife and I do our beach walks, I know that bringing my fishing rod can cause friction. Let’s face it, I can’t help myself. If I believe there is a chance to catch fish, I’m going to fish.

So, on a recent Sunday morning during the early fall mullet season, we found ourselves on the beach at Cape May Point State Park and I was unarmed.

Perusing the water for working birds and bait fish, it was obvious that something was going on. The water just beyond the surf was alive with schools of bait fish. And, there were ravenous bluefish chasing them.

A few of the blues actually came out of the water, revealing that they weren’t snappers. But, my fishing rod was more than 300 yards away.

I ran back, wondering if a heart attack would ruin my day. It didn’t, and within a few minutes I was in the surf casting.

The mullet were in thick, tight pods and were easily visible in the curls of the waves. In those same curls were shadows of predators.

Anglers already present were using bait and they were connecting. The couple next to me were both into fish and had already caught some.

I didn’t see any bass, so it appeared that there were only bluefish.

Along with the mullet, there were some peanut bunker, and what looked to be bay anchovies – although they may have been silversides. Up and down the beach, the water was alive with splashes, aerial bait fish, and birds.

I decided not to cast directly into the melee of busting mullet and blues, instead casting farther out and letting the Hopkins drop to the bottom before jigging it slowly back toward me.

I hoped that there might be some bass or weakfish feeding on injured or dying bait fish beneath the blues. No luck! That technique has paid off previously, and also works using live bait in the form of a whole mullet or cut mullet.

I increased the speed of my retrieve to bring the Hopkins higher in the water column where the bluefish were chasing bait. Almost immediately, I hooked up.

These feisty 2-3 pound fish could actually take line and offered great fun on a light spinning rod with 10 pound line.

These were larger fish than the large snappers I usually catch from the beach in late summer. Some were more than 3 pounds and I saw one that was over 4 pounds.

There were no striped bass or weakfish caught on the beach, at least that I saw.

I released at least four fish, hooked another three that got away, and had a ball.

Each time I slid a fish onto the beach I realized that it wasn’t hooked deeply and could easily be released.

So, I released them all, virtually unharmed, thinking that the next would be dinner.

Meanwhile, the angler next to me got his dinner for the evening and took off.

I was still in the surf when my wife reappeared, asking why I had released the last fish. We still didn't have one for dinner. My retort was, “the next one.”

However, the blues disappeared, leaving anglers scratching their heads and wanting more. The fish were were either gorged on mullet or the main schools of bluefish had moved offshore.

Some lessons can be learned from this:

One, if you plan to keep a fish for dinner, keep the first one.

Second, just because you catch fish after fish, you don't have to take them all home.

A simple rule that I like to fish by is if a fish is lightly hooked, release it.

It actually feels good to release a fish unharmed.

 

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