Florida Mullet Run: Annual Migration Insights

florida mullet run

Every year, an incredible natural event takes place in Florida known as the Florida Mullet Run. As a fisherman and marine enthusiast, I find myself eagerly anticipating this annual spawning migration of mullet along the state’s coastal beaches, inlets, and rivers. This phenomenon is a fantastic time of year for both anglers and admirers of marine biology.

Scientists believe that the mullet run is triggered by a combination of decreasing water temperatures and a change in barometric pressure. Typically peaking in October, the event attracts schools upon schools of mullet that migrate from Fernandina to Miami and various areas in between. As an avid observer, I can confirm that witnessing these thick, dark waves of fish moving south along the Atlantic coast is an unforgettable sight.

This unique migration not only offers a stunning visual experience but also makes for exceptional fishing opportunities. As the mullet swims in densely packed schools, they become irresistible to larger predators and game fish such as tarpon, snook, jacks, mackerel, and sharks. As a result, the Florida Mullet Run becomes a sort of underwater buffet for these predators, providing remarkable fishing experiences that can be enjoyed by anglers of all skill levels.

Florida Mullet Run Overview

Mullet Migration

As a fisherman, I love the time of year when the Florida Mullet Run happens. In response to decreasing water temperatures and changing barometric pressure, mullet embark on an annual spawning migration. This event sees these fish moving in large schools along coastal beaches, inlets, and rivers, creating an exciting period for both marine biology enthusiasts and anglers.

Atlantic Coast

During the Florida Mullet Run, these fish make their way south, passing through every beach on the Atlantic coast from Virginia onwards. This incredible movement is truly a sight to behold, especially along the coastline from Fernandina to Miami. As the schools of mullet pass by, thick, dark waves can be seen, offering fantastic opportunities for fishing and observing marine life.

Fall Bait Run

The Florida Mullet Run typically peaks in October, with cooling temperatures triggering the natural instinct of mullet to head south. This Fall Bait Run sees large schools of migrating mullet becoming irresistible to bigger predators, including most game fish. As a result, this annual event leads to fishing in Florida becoming red hot, making it an exciting and fruitful time for anglers in the state.

Fishing Techniques and Tips

Lures and Baits

When it comes to fishing during the Florida Mullet Run, I prefer using a mix of artificial lures and live bait. For artificial lures, my top choices are topwater plugs and swimming plugs. These lures effectively imitate the swimming and splashing action of mullet and will attract predatory fish.

For live bait, I usually opt for using actual mullet when they are readily available. I catch small mullet with cast nets, making sure to keep them lively and healthy in a bait tank or bucket.

Casting and Retrieval

During the mullet run, casting and retrieving lures should be smooth and efficient. I typically follow these tips:

  1. Cast your lure parallel to the shoreline and not directly into a school of mullet.
  2. Vary retrieval speeds to mimic the natural swimming action of mullet.
  3. Maintain a steady cadence with topwater plugs, occasionally pausing to create a more striking presentation.

When using live bait, I hook the mullet through the lips or back, allowing them to swim freely and appear natural to predators.

Optimal Gear

To have the best chances of success during the mullet run, I make sure to have optimal gear. Here’s the gear I recommend:

  • Reel: A 4000-sized reel is suitable for most situations during the mullet run, spooled with 20-pound test braid.
  • Rod: A standard seven-foot rod works well for inshore fishing and casting from jetties or inlets.
  • Line: Upgrade to 30 to 50-pound test for targeting larger species like tarpon or sharks.
  • Lures: Stock up on topwater plugs and swimming plugs in various colors and sizes.
  • Cast Nets: Choose a net with small enough mesh to catch mullet without damaging them.

By following these techniques and tips, using the proper lures and bait, and ensuring optimal gear, I have the best opportunity to capitalize on the excitement and action of the Florida Mullet Run.

Targeted Gamefish

Top Predatory Fish

During the Florida Mullet Run, several top predatory fish are attracted to the frenzy of migrating mullets. In my experience, the most common gamefish that I’ve encountered during this time include tarpon, snook, redfish, and jack crevalle.

  • Tarpon often ambush mullet schools and leap after them, making their presence quite noticeable. I’ve found that targeting tarpon during the mullet run tends to be a thrilling experience, as they put up an impressive fight.
  • Snook also actively prey on mullet schools, using structures like docks and bridges to their advantage. I typically stick to inshore waters when targeting snook during the mullet run, and it usually pays off well.
  • Redfish, though less aggressive than tarpon and snook, still participate in the frenzied feeding along the mullet migration route. I’ve had success finding redfish around grass flats, oyster bars, and mangrove-lined shorelines.
  • Jack crevalle might not be the most sought-after gamefish, but they provide an exciting challenge nonetheless. I’ve found them to be especially aggressive during the mullet run, and their speed and strength make them a respectable adversary.

Less Common Species

While the top predators tend to garner most of the attention during the Florida Mullet Run, I’ve also encountered some less common species worth mentioning. These include kingfish, sailfish, bluefish, and even the occasional mahi-mahi.

  • Kingfish: Known for their speed and razor-sharp teeth, kingfish can be found further offshore, preying on smaller mullet at the surface.
  • Sailfish: Although not usually associated with mullet, I’ve seen sailfish opportunistically feeding on the baitfish during their migration. You can find these acrobatic fish in the Gulf Stream during their peak season.
  • Bluefish: Typically found along the Atlantic coast, bluefish are aggressive predators that will readily attack mullet schools. I’ve encountered them around inlets and beaches during the mullet run.
  • Mahi-mahi: While not as common, I’ve occasionally come across a mahi-mahi chasing after mullet during their migration. The vibrant colors of this fish make them an unforgettable catch.

By understanding the targeted gamefish during the Florida Mullet Run, you can increase your chances of success and enjoy an action-packed fishing experience.

Prime Locations

Inlets and Rivers

In my experience, inlets and rivers in South Florida are lively spots for the Florida Mullet Run. During October and November, mullets are abundant along the beaches of Broward, Palm Beach, Monroe, and Miami-Dade counties. During the spring season, mullet also congregate and migrate along coastal waterways, particularly in South Florida.

Some notable inlets to visit during the Mullet Run include the Sebastian Inlet and various Everglades locations. I’ve found rivers like the Indian River Lagoon to host abundant mullet populations during these migrations.

Lagoons and Passes

We cannot talk about Mullet Run prime locations without mentioning the Indian River Lagoon and Mosquito Lagoon. Both lagoons offer scenic spots where I’ve observed countless baitfish and mullet traveling through the water. The lagoons are often teeming with predatory fish, including snook, tarpon, jacks, sharks, and many others. These powerful fish move through the lagoons and passes to hunt the schooling mullets.

Jetties and Seawalls

It’s great to fish jetties and seawalls during the Mullet Run, as I’ve noticed they provide additional structure for the traveling fish. Anglers can find an assortment of fish species that are attracted to these areas. Jetties, in particular, can be a fantastic spot to fish during the Mullet Run, offering opportunities to catch tarpon, snook, and other gamefish targeting the migrating mullet.

To make the fishing experience more enjoyable and successful during the Mullet Run in these prime locations, I recommend using appropriate tackle, such as:

  • 30-pound spinning or baitcasting gear
  • 60-pound monofilament or fluorocarbon leader
  • 6/0 circle hook

Important Conditions

Water Temperatures

In my experience, water temperatures play a crucial role in the Florida Mullet Run. As the season transitions from summer to fall, dropping water temperatures trigger the mullet to migrate. The optimal water temperature range for the run is between 68-77°F (20-25°C). Finger mullet, juvenile mullet migrating with the adult schools, are also heavily influenced by these water temperatures. Keep in mind, though, that fluctuations in temperatures can occur, affecting the mullet’s movement and availability.

Weather Patterns

During the Mullet Run, weather patterns also have a significant impact on the movement and behavior of these fish. As a seasoned angler, I have observed the following patterns and effects:

  • Wind direction: East or northeast winds tend to push mullet closer to the shore, providing better opportunities for anglers. Conversely, strong westerly winds may result in fewer mullet near the shoreline.
  • Tides: Higher tides usually coincide with increased mullet activity and can make it easier to locate and catch these fish. On the other hand, low tides may cause mullet schools to move away from the shoreline or become less active.
  • Storms: It’s essential to keep an eye on the weather, as storms, particularly tropical storms or hurricanes, can disrupt the Mullet Run. These weather events may temporarily scatter mullet schools, but once the conditions improve, the migration should continue.

By understanding these conditions, I can better predict when and where to find mullet during the Florida Mullet Run and increase my chances of successful fishing.

Safety and Conservation

Dealing with Sharks

During the Florida mullet run, it’s not uncommon for me to encounter sharks as they’re attracted to the large schools of mullet. To ensure my safety and the conservation of these marine predators, I take a few precautions. First, I make sure to give any nearby sharks plenty of space, keeping a respectful distance and observing them from afar.

When fishing during the mullet run, I use a circle hook, which helps minimize the likelihood of accidentally hooking a shark. Circle hooks are designed to hook fish in the corner of the mouth rather than deep in the gut, making it easier for me to release unwanted catches, like sharks, without causing significant harm.

In addition, I use a fluorocarbon or monofilament leader with a breaking strength of at least 60 pounds. This type of leader material is less visible in the water, reducing the risk of attracting sharks to my line. Moreover, the strength of the leader allows me to effectively handle and release any sharks I might accidentally catch.

Responsible Fishing Practices

To support the sustainability of the mullet population and the overall marine ecosystem, I employ some responsible fishing practices during the mullet run:

  • Abiding by regulations: I make sure to always follow the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s regulations regarding mullet fishing, such as daily bag and vessel limits.
  • Selecting appropriate gear: To reduce the chances of unintentionally harming other marine life, I use 30-pound spinning or baitcasting gear, combined with a 60-pound fluorocarbon or monofilament leader and a 6/0 circle hook.
  • Proper release techniques: If I catch a fish other than mullet, it’s important for me to know how to release it safely. I handle the fish as gently as possible, keep it in the water, and use pliers to remove the hook without causing injury.

By following these safety and conservation measures, I can enjoy the exhilarating experience of the Florida mullet run while also contributing to the preservation of the marine ecosystem.

Additional Equipment and Accessories

Sunglasses and Clothing

In my experience, it’s essential to wear polarized sunglasses during the Florida Mullet Run. These help me see through the water and spot the schools of mullet, as well as the game fish that are attracted to them. Polarized sunglasses not only protect my eyes from the sun’s glare but also give me a visual edge when tracking down fish.

As for clothing, I prefer to wear quick-dry, sun-protective clothing, especially during the peak of the Mullet Run in September and October. I make sure to choose lightweight and breathable options to stay comfortable in Florida’s hot climate.

Nets and Storage

To catch mullet and use them as live bait, I find that having a reliable net is essential. Cast nets are my go-to choice for this purpose, as they allow me to capture multiple fish at once. Here’s a quick chart of recommended cast net sizes:

Net SizeBest For
3-4 ftFingerlings and small bait
6-8 ftMedium to large bait

When releasing the net, I make sure to let it sink for a few moments before pulling it in to maximize my catch. Once I’ve collected mullet, it’s important to have an adequately sized baitwell or cooler to store my bait. This ensures that the bait stays fresh and lively, increasing my chances of attracting game fish like tarpon, snook, and redfish.

My tactics for tackling the Mullet Run have been effective not only in Florida but also in neighboring states like Georgia and Carolinas, where mullet pass through during their migration. By having the proper equipment and accessories, I can make the most of this exciting time of year and enjoy some fantastic fishing experiences.

Frequently Asked Questions

When does the mullet run happen?

I have observed that the mullet run typically begins in late August and peaks in September and October. It is an annual spawning migration of mullet in response to decreasing water temperatures and a change in barometric pressure.

Where to find the Florida mullet run?

Mullet run along coastal beaches, inlets, and rivers of Florida, especially on the east coast. As the mullet migrate south, a variety of predator species like tarpon, snook, jacks, mackerel, and sharks follow them, making it an ideal time for fishing opportunities. Keep an eye out for schools of mullet congregating near the shorelines, and you are likely to find the mullet run.

How long does the mullet run last?

In my experience, the mullet run lasts for several months, starting from late August and finishing up sometime in November. The peak months are September and October, when the largest schools of mullet are visible along the coast. Keep in mind that the exact timing may vary slightly each year due to factors like weather conditions and water temperature fluctuations.

Captain Tyler Brady

Captain Tyler Brady

Hi, I'm Captain Tyler Brady, founder of A Fellow Fisherman. Thank you for reading this post and visiting my site. I strive to provide the best information when it comes to fishing, whether it is myself or A Fellow Fisherman that is part of my team. Now stop reading and GO fishing!

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