I have a confession to make. I’m coming out. Yes, I’m a Mullet angler. We of the faith keep it quiet because we just get funny looks and a wide berth when we normally mention the Grey Ghost. When I add that I catch them off the kayak even those of the faith can sometimes look at me as if I’m some sort of Mullet fishing radical. To be fair the National Mullet Club have shown an amazing tolerance for my plastic perversion. They even allowed me to bore them at an AGM to the delights of yak fishing for Mullet.
OK, so confession made, now to the point of the blog. The first Mullet were spotted at the end March and started to make their way up the Solent throughout April. Thinlips show first, then the first Thicklips appear just behind them. At this point there is a moderate amount of excitement in the Mullet world, the season is almost upon us. Bearing in mind Mullet anglers aren’t normally the excitable type this level of hypertension is significant. It wasn’t until early April that the odd fish was being reported caught to great kudos. Mullet need time to bed into their new surroundings so early Mullet are rarely the biggest but usually the most difficult to catch, making a fish caught before May an event.
My quest this year was to achieve a pre May Thicklip Mullet. I don’t know if you’ve noticed with this fishing lark, life just insists on getting in the way. I managed an early trip on the Itchen and another a couple weeks later on the Hamble. I saw very few fish and certainly didn’t get close to catching them. The Bass and crabs, however, on the Hamble did seem to have become vegetarian and kept me entertained on bread flake. The Itchen trip wasn’t a waste either it did allow me to spot a couple of new potential kayak fishing spots. With the month rapidly disappearing however, it looked like my challenge was doomed.
On the 30th of April my fishing pass officer gave permission for one last April recce. This was cutting it close but I decided to explore the new marks on the Itchen. I know the Hamble better but based on that knowledge just had a hunch that the Itchen was more likely to produce.
Tactics on a kayak have to be slightly amended from the norm. I only like to take 2 rods out. With these I need to be able to ledger, including using a method feeder, crust popped up off the bottom and float fish flake either on the surface or just under. The way I manage this is by using a Drennan weighted 5g waggler float on one light lure rod. The weights separate from the float. This allows me to use it as a light ledger for the pop up set up as well as the float options.
The method feeder option is on an 8ft spinning rod using a standard freshwater set up. Rods over 8ft can become unmanageable on a kayak so we tend to adapt suitable boat or spinning rods to the situation we find ourselves in.
I launched under Itchen Bridge and paddled up stream with the tide. The first new mark was taken up by a swan who had nested right where I needed to tie off. The nest was a right sight to behold. She had made it from rope, polythene and any other bits and pieces she had found in the dock area. She seemed happy though, so nice piece of upcycling. I still tried the area and saw a few small mullet but they really weren’t interested in bread, just swimming right over the beds of crumb I had laid out.
This mark is inaccessible by any other means as you have to paddle under the stern of a large ship to get there. Very Cockleshell Heroes, especially in a camo kayak.
Despite the great location it was time to move on and try another new mark. It was getting close to the top of the tide and clouds were beginning to close in. I suspected that my window of opportunity might be limited.
Once tied up I dropped the feeder into a quiet corner right up against structure. Set the rod up in the rod holder, made sure the clutch was set light and then concentrated on the float set up. Nothing was showing on the surface so I concentrated on either suspending bread under the float and letting it drift under some up tide cover or I removed the float and let the crust pop up from the ledgered 5g weight. Some people believe that you have to wait around doing nothing, just waiting for a bite. Not true, all this was done with a constant trickle of bread being sunk around the bait. No rest for the wicked. To be honest I could feel another blank coming on when I looked down and saw just under the kayak a Thicklip take a piece of sinking bread. Once I see them feeding I know I have a chance.
Now I really concentrated on the float rod. I sunk the flake to try to replicate the bread that I had seen the fish feed on, keeping a steady flow of new flake going in just to keep them interested. Soon enough the float started to bob, the first tentative signs that things were warming up. This continued, never enough to strike but each time the float moved you knew that they had knocked the flake off so a quick re bait was required. This went on for around an hour. I love this close quarter combat with mullet. This was happening within a meter of my bow. Game on.
It was during this duel that I felt the kayak give a slight rock. I quickly looked over to the forgotten feeder rod. It was bent over and straining to escape the rod holder. Fish On! But was it a Mullet, Bass or plastic bag? I lifted into the fish and got my answer. Line screamed off the reel in a way that only Mullet and maybe Tope will do. It took around 50m of line before it turned round and we started to fight. It stayed under initially, darting and diving. Short bursts of rod bending runs followed by cagy side to side dashes. I started to gain line but was desperate not to put too much pressure on and get a hook pull. Finally she came to the surface. Water was sent in all directions but I had her and after another brief fight she was in the net. She weighed in at 2lb 14oz, but I didn’t really care that she was the biggest opening fish of the season to date. She was in the net and just 9 hours before my self imposed deadline.
It had taken 3 trips, 9 loaves and a lot of patience but the stalk and that fight made it all worthwhile. That’s why I Mullet fish and I’m not ashamed to admit it. I’m out of the closet but please still talk to me!
~ Paul Fennell May 2016