Cold weather and heavy winds will soon drive hordes of silver mullet from area creeks and bays to the coastline for the annual fall run, when females gather in large numbers to release this year’s roe, otherwise known as eggs.
Mullet are a staple fish in the food chain — preyed upon by everything from snook and redfish to dolphins and coastal birds — and a boon to commercial fishermen and seafood markets, at least during good seasons.
“There’s a lot of mullet around, but it’s weather-related,” said Jeff Haugland, owner of Island Crab Company in St. James City. “They get more full of roe (during late fall), and they’ll come out in the open and haul butt for the passes and be gone.”
Mullet were in smaller creeks, canals and rivers in recent days. The next cold front may drive this year’s breeders to the Gulf of Mexico, where the fish remain in a trance-like condition until the eggs are released. These silver fish eat mostly algae and tiny marine invertebrates and roam the coast in schools ranging from a few fish to several hundred or more.
“They’re starting to roll up, but the percentages aren’t there yet,” Haugland said. “A few places up north are cutting roe out. It will probably be a week before we get them.”