From the time of the earliest human inhabitants of Florida, the small silver fish known as the mullet has been a versatile, abundant food source and an important link in the ecological food chain. In tropical climates, animal kingdom inhabitants are largely present year round—unlike others where hibernation, dormancy and other seasonal factors change the make up of an area’s ecology throughout the year.
Along the Florida gulf coast, the striped mullet is regarded as an excellent food fish. They are also used as bait for a variety of sport fish and regularly bring a higher price as bait than as food fish. In fresh and brackish waters, they are caught with a hook and line using earthworms, oatmeal, and chicken feed as bait.
In saltwater areas, mullet have, historically, been snagged with hooks or captured with cast nets, seines, gill nets, or trammel nets—though a net ban has been in effect in Florida since 1995. Prior to the net ban, mullet were severely overfished throughout the state. Currently, mullet are in the process of a full population recovery. Prized for their roe, large numbers of mullet are taken during the migration to spawning grounds offshore. The striped mullet is sold fresh, dried, salted, and frozen with the roe sold fresh or smoked.