The Thin lipped mullet is a species of fish in the Mugilidae family. It hunts in shallow waters around Europe and is a migratory species.The thin lipped mullet has an elongated body and the head is short and flattened, its mouth is broad with a narrow upper lip and no tubercles. It is steely blue along the back as it swims through the water. It maximum length is around 70cm, with the average being around 35cm. The largest specimens recorded weighed over three kilograms. Spawning takes place at sea, near the coast between September and February. Specimen weight is 1.6kg and the Irish record is 2.86 Kilo taken on 23.8.2014 by Ian Mulligan at Clonakilty.
I have been fishing for mullet for many years but it is only in the past few that I realised that we were catching a few thin lips amongst the golden grey mullet. I got interested in hunting for thin lipped when I learnt how to tell them apart from thick-lipped mullet. This happened by chance one day when Terry Jackson, my son Derick and I were fishing together. On that day we found a small shoal of mullet that we all cast to and as we started to retrieve we all hit fish one after another. As I seemed to have the smallest fish on, it came in faster and to my surprise, it was a Goldie. Then Derick landed his. It looked a bit different to a ‘normal’ grey mullet and had a smaller top lip. I asked Terry to have a looked at it and he agreed it was a thin lipped. With that, Terry eased off a little on the clutch on his reel as he was hoping that the fish he had on was one too. As it got close to the net, we knew it would make specimen weight if it was a thin lipped. The more the fish fought the more we thought it was one. I could see that Terry was getting nervous, scared he might lose it until finally it was in the net. As we turned its head to look at it mouth we could see it was in fact a thick lipped, not a thin after all.
Derick with his first thin lipped mullet that helped me to tell the difference between the species
Since that day I have looked at every mullet’s top lip just in case. This year as I was fishing through the summer months looking for some specimen sized thin lipped, I was able to scratch out a few locations that seemed to hold only grey mullet. I found wherever you catch golden greys you have a good chance of some thin lipped as well. The first thing is to find fish and keep fishing over them, and with every hook up take your time regardless of size (as a small mullet may be a big golden grey!). Most thin lipped will be around 2lb and if there are small ones you can bet there will be some larger ones as well.
When landing a fish in the surf keep the rod high because there is less line for the waves to catch and this will help to stop hook pulls
Tip on Maddie’s
The top bait is Maddie’s [harbour rag]. Most slob banks will have Maddie’s but for easier digging, you need a bit of sand and shale. They are quite easy to dig, as they are less than a fork deep. You can often have over thirty per scoop. If you are digging bait for a few days’ fishing you should separate them into daily groups, then wrap them in kitchen towel, and put a drop of fresh seawater on it every day to dampen it.
Digging for maddie’s: first find your spot of muddy shale/sand and with every forkful break up any lumps. As you pick out the maddie’s be careful, they are easy to damage. As you can see six forkfuls gave me enough worms for a good few hours fishing
With the bait got and separated, the next thing is what rig to use. To be honest the only way is to spin for them. I have seen the same rig set up used in different ways; some use beads above a Maddie-baited hook below a size two Mepps, others have the Mepps about ten inches from the hook, some fish size three blades and so on. They all work because the maddie’s are spun with an attractor [Mepps or blades]. To get extra distance on your cast try a bombarda float
A bombarda float that has float stops above and below it that is then tied to a swivel. Tie at least three feet of line and add your Mepps or blade, followed by another piece of line, whatever length you want, with a size 10 to 6 hook. Around one to four maddie’s should be enough.
Everyone who has fished for mullet this year has noticed that the mullet stocks are at an all-time low and the answer to that is over fishing by commercial boats. The mullet species have no chance because there are being hit by the large commercial herring vessels in the open sea as they shoal up to migrate. I have been told that these boats “accidently” board tens of tons at a time and then “accidently” sell them for a huge profit. People don’t realise that there is no quota for mullet, and they are an easy target for fast money. Whatever the large boats miss the smaller local netsmen get them as they come into the estuaries to spawn. This means there will be no recruitment that year. It is a lose, lose for the mullet stocks. I cannot understand why the people in power of our fish stocks don’t put a ban on taking mullet before it is too late.
This cracking bass took two maddie’s as there were being retrieved through the water. As I was fighting it I thought it was a huge thin lipped mullet!
With the lack of mullet this year, I still had a few lucky fish in between some hard fishing. As well as mullet on harbour rag, I was landing bass, tiny turbot, weever fish, sea trout, mackerel and sand eels.
Sand eel, small bass, a tiny guppy and a palm size turbot all love rag as I found out
Lesser weever fish will take maddie’s so if you see a small silver fish dangling from the hook be careful because the spines are poisonous and will cause a lot of pain
One morning as I landed a nice Goldie I was asked had I ever done the “grand slam of mullet”, which I found out was a specimen grey, golden grey and thin lipped. My answer was yes, but not in one day! I have caught all three in one day but not all at specimen size. Therefore, with that question I had a new challenge to try and do this. Thinking about it, I realised all I needed was one more specimen this year, a thin lipped mullet for the greater grand slam. In my mind, it was my own version of Matt Hayes’ Greater Rod Race so with a new goal I decided to take the family to West Cork as the weather was going to be good and before all the mullet were netted out of the estuaries. After we settled in to our Clogheen Strand holiday home [that is bang in the middle of mullet heaven] my son and I decided to dig some maddie’s for an early morning session. The plan was that I was going to drive along the coast until I found fish crashing on the surface. My first stop that next morning was at Inchydoney beach. It’s a weedy area but still well worth a look, as I found out. Within ten minutes, I was into a large fish and as I netted it, I knew it was a grey mullet and over six pound.
This beach can be weedy at times but still is well worth a look when it calm as this 6lb 5oz thick lipped mullet proved
After about forty minutes and a few dropped fish the tide started to run hard and started to push weed with it. This made it unfishable so back to the jeep and on searching we went. As I was driving along looking at every beach, I found myself at Donore. I could see gulls diving and then Derick handed me the binoculars and said “I think there are some fish close to the beach”. How right he was. I could see fish hitting the surface and jumping. When we got to the spot we only had a few yards to walk before we were able to cast into the mullet shoal. With the usual Goldie taps on the rod as they hit the bait, I got that feeling they could be some specimens in amongst the shoal. With one small bass landed by Derick and a few fish lost, I found myself connected to an aerobatic fish that looked like a Goldie. It was and it was a specimen too! Two down, one to go.
This specimen Goldie brought an inner smile to me, as all I needed was a specimen thin lipped to do the one-day grand slam and at the same time do the greater grand slam
With just over three hours of fishing done, I believed I had a chance to catch a thin lipped before the end of the day; the only decision was where do I go? Therefore, with another look at the tide table, it had to be Courtmacsherry. I knew it was a long drive from where I was but Courtmac’ is the only place I have caught thin lipped halfway through the tide and if that did not work, I could hit Clonakilty or Rosscarbery as the tide was dropping back.As I arrived, I could see that the area was still clear of weed and there was a few fish moving along the surface. With the rods out it was time to sneak to the water’s edge and cast. As I needed a thin lipped, Derick decided to sit back and search the water for other fish for me. Each time I cast I could see a fish or two following the float and then turning away. This happened a few times too many, so I decided to shorten the line between the float and spinner. When I retrieved my next cast, I got slammed and the fish started to shake its head above the surface of the water. As I was fighting it, I could feel my heart thumping and then my hands started to quiver. It’s still nice to be excited when fighting a good fish after all these years. As the fish went into the net I could tell it was a thin lipped, but was it a specimen? As my son got the bag zeroed on the scales I un-hooked the fish. As it was being weighed I had my fingers crossed. Those few seconds felt like minutes as I waited for Derick’s answer… He smiled and said, “Well done, its 3lb 7oz”. What a day, all three-specimen mullet species and my new target broken. I can honestly say if all species of fish were protected, this country would be a gold mine and the economy would be boosted from angling tourism’s and the families that come with them.
A 3lb 7oz thin lipped made me feel like a millionaire, and made my goal a reality
Terry and Dan with their first thin lipped specimens and my daughter Amy learning how to spin for mullet