The grey mullet is a member of the Mugilidea family, and we have two species of mullet: the grey and yellow eyed mullet. The grey mullet grows to about 50cm long and is grey in color on the topside fading to silver under the belly. It has two dorsal fins and large scales which are easily dislodged.
The grey mullet live worldwide and New Zealand is at their southern limit, and that’s why you will find them mostly around the North Island. Grey mullet are found in most of our harbours and inshore areas, where they move up the rivers and the lakes, in particular around the Waikato area.
Nathan pulled this awesome fish in a meter of water live baiting along a sand bar with Grey Mullet in the harbour.
They are a great food source for predatory fish and I would have to say they are lethal live baits. Grey mullet grazes on algae and plant material, which is what makes them so hard to catch.
There a few people around the country trying to catch these fish on baits, I know the fly fishing fraternity have been trying for years with a few successes along the way. If you could catch these fish on bait I would spend my time only catching these for live bait, as they are such a wicked bait, dead or alive.
Tyler with a horse of a fish taken inside the harbour with a live mullet swum under the balloon
The problem comes with the catching of the bait.
We have spend hours pulling nets in harbours and along shorelines for mullet, which normally eats up a good hour or 2 of the precious morning time when we want to be kingfish fishing, and you normally only end up with a couple of mullets, but they are worth the effort.
The great thing about mullet is after you have spent the time catching the bait, they live forever in a live bait tank and they are also very strong swimmers. If you back-hooked a live mullet it would swim all day, they are just so strong and I have never seen a kingfish turn down a mullet live bait. (Where I have seen them turn down all other species, it’s like the fruits from the gods for kingfish.)
In our minds the best way to present a mullet with a live bait hook placed in the back.
The best way to catch mullet is by spotting the schools of fish and wading out with a drag net, keep a bin of water close by so you can transport them to the boat or live bait tank to carry them out to the rocks.
When rigging mullet, the standard back-hooking is great, but if you want some added security for your hard earned baits, bridle rig them and they will just power all day, but, mullet don’t usually last that long if you’re in a good spot for kingfish.
Kingfish smashing a school of mullet up in the channel, Mullet are never safe no matter where they are.
I remember one morning Alex and I pulled the drag net at McGregor Bay just out of Long Bay Campground in the Coromandel and we caught huge amounts of grey mullet. We filled the live bait tank and headed up the coast to a sheltered bay. The wind was blowing hard from the East and it was pouring with rain. We were only in maybe 3 meters of water with good current pumping out of the bay. We started a berley trail and had kingfish turn up almost instantly.
Over the next 3-4 hours Alex and I took turns casting mullet at cruising kingfish that were hanging at the back of the boat waiting for the next live bait to be presented. It was one of the most insane shallow water kingfish sessions I can remember, sight casting live baits at 15-25kilo kingfish!
When one of us were hooked up we would throw the odd live bait out the back to keep the kingfish interested, and it worked until we ran out of baits, but at that stage we had both caught 5-6 solid fish each.
Just remember when tail-hooking mullet they will die quickly, so if the fish are around and feeding hard it's great, but if you’re setting your baits and waiting, I recommend to back-hook or bridle rig these baits as they are just too great to waste, as every live mullet should be able to be converted into a strike.
A nice harbour king trying to get the Mullet head first to swallow.
Milan landbased a live mullet at the mouth of the harbour, prime place for kings to hang out.