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Thicklip Grey Mullet, Chelon labrosus

Irish Record Fish:
Boat Specimen:
Shore Specimen:
Photo Credit:

 David Luquet

Introduction: The thicklip Grey Mullet is regarded widely as the hardest fighting fish swimming in Irish waters, fresh or salt, although based on personal experience I have doubts... This fish can reach > 4.5 kilos (10 lbs) in weight, although anything over 1.5 kilos (4 lbs) is a good fish.  They are often viewed as difficult to catch given their normal diet is diatoms, plankton and algae. 

You might encounter a thinlip grey mullet , the even rarer Striped Red Mullet or even a golden grey mullet, all possibilities especially along the south coast during any long and hot summers! There are recent if unconfirmed reports of golden grey mullet being caught on Inch Strand in Co. Kerry.  The keys to catching grey mullet is to check what these opportunists are feeding on locally, and using it as bait.  Groundbaiting helps.  This can be done using catapults, swim feeders or with an onion bag full of rubby dubby.  Equally you can just dig a series of groundbaits into the substrate in steps back from the low tide mark and wait for the mullet to come in on the tide.  Ragworm is s commonly used and very effective bait.

Tactics: Most mullet are caught from shore, indeed they will routinely patrol harbours and even several kilometres upriver on the flooding tide. Grey mullet are extraordinary fish - they like brackish waters, regularly patrol upriver and through harbours and around piers, and can often drive an angler crazy - they feed on whatever takes their fancy!  Quite often this is minute particles of plankton and algae found on the top of the water. I have caught mullet on lugworm in Mayo, seen them caught on the River Liffey in central Dublin on bread flake (behind the central train station, a very common bait where groundbaiting is possible), heard of boiled cabbage and cow dung being used to attract them to specific marks around Belfast Lough, and heard of people taking them fly fishing for sea trout!  The one constant is small hooks - 1/0s or less, rigged in pennel formation for lugworm.  Soft cheese wrapped in muslin can be an effective bait at creamery outflows, but bread flake is the most common - many anglers will pre-bait / ground-bait a swim before seeking Mullet and a coarse fisherman's swim feeder might prove a useful addition to your tackle box. Small ragworm is another common and effective bait.  A spinning rod with 6-10 lb line should be fine. You can float a waggler inside a harbour, or bigger float outside, or bottom fish with worms - but unless you're a fanatic, avoid the cow dung! Mullet are common throughout Ireland however recent research indicates that they are highly territorial, very slow growing and that taking the larger fish from a mark can result in a loss of decent fish for up to a decade. By the same token if you put them back (catch photograph and release) it is quite possible you will catch the same fish, a wee big bigger, the next year.  Most mullet are caught from the shore rather than from boats.  It is down to keen observation, to seeing what they are feeding on, ground baiting to get them to change to non-plankton items if/as required, and patience especially as they lazily swim past you on the surface on hot summer days!