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The Best Live Bait for Florida Fall Fishing

If you’re planning any Florida fall fishing, then live mullet should be your go-to bait.

The annual mullet run on Florida’s Atlantic coast is well under way. Anglers from Jacksonville all the way to Miami are wise to take advantage of this yearly event.

Trophy-sized gamefish, including red drum, tarpon, snook, and even shark, are all seizing the moment.

The mullet run

Every year as the water temperatures fall, millions of mullets leave the estuaries of North Florida and migrate south. Once the mullet reach warmer waters, they head offshore to spawn.

A single female mullet can lay up to seven million eggs in one season. The female mullets strategically lay their eggs near the Gulf Stream, and after being fertilized, they catch a ride north in the stream. After hatching, the young mullets move inland to brackish estuaries in North Florida and the process begins all over again.

Where to find the mullet

During the fall, mullet can be found in abundance in rivers, intracoastal waterways, and even the surf.

Mullets feed primarily on algae and small plants, but they are omnivores and will also consume decaying organic matter and worms. Luckily for fishermen, mullet run in large schools so anglers don’t need to look for areas rich in plant matter; they only need to look for the large school.

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Once you’ve located the schooling mullet, catching them is easy. Most anglers prefer using a cast net to catch mullet because it is the quickest and easiest way to fill a live-well or bucket.

However, some anglers use chum and a sabiki rig. Both of these methods work well from a boat or under a bridge, but a cast net is much more effective in the surf.

Fishing with mullet

Landing a huge tarpon or snook from the surf is one of the most exciting experiences for a saltwater angler, and using live mullet as bait is one of the best ways to ensure such a catch.

However, timing is everything, and a surf-angler’s chances of catching these gamefish is significantly higher if the angler can place a hooked mullet into a school. Or rather, on the outskirts of a school.

Free-lining is the best way to fish with live mullet in the surf, because it allows the fish to look and act as it normally would. Free-lining is one of the simplest ways of fishing and doesn’t require any terminal tackle.

To free-line, simply tie a hook on the end of your line, and place a mullet on the hook. Hook placement is very important, depending on how you want the mullet to swim.

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The best hook placement for surf fishing is on the mullet’s underside right behind the anal fin. This forces the mullet to swim away from shore while staying near the surface.

If fishing from a pier or a boat, the free-lining technique works equally well, but the hook placement is different. Generally speaking, you want to hook the mullet right in front or right behind the first dorsal fin.

This method causes the mullet to swim away from the boat or pier while remaining on the surface.

If you want the mullet to swim deep, hook the mullet through both lips (although, the mullet won’t survive as long with this method). This is also the preferred hook placement while trolling.

Read more Florida fishing posts

Bottom line, get a mullet on your hook one way or another, and capitalize on this fantastic time of year.


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The Best Live Bait for Florida Fall Fishing