Striped Mullet

Mullets—Family Mugilidae

Striped mullet caught by jkim at Carlsbad

Species: Mugil cephalus (Linnaeus, 1758); from mugal (meaning to suck, in reference to their feeding behavior) and cephalus (pertaining to their distinctive head

Alternate Names: Mullet or grey mullet. Called lisa or lisa rayada in Mexico.

Identification: Torpedo-shaped with 2 widely spaced dorsal fins. Head broad, flat between eyes. Mouth small. Silver or olive-green on the back with faint black stripes on the sides, Silvery below.

Size: To 3 feet in length and 15 pounds in weight.

Range: In all warm seas; found in the eastern Pacific from Chile and the Galapagos Islands to San Francisco Bay.  Rare north of southern California.

Habitat: Surface to 400 feet deep but typically seen in shallow water. Common in mouths of streams, bays and sloughs.

Piers: Most commonly seen at piers in sandy-shore areas and in bays. Best bets: Ferry Landing Pier (Coronado), Bayshore Park Pier (Chula Vista), L.M. “Pep” Pepper Park Pier (National City), Embarcadero “Marina” Park Pier, and Oceanside Harbor Pier. Schools of mullet are frequently seen at oceanfront piers and most often anglers seem to think they are seeing small yellowtail.

Shoreline: Sometimes taken by southern California shore anglers using “snagging” tackle.

Boats: An inshore species rarely taken from boats.

Bait and Tackle: Very hard to catch. Most are snagged by people using large hooks and medium-heavy tackle. Tiny hooks, size 12-10, baited with dough balls are the standard rigging for sport fisherman.

Food Value: An important food species in some areas.

Comments: Common. Although a large recreational fishery exists for mullet in Hawaii, relatively few people in California target them. However, because of their large size some groups do seek them out (although few people at piers). Mullet feed on algae and detritus on the bottom, sucking up large mouthfuls from the muddy or sandy bottoms. These are usually the fish seen jumping in bays.

Striped mullet taken from the Newport Pier by Hyok in 2002.

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