Outer Banks Surf Fishing for Sea Mullet
A standard two-hook bottom rig, with #2 or #4 long shank, snelled hooks is effective and inexpensive. I like to use the snelled hooks enhanced with a small spinner blade and red beads, called "flicker hooks" by the manufacturer, Bear Paw. The spinner helps to jazz up the presentation by adding flash and color which can increase catches on dirty water days.
For surfcasters, a medium weight spinning rod in the 8 to 9 foot range is a good combo. I like a rod with a tip that's stiff enough to cast from one to four ounces of weight, plus a bottom rig and bait. Every once in a while the fish will be schooled up at the edge of an offshore sand bar, and a long cast will be necessary, but I have found this to be the exception rather than the rule.
I love sea mullet, also called roundhead, whiting, or kingfish. They are one of my all-time favorites to catch, and I give them superior marks on the table. Sea mullet are an easy target for surf and pier fishermen.
Bloodworms and shrimp are the best baits, but small pieces of fresh squid and mullet will also entice them. Mole crabs or "sand fleas" are excellent, and the price of this readily available bait will fit any budget. Surfcasters can usually dig or scoop up an adequate supply of fleas from the damp sand at their feet.
Pier fishermen also catch them close to the beach. The same bottom rig that works from the beach will do fine on the piers, but rods should be shorter with enough backbone to crank a one-pound fish over the railing. A seven-foot rod, medium reel, and 20-pound test braided line is a good choice for pier anglers.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention the fine eating qualities of sea mullet, one of the reasons these small fish are so popular. The meat is firm, white and mild, with its own unique delicate flavor. . I prefer to fillet them, taking care to remove all of the bones. The fillets are dipped in milk, then shaken in a bag of House-Autry Seafood Breading Mix until each fillet is covered and finished by deep frying to a golden brown. A fresh garden salad and a frosty mug of cold beer completes the meal.
Sea mullet can be caught anywhere in the surf zone, but steep beaches dotted with sandbars and deep holes consistently produce most of the fish. A beach marked by a series of points bordered by small "pockets" can also hold fish. Flat, gradually sloping, and featureless beaches are not generally attractive to sea mullet.
Don't overlook the possibility of the fish being literally at your feet where these silvery bottom feeders will forage for sand fleas and worms tossed around by the breaking waves. A light weight seven foot rod is perfect for prospecting there.