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This quarter's column is dedicated mostly to mullet, a Gulf of Mexico species that anglers have come to appreciate for not only as bait but also as great table fare. Three to five inch "finger mullet" are proven killers for speckled trout, redfish and flounder while larger live mullet may tempt cobia, tarpon and a host of other big gamefish. Strips of fresh mullet will take everything from bottom-dwelling panfish such as whiting, croaker and sand seatrout to jacks, sharks, bluefish and tackle-busting bull redfish.
Just-caught mullet when properly prepared can be culinary delights whether fried, blackened or smoked and their roe is also delicious, so much so that Japan considered importing mullet eggs in the 1970's. Newer readers may be surprised to learn that the lowly mullet, in earlier times had still another use. A letter I found in my mailbox - along with several others, brought it back into sharp focus.
Dear Bait Hook:
I recently read in a scientific journal that in the 16th century, MULLET GIZZARDS were often used as aphrodisiacs by various tribes of coastal Indians. Is there any truth to this titillating tale and, if so, where does one obtain them?
Bruce in Breaux Bridge
I have good news and bad news on that subject. The good news is there is strong evidence that mullet gizzards do seem to have a positive effect on the male's libido. Unfortunately, there's no way to access accurate data on this delicate subject in regard to our coastal native Americans. We know they ate plenty of fish, including mullet - and oysters by the millions. You already know what they say about oysters!
I can state with conviction that mullet gizzards were highly prized by Northern Gulf residents during the 1970's and 80's. Fishermen I knew personally back then often kept mason jars filled with pickled gizzards in their refrigerators. During this time frame there was a still unexplained spike in registered live births in coastal counties and parishes but OB-GYN physicians were loathe to speculate on plausible reasons for the phenomena...
I myself, experimented with mullet gizzards for a short time in the early nineties but finding them awfully tough to chew, mostly used them in martini's in lieu of traditional green olives. For a while I had droves of my bug-eyed fishing pals coming by my house at odd times of the day and night in hopes of knocking down a gizzard martini or two. Alas, I finally had to call a halt to the gizzard largesse. It was either that or lose my wife, whose patience with me was beginning to wear dangerously thin.
The bad news is mullet stocks are believed to be declining Gulf wide and finding reliable sources could pose problems in the future. As an aside, mullet gizzards really taste terrible so I now strongly advise tossing them and taking the gin and vermouth straight as that combination has been a pretty darn good aphrodisiac in itself for almost 200 years! Hope I've helped,
Dear Bait Hook:
Most outdoor writers whom I enjoy reading seem to have it "made in the shade" with plenty of big checks, company-sponsored trips to exotic fishing lodges, tons of free merchandise and darn few worries. What's your position on this fun-filled vocation?
Wannabe a writer, Carrabelle, FL
Yes, there is money to be made - if you're lucky and reasonably talented. But newcomers often learn seeing their by-lines in slick magazines doesn't always pay the bills. Most "successful writers" I've met during my career had at least three things going for them - well-paying day jobs, wives who cheerfully work full time and/or obscene inheritances from eccentric wealthy relatives. But jump right in. The water ain't deep!
Best, Bait Hook
Dear Bait Hook:
Something's been bothering me for quite a long time about the many fine articles published each quarter in Gulf Coast Fisherman Magazine. To wit: Do outdoor scribes who put together these great stories really write them OUTDOORS?
Curious in Chalmette, LA
That's actually a legitimate and thought-provoking question. You would be interested to know, after interviewing 500 of the Gulf Coast's best fishing authors, I learned that roughly 99.6 percent of them prefer writing their material INDOORS, The .4 percent who actually tried writing outdoors came down with life-threatening double pneumonia, Lyme disease, mysterious rashes and, of course, scores of moldy manuscripts. They also suffered from severe sunburns, bug bites in places not normally discussed in polite society and intense fears of bolt lightning, cottonmouth moccasins, flash floods and feral hogs.
Best, Bait Hook
P.S. I'm in the 99.6 percentile.