CORTEZ – Cortez resident Kenny Jeffries won the Fifth Annual Flippin’ Mullet Sports Bar Mullet Fishing Tournament at the Swordfish Grill in Cortez on Sunday, Nov. 18.
Jeffries was the overall tournament winner with a combined weight of 21.10 pounds for his five largest mullets. For this, he won a $100 Swordfish Grill gift card and $120 cash. He also won the largest fish award for his 4.88-pound mullet, which earned him another $100 Swordfish Grill gift card for catching the biggest fish.
“I’m ecstatic,” said Jeffries, a commercial fisherman from Cortez.
Jeffries fished with his friend, Brandon Ison.
In anticipation of mullet season soon kicking into high gear, Jeffries said, “We’re for the roe to grow in the fish so we can go out and get them.”
“Big Dan” Kennison finished second with a combined weight of 16.53 pounds of mullet. For this, he won a $50 gift card and a shirt.
The smallest fish of the day was 2.61 pounds, caught by Preston Rowden whose combined catch was 15.21 pounds. He won a hat and $20.
“It feels awesome that I’m even here, but next year I’m gonna take it all,” Rowden said.
The mullet were caught with cast nets.
The tournament was organized by Swordfish Grill manager Greg Koeper and bar manager Brandon Rolland.
Bobby Martin won the raffle prize that was a cooler filled with liquor bottles.
Some of the tournament proceeds will be donated to the local Fishing For Freedom chapter.
When addressing the crowd, General Manager Bob Slicker described mullet as a “super fish” because of its variety of uses. Patrons were treated to free samples of fried mullet, fried mullet roe and fried mullet gizzards during the awards ceremony.
After the contest, Slicker expounded on the virtues of mullet.
“It’s an exciting fish. People think mullet are bottom-feeders, but they aren’t, and they have gizzards, so they process their food much like a chicken does, which is unique for a fish. They sell the gizzards overseas and people love them,” he said. “Their meat is high in protein and they’re also looking at its medicinal uses.
“Mullet roe is selling in Italy for $110 to $180 an ounce. They smoke it and do a slight shaving at high-end restaurants. Mullet roe is so high in protein that you can’t eat a lot of it, but it’s a great, strong, smoky flavor, and it just takes a little bit. Cortezian mullet is known around the world as being the best.”
He said Cortez fisherman make $7 to $13 for a pound roe.
“We use the male fish as bait. We use the whole mullet and also sell it as chum,” Slicker added.
“It’s too early to tell” what impact the red tide might have on mullet season, he said. “It doesn’t look like there’s as many fish out there, but they’re as big as they’ve ever been. The ones that got trapped in the red tide died, but a lot of them moved. They’ve spotted the mullet in different spots where the red tide hasn’t been,” Slicker said.
The Swordfish Grill is currently doing a toy drive to assist those in the panhandle city of Port St. Joe who were impacted by Hurricane Michael.
“We brought up a bunch of donated items up there and found out they didn’t have Halloween candy so we got together and handed out 450 Halloween bags. When it comes to Christmas, we thought we’d continue the toy drive we started at the Stone Crab Festival. All month, if people bring toys here, we’ll get them up there,” he said.