Mullet off to slow start

Mullet school in Perico Preserve. - Cindy Lane | Sun

CORTEZ – It’s after Thanksgiving and a cold front has passed through, but what should be mullet season hasn’t really started yet, thanks to red tide, commercial fishermen say.

Mullet are not schooling around the docks or jumping in the Cortez Kitchen off the fishing village like they should be this time of year, said Karen Bell, of A.P. Bell Fish Co.

“We still seem to have concentrations of red tide that are killing fish here,” she said.

Until local mullet begin to spawn, Bell is buying mullet from north Florida, Alabama and North Carolina, she said, recalling that her father used to say that mullet stay in the Manatee River to avoid red tide.

“But when they come out and hit the red tide, we don’t know what will happen,” she said.

“It’s too soon to tell if the red tide has impacted adults, because they have to leave the estuaries to get out for spawning,” said Angela Collins, extension agent for the IFAS Florida Sea Grant Marine Extension Program in Palmetto. Red tide could affect where they swim, and could also impact their larvae, she said.

“I hope they make it out past the red tide before they spawn,” said Charlie Hunsicker, director of the Manatee County Parks and Natural Resources Department, noting that mullet were taking refuge at Robinson and Perico Preserves.

At Robinson on Monday, red tide levels were high, and dead mullet floated along the shoreline.

At Cortez Bait and Seafood, fishermen brought a few mullet in last week, but it was too windy for some boats to be out, Kim McVey said, adding, “I hope red tide won’t affect them.”

Mullet are few and far between at the moment, said Bob Slicker, of the Swordfish Grill and Tiki Bar in Cortez, adding, “But I’m optimistic.”