Finally! That wonderful day has arrived as your first ever mullet on fly slips in to the net. The ensuing ‘mullet high’ normally lasts for two days, or more. A time for celebration no doubt but many mullet anglers, old and new, can find themselves unsure as to which species they are celebrating. A mullet certainly but is it a thick-lip, thin-lip or a sparkling golden grey?
A few simple but reliable bankside checks can help to identify the species of mullet which graced your net.
Thick-lipped mullet (Chelon labrosus) are the largest growing UK species and are typically found at the mouth of estuaries and further up in to the estuarine system, around areas of flow. Thick-lips are easily distinguished by their large and pronounced upper lip, which is often covered in papillae. Occasionally, thick-lips with a pronounced gold spot on the gill plate are caught and this can lead to the thick-lip being mistaken for a golden grey mullet but the presence of a thick upper lip complete with papillae confirms the fish to be a thick-lip.
Thin-lipped mullet (Chelon ramada) tend to be of slimmer profile than thick-lips and possess a small, smooth upper lip in comparison to thick-lipped mullet. In general, thin-lips can also be identified by a distinct black circle at the base of the pectoral fin. Thin-lips also favour estuaries and tidal rivers and can be caught several miles upstream from the open coast. The current UK record is a fish of 8lb 8oz.
Golden grey mullet (Chelon aurata) are the smallest growing UK mullet species, with the UK record being a fish of slightly over 3lb 8oz. Golden greys mainly inhabit areas of sand within estuaries, natural harbours and surf beaches. Golden greys are streamlined in appearance and can be identified by a small, smooth upper lip, noticeably long pectoral fins (golden greys are related to flying fish!) and of course the distinctive gold thumb-print found on the gill plates.