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Mullet are the Rodney Dangerfield of the fish world. They just don’t get any respect, or at least not as much as I think they’re due.
Seriously, when was the last time you heard Roland Martin or Bill Dance say, “Today, we’re going after the elusive, hard-fighting black mullet”? Have you ever seen one mounted on somebody’s wall? Does anybody every charter a mullet boat?
Of course not, and that’s a shame because while other fish are getting all the attention, the lowly mullet has been quietly feeding our families for years.
Mullet are unpretentious, workmanlike fish. If they were people, they’d be the kind of folks you’d want as neighbors. The quiet kind who keep their yard mowed and don’t complain when your dogs dig up their flowerbed. Or sue when your son’s band practice causes them permanent hearing damage.
Mullet are plentiful, travel in bunches and even jump out of the water to let you know where they are. They’re good to eat smoked or fried. And they can live anywhere from the saltiest ocean to the freshest springs.
As a result, mullet have always been the fish of choice for anyone who has to feed a large crowd. In fact, I’m not sure it’s possible to run for office in Northwest Florida without holding at least one mullet fish fry.
Mullet don’t ask a lot in return either. You don’t need an expensive boat and high-dollar fishing tackle to bring home a mess. A cast net or a snatch hook will do just fine. And though I’ve never done it, I’m told mullet will also bite a hook if you use the right bait.
But how do we humans show our appreciation? Several years ago, the State of Florida tried to get folks to start calling them “lisa” because they didn’t think “mullet” sounded appetizing. (According to Lisa Bristol, who recently related that tidbit, all it really did was irritate a generation of young women who happened to share the name.)
To add insult to injury, mullet also became the pet name for one of the most embarrassing hairstyles in history. (Second only to the “monk cut” – bald in the middle, fringe on the sides.)
I’ve never understood why mullet are regarded so poorly while marlin, tarpon and bonefish are virtually worshiped — and nobody even eats them. Well, except for the guy in The Old Man and the Sea and Hemingway was probably drunk when he wrote that part.
In traveling to all corners of Florida during my career, I’ve decided that I could probably live anywhere that mullet are considered good food. When I walk into a restaurant and see mullet on the menu, I know I’m around my kind of people.
On the other hand, if it’s a seafood restaurant that doesn’t serve mullet, I know to double-check my bill. People who don’t respect mullet are the kind of people who charge you extra for hushpuppies and make you sweeten your own tea. And we all know that’s just wrong.