Today’s commute to work is like any other. Brandon is deep in thought. He is the second generation of what is now going on four. His older brother F.D. taught him, just as his uncle Roland taught his older brother. Spray from a wave brings him back to the task at hand. Brandon is a mullet fisherman and is on his way to work.
He is already aware of the winds, water temperature, moon phase, barometric pressure, water clarity and where he will be fishing today. Off in the distance, he sees his brother already working hard. They talk for a minute, compare notes and Brandon is on his way. His boat is not pretty–he put it together piecemeal made for one function, mullet fishing, and “she” is close to perfect.
As he reaches his destination, he takes inventory of everything needed for a successful day. He has several nets he will be throwing throughout the day–some heavier, some with a wider diameter, all made for different water environments. These nets are handmade, and Brandon has no doubt the nets he made will do the job. A bleach bottle, cut specifically to scoop water out when the load is heavy and the boat is taking on water, is at the ready. One of the large coolers is full of ice and the second cooler is empty, but not for long.
Brandon dons his slickers. Next, he chooses the net he will use, based on the fact that he will be working sandy bottom today. His bounty for the day will be black mullet. He has his restricted species license and is “good to go.” The engine sputters to a stop. It is time to get into stealth mode. He is already wearing gray. Through past experience, he knows that colorful shirts make for unsuccessful days. He dons his slickers and uses the trolling motor to take him closer to the action.
Before he picks his exact location, Brandon watches the mullet. Different jumps mean different things and schooling patterns are clues for a better catch. He is dialed in for the day. Throw after throw of the net he is getting mullet, but not the mother load he wants. When the tide is just right, the cooler begins to fill. Soaking wet under his rubber slicker, he throws the net time after time.
Brandon is not only a mullet fisherman–he is a business owner. He knows the exact poundage of mullet he needs for a prosperous week. He is acutely aware of his daily fuel usage, mechanical expenditures, and the approximate amount of days adverse weather will affect the business.
Throughout the trip, Brandon has been collecting the fish off of the deck to brine. He does this by mixing ice and saltwater. This will ensure the fish get to the distributors in great shape. Most of Brandon’s catch is shipped to Georgia sold as fresh mullet and fish spread.
The next time you see a mullet fisherman skirting the mangroves and throwing the net, tip your cap to them. He or she represent why Florida is so special. They are part of a hardworking, harvesting the land and sea backdrop that this state was built on.
In loving memory of Travis Richards
A special thank you to: Brandon Richards