[dropcap]W[/dropcap]hen I moved to the Big Bend area of Florida years ago, and fell in with a bunch of guys from First Baptist Church of Crawfordville, I was immediately invited to start mullet fishing with them on the occasional Saturday afternoon in one of the local estuaries. My then 6-year old son, Reid, who had gotten pretty handy with a small bait net, was the new STAR of the bayou, managing to catch a handful of full-grown, bull mullet with his four foot net on almost every trip. As a guy in my 40’s, I was expected to be able to throw a big, heavy cast net the same day that one was handed to me. It didn’t work that way.
The problem was the perfection of my technique. The net was so big and so heavy, that I could only “chunk” it a handful of times prior to my shoulders screaming out in pain (from prior surgeries and injuries). Three or four casts, and I was done for the day. Eventually, using a 7-foot net with half the weight of the standard nets, I got to where I could cast enough times to get the knack of it. But in the meantime, I became the designated “boat pusher” for the group. I would follow along in the knee-deep water, with the small jon boat, where the fish cooler and refreshments were located, and receive the individual fish from the successful fishermen to place on ice inside the fish cooler.
Then came the fateful day when, as luck would have it for a hapless mullet, I miraculously caught my first fish. Bored from tending the boat, I pulled out my seven foot net, loaded it as I had been taught, and threw it with all my might into the muddy water in front of me. To my great surprise, there was a tug in the half-opened net when I began to retrieve it. Pulling it in, I discovered a mullet inside, to my utter delight. I quickly wrapped that poor fish ever so tightly in the net and headed back to the jon boat. I had secured my wiggling prize so tightly, that by the time the fish was freed from the net in the bottom of the boat, it was little more than blood and scales. But, I had my first mullet “in the box”!
When the gang of a half dozen of my buddies, including my 6-year old, arrived back at the boat with fish bags full, I proudly showed off my first fish to them all, and then promptly called my wife on a cell phone. With her on the blaring speakerphone and with the expectant group of friends gathered around in the water around the boat, I made the pronouncement to her that I had caught my very first mullet! And there, in the middle of Alligator Harbor, with half of the deacons of First Baptist Church of Crawfordville gathered around the boat, she said without hesitation: “Oh Jeff! That COULDN’T have been YOU who caught the fish … you must have snuck one of Reid’s out of the cooler” !!!
The roar of laughter from the men in the group, as they collectively spewed dark cola out of their mouths, simultaneously slapping their thighs, falling backwards into the water in uncontrolled fits of laughter and hilarity, is still talked about in religious circles in Wakulla County, even today.
In the intervening years, I went on to seek all of the needed revenge on my wife: capturing, killing, icing, fileting, cooking and eating hundreds – if not thousands – of mullet. And, she’s loved me for each and every one.
So, let’s get casting! Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or click to join me on Facebook at The Wet Net Mullet Fishing Society group page. Castfully yours … Jeff Tilley