MULLET MAN - No bait needed, just a net (PHOTOS)

Jim Paul Davis, 71, of Niceville keeps a watchful eye on the water in hopes of finding the mullet.

When it comes to mullet fishing, it's pretty low maintenance. All you need is a net, says Jim Paul Davis who's been fishing area waters all his life.

As matter of fact he had a 10-foot long brail net with a 20-foot spread in hand Wednesday as he cruised around Destin harbor looking for mullet.

"There they are," he said as he looked over and saw a little ripple on the water.

"We're looking for the shine" in the water, said the 71-year-old who lives across the bay in Niceville with his wife Edith of 47 years. He noted that mullet also like to frequent the same spots.

"Some days I start in Niceville and go all around the bay before I find them," Davis said. "It's a lot of riding; it's like hunting."

The best spots are "shallow water around the edges in the bay," he said. "And in the fall of the year you can find them in the deep holes."

Destin harbor is a good place to find mullet this time of year. He explained that the mullet are getting ready to go out into the Gulf to spawn. "That's why they are in the harbor now.

"But it's hard to fish in the harbor … it's deep. But I like it," Davis said. Some of the areas in the harbor are anywhere from 6  to 14 feet deep.

Plus the mullet like to hang around the docks. "They're sucking the grass off the pilings," Davis said.

The mullet also enjoy getting in the wake behind the boat.

"They like the bubbles," he said.

With the mullet hanging tight around the docks, it makes it hard to cast.

"They aggravate me because I can't catch them all," Davis said.

However, Davis who has his commercial license to catch mullet, has caught his share.

"I caught enough that it took two people to get them in," he said, noting he had about 100- to 125-pounds of fish in the net. "When you're trying to pull it over the side that's a lot of fish."

Tools and tricks of the trade

Davis has three brail nets, ranging in different weights and lengths, a couple of 5-gallon buckets and an ice chest aboard his 20-foot Scandy White boat with a 70 Yamaha motor.

He had his boat is special made for mullet fishing.

"I drew what I wanted and had them build it for me in Blountstown," Davis said.

The boat is 8-foot wide with plenty of platform to walk around and stand to cast his net.

"The platform on the bow is extra wide," he said.

The best time to cast the net is when "they are going away from you," he said. "In the middle of the day it is hard to sneak up on them because they can see the net."

Mullet fishing can be done without a boat as well.

"I like to fish off the docks," he said. "I like to walk along and look for them."

For the love of the hunt and fish

"I'd rather mullet fish than any of it," Davis said. "I used to mackerel and snapper fish, but I got tired of it."

As a matter of fact, he was the first captain Olin Marler hired about 42 years ago. He ran the Sportsman, which was formerly the Jet Star.

But today, Davis spends about three or four days a week looking for mullet.

"I start in May and go until hunting season starts in November," he said.

Retired from the Okaloosa County School District as a foreman over surplus property for 37 years, he is now enjoying his time on the water.

"I don’t do it to get wealthy,” Davis said.  “If you don't love it, don't do it. It's too much work," he said with a smile on his face.

Davis loves to mullet fish, but he also likes to cook ‘em up and eat ‘em.

As one of the original Boggy Bayou Boys cooking up mullet for the Mullet Festival in Niceville each year, he has fried the fish as well as smoked it.

"I like it fried best. Mullet is a good eating fish."

And the best time to go hunting for them is "when the fish are there," he said matter of factly.

"It's just a great place to be," he said while cruising around and looking at the shoreline of Destin harbor.

"Here you can see everything … It's a great office."


A celebration of all things mullet will take place at the 37th annual Boggy Bayou Mullet Festival on Oct. 18-20.