After receiving information last week from several sources, the Beacon reported that there was a possibility that the thousands of dead mullet washed up near the Boca Grande Causeway were a result of the practices of commercial fishermen. Representatives from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission confirmed it was a possibility, but then also said that red tide could also be the culprit.
Mullet that are being harvested right now are not necessarily used for food ... at least the meat isn’t. There is a large market in Asia for mullet roe, and the only roe that is considered truly valuable is red roe.
Red roe comes from female mullet, while white roe, or sperm, comes from male mullet. While red mullet is priced at around $1.40 a pound right now, white roe is only about .15 a pound. Fishermen are watched closely by the FWC to make sure that all of their netted catch is refrigerated properly, so there is a limited amount of space on a fishing boat to hold the fish and keep them cool.
The proper way to sort the mullet (to discern whether the roe is red or white), is to pick up each fish and lightly squeeze near their anal fin. If what comes out of the vent hole just in front of the anal fin is red roe, the fish are kept. If what comes out is white, the fish are thrown overboard.
Contrary to what was previously reported, if the process is done properly, the male mullet would live if tossed overboard. However, most local fishermen keep them.
“When you’re a mullet fisherman, you are catching mullet to make money, not to do all the work throwing the net and then throwing them back overboard,” said Melissa Steyer, manager of Whidden’s Marina. “That would be stupid, that’s money these days. Most of my family catch mullet to support their families, not for fun, and .15 is .15.”
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