Striped Mullet - 2013
Stock Status – Viable – Based on the 2006 N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries stock assessment, overfishing is not occurring. Landings occur mostly in the latter half of the year, allowing females to mature before entering the fishery. The age structure of the stock indicates the majority of reproduction comes from the younger age classes. Most commercial exploitation targets roe carrying females. Historically, the commercial fishery has had sustained landings similar in scope to current levels. Accurate recreational harvest estimates of striped mullet, primarily used for bait, are difficult to obtain and imprecise.
Average Commercial Landings and Value 2003–2012 – 1,717,692 lbs./$844,863
2012 Commercial Landings and Value – 1,859,587 lbs./$1,041,659
Average Recreational Landings – The Marine Recreational Information Program is designed to sample anglers who use rod and reel as the mode of capture. Since the majority of striped mullet are caught with cast nets for bait, recreational harvest data are imprecise. Misidentification between striped mullet and white mullet is also common. Bait mullet are usually released by anglers before observation by creel clerks and therefore cannot be identified to the species level.
Status of Fisheries Management Plan (FMP) – The N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission adopted the state FMP on April 27, 2006. There is no interjurisdictional management over the Atlantic coast striped mullet population. Review of the current FMP began in October 2010 and an updated stock assessment is currently out for
Data and Research Needs – Collect life history information regarding maturity, age– growth, identification of spawning locations, and larval and juvenile movements. Continued improvements in estimating recreational bait harvests. Length and age compositions and catch–per–unit–effort of commercial, recreational, and recreational– commercial gear fisheries, as well as from all relevant fishery–independent surveys; create and validate a juvenile abundance index.
2012 Regulations – There were no size restrictions, but as of July 1, 2006 there was a 200 mullet (white and striped aggregate) daily possession limit per person in the recreational fishery and the mutilated finfish rule was modified to exempt mullet when used as bait.
Harvest Season – There are no restrictions, except for area and season closures for the commercial stop–net beach seine fishery along Bogue Banks.
Size and Age at Maturity – Males: 11.2 inches FL/2 years; Females: 13.4 inches FL/2 years
Current Maximum Age – 14 years
Juvenile Abundance Index – Not available
Habits and Habitats – Striped mullet are found in a wide range of depths and habitats primarily in freshwater to estuarine environments, until a spawning migration into ocean waters occurs during the fall. Aside from its considerable economic importance, striped mullet also serve as an ecological link between some of the smallest aquatic organisms and the highest–level predators in the marine food chain. Mullet feed on microorganisms such as bacteria, unicellular diatoms, and unicellular algae found on aquatic plants, in mud, silt, and sand, and in decaying plant material. In turn, striped mullet are prey to top predators such as birds, fish, sharks, and porpoises. Striped mullet are highly fecund (upwards of 4 million eggs for a large female) and spawn in large aggregations near inlets to offshore areas. Spawning individuals have been reported from September to March; however, peak spawning activity occurs from October to early December.
For more information, contact Jason Rock at Jason.Rock@ncdenr.gov or 800-338-7804 or 252-946-6481.