I love a mullet — the fish, not the hairstyle

Published 1:17 am Wednesday, May 1, 2013

When some people hear that I used to eat a lot of mullet when I was a boy, funny looks come across their faces.

To them, the mullet is a trash fish, not worth the time and effort to clean, cook and eat. They are entitled to their opinions about mullet. I am entitled to my opinion that mullet are just fine for eating.

Hoke Sanders, my maternal grandfather, taught me all I know about catching, cleaning, cooking and eating mullet. He taught me to look for mullet running in schools and jumping — I presume for joy — in the waters around Escambia Bay at Pensacola, Fla.

We didn’t use bait to catch mullet. We used large, heavy and three-pronged hooks to “snatch” mullet from the bay’s waters onto an old bridge that had been turned into two fishing piers after its midsection was removed to allow boats to pass through. Once on the northern pier, the mullet we “snatched” were put into burlap bags, also known as croaker sacks. I don’t ever recall putting a croaker in one of those sacks, just mullet.

After arriving at granddaddy’s house, we would gut the mullet and scale them. Once that was done, granddaddy, usually, would build a fire in the backyard. Out would come the old cast-iron skillet, blackened from years of frying fish of all kinds — mullet, catfish, perch, bream and trout being the most frequent guests for a bath in hot oil.

Once the mullet had been properly scaled — there’s nothing worse than biting into an unscaled mullet — they would be coated with cornmeal. No flour. Cornmeal is meant for mullet. Granddaddy would take much care while frying the mullet, but not as much pleasure that he got from eating those mullet.

On those rare occasions we did not go fishing for mullet, we would obtain enough for a weekend fish fry from a fish market. I loved going to that fish market as a boy. Huge redfish would be on ice, along with flounder and trout. But I could spot the mullet as soon as I walked through the front door.

As much as I enjoyed eating mullet, I enjoyed catching them more. What boy would not love tossing a big, three-pronged hook into a school of jumping mullet and “snatching” two giant mullet with one toss? I caught some giant mullet.

I would love to show you just how big those mullet were, but I ate all the evidence. I’m not saying those mullet were huge, but I believe at least one of them could have swallowed Jonah.

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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