Striped Mullet

Striped Mullet, Mugil cephalus

The Striped Mullet, Mugil cephalus, whose common Spanish name is lisa rayada, is a member of the Mullet or Mugilidae Family, known collectively as lisas in Mexico. This fish is also known as the Gray Flathead Mullet. Globally, there are fifteen species in the genus Mugil, seven of which are found in Mexican waters, three in the Atlantic, two in the Pacific, and two in both oceans.

The Striped Mullets have very elongated bodies with a depth that is 22 to 24% of standard length. They are silvery gray overall, being dark gray dorsally and transitioning to silvery ventrally. There have several subtle longitudinal stripes along their sides. Their caudal, dorsal, and pectoral fins are black and their anal and pelvic fins are yellowish. Their head is rounded, slightly wider than deep, and 24 to 25% of standard length. They have a small terminal mouth with thin lips and a knob on the bottom of their lower lip. They have a blunt nose, prominent well-developed fatty eyelids with a small slit over their pupil, and front and rear nostrils that are widely separated. Their anal fin has 3 spines and 8 or 9 rays and is anterior of the second dorsal fin. They have two widely spaced dorsal fins, a weakly forked caudal fin, and short pectoral fins that do not reach the origin of the first dorsal fin. They do not have a lateral line and their body is covered with large scales.

The Striped Mullets are found near the surface over sandy bottoms in shallow coastal waters and estuaries at depths of up to 400 feet; they also venture into adjacent fresh water. They reach a maximum length of 1.35 meters (4 feet 5 inches) with males and females being of equal size; as of 2015 the world record is 10 pounds 6 ounces. They travel in enormous schools and feed primarily on algae, zooplankton, and dead plant matter making them an important ecological waste processing machine. They are preyed upon by fish, birds, and various other marine mammals. They are known for leaping out of the water frequently, which is believed to provide them with an oxygen source. Reproduction is oviparous with females laying between 0.5 and 2.0 million eggs annually that are fertilized externally by males. The eggs are pelagic and non-adhesive. They have a lifespan of up to sixteen years.

In Mexican waters the Striped Mullet are found in all waters of both the Atlantic and Pacific.

The Striped Mullet is virtually identical to, and easily confused with the White Mullet, Mugil curema (lighter coloration; nine anal rays). It is also similar to the Liseta Mullet, Mugil setosus (blunt head profile; deeply concave anal and second dorsal fins; longer rounded pectoral fins).

The Striped Mullets are filter feeders and as such cannot be caught with hook and line via traditional methods. They show up in June and July along the southern coasts of Baja by the millions attracting the famous Roosterfish. They are caught either via cast nets or snagging with heavily weighted treble hooks with surf casting gear. They are one of the important commercial live baits of the greater Los Cabos area during the summer months and are fly-lined live targeting one of the world’s true exotics, the Roosterfish, as well as Dorados, Groupers and Snappers. They can also be used as effective cut bait or for chum. In some countries they are raised by aquaculture. They are also sold year-round in local Mexican markets both fresh and salted for human consumption. Their roe is sold fresh or frozen.

Striped Mullet, Mugil cephalus. Fish provided by the commercial bait salesmen of Puerto Los Cabos Marina, July 2014. Length: 28 cm (11 inches).

Striped Mullet, Mugil cephalus. Anal fin with three spines and eight rays, a key to the correct identification of this species.  Fish provided by the commercial bait salesmen of Puerto Los Cabos, Baja California Sur, July 2014. Length: 28 cm (11 inches).

Striped Mullet, Mugil cephalus and White Mullet, Mugil curema. Both fish provided by the commercial bait salesmen of Puerto Los Cabos, Baja California Sur, July 2014. Length: 28 cm (11 inches) and 30 cm (12 inches).