How To Keep Mullet Alive (Easy Tips & Tricks)

Mullet are tough and hardy fish, great for fishing bait, aquaculture or even releasing into your pond.

But what is the best way to keep mullet alive?

In this article, I’ll talk about a few different factors when it comes to keeping mullet alive, no matter how you intend to use them.

Table of Contents

How To Keep Mullet Alive For Bait

In order to keep mullet alive, you need to make sure that their water has a high enough level of oxygen, isn’t too hot, and that there isn’t too much fish waste in the water.

The most common reason mullet die, especially when people are using them for bait in a bucket is because they overheat.

Even just a few finger mullet in a bucket will quickly heat the stagnant water, especially if it’s in the sun.

What’s the easiest way to solve this problem? Throw in some ice cubes! A few ice cubes every hour or so will keep you mullet alive for an entire day of fishing.

In A Boat

If you have a boat with an aerated live well that’s constantly recirculating water from outside, you’re set. The constant flow of water solves the oxygen problem and eliminates fish waste at the same time.

What if you don’t have a high-tech live well, and the only thing available to you is a bucket?

You can still keep your mullet alive.

If you have a floating bait bucket that constantly allows outside water to flow through, you’re also in good shape. You just have to be careful not to go fast enough to rough up the fish in the bucket.

Even if all you have is the generic Home-Depot plastic bucket, you can totally make it work.

This is where the battery-operated aerator comes in handy. These clip to the bucket and will keep the oxygen levels in the water at a healthy level.

How To Keep Mullet Alive (Easy Tips & Tricks)

Even with the aerator, you will need to change the water every hour or hour and a half to get rid of the uric acid and protein buildup.

Simply dump most of the water out, then scoop in some clean water from whatever body of water you are fishing in.

Changing the water will also help prevent overheating, but on a sunny, warm day, it may well not be enough.

Some fishermen pack ice around the bucket, but generally, a tarp or some other kind of shade to protect the bucket from the direct sun should do the job.

And remember, if all else fails, dead finger mullet are great bait too!

Use a Bait Pen

If you live on a canal or any other body of water where mullet can live, keeping them overnight in a good bait pen is easy and effective. This allows clean water to flow through, keeping the oxygen and waste levels where they need to be.

With a sturdy bait pen, you can also keep them longer than one night. As long as there’s good water flow through the area where your pen is, all you need to do is keep them fed.

If there is a lot of algae and other organic matter in the water you don’t even have to worry about feeding for a few days.

Other Containers

If you can’t use a bait pen, you need to decide on your container. Various plastic, glass, or metal containers all work.

One of the best options if you want to keep a large number of mullet is food-grade plastic barrels.

They are inexpensive, and since they’re designed specifically for food they won’t be leaching any chemicals into the water that will hurt your fish.

Some kind of aeration is a must. There are all different kinds of bubblers and air stones. Bubblers are more effective at putting oxygen in the water, so these are probably your best bet.

Many are battery-powered, but since you are home a plug-in one makes more sense. Virtually all oxygen enters the water from the surface. Bubblers work because of the disturbance they create on the surface, not because of the oxygen in the bubbles.

Finally, you need to deal with uric acid and protein build-up in the water from the mullet’s excretion. Uric acid is poison, and protein foams up on the surface and prevents oxygen from getting into the water.

If keeping live bait at home is something you intend to do often, investing in a filtration/skimmer system is the way to go.

If not, there are several commercial water conditioners available made specifically to keep baitfish alive. These aren’t long-term solutions, but they are fine overnight.

How To Keep Mullet Alive Overnight

There are three main factors you need to deal with to keep mullet alive overnight:

  • Temperature
  • Oxygen
  • Uric acid/protein.

If you let the water get too warm, your mullet will die. A small bucket with low water volume sitting in the sun can become a death trap for finger mullet in no time.

Mullet have high oxygen requirements. In fact, many attribute their frequent jumping to an attempt to agitate the water to enhance its oxygen content.

Since they need a lot of oxygen, they will deplete the oxygen in a bucket quickly.

Uric acid and protein are the main metabolic byproducts that fish excrete. Mullet are both big producers of metabolic waste and fairly sensitive to it.

Also, if you want to keep your mullet alive, you need a lid. Mullet love to jump, and if they are out of the container they aren’t going to live very long!

If you are just keeping them overnight you don’t need to worry about feeding them.

Can You Keep Mullet In A Fish Tank?

Yes, you absolutely can. If you are already experienced with tropical or saltwater fish, you will find that mullet are easier to keep alive in many ways.

It’s even possible to keep mullet alive in a freshwater tank if you regulate the salinity levels.

In fact, a mullet tank doesn’t even need a heater. Your regular fish tank bubbler will deal with the oxygen levels and a charcoal and floss filter will clean up the metabolic waste.

You will still need to do a 30% water change every two weeks or so. Mullet will live off the algae in the tank or commercial algae pellets.

Don’t plan to keep them for a long time, however. Finger mullet grow up to be big fish, and they will outgrow most home fish tanks quickly.

Are Mullet Hard To Keep Alive?

Mullet are definitely not the easiest baitfish to keep alive. If you just throw a bunch of finger mullet in a five-gallon bucket, you’ll have a bucket of dead fish pretty quickly.

Mullet need relatively clean water with a lot of oxygen in it, and they use up oxygen and foul the water quickly.

However, if you keep a few rules in mind, you should be able to keep your mullet alive for a full day of fishing, overnight, or even longer!

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