Will Catfish Eat Mullet? Is It Good Bait? Try This!

Mullet are a popular bait choice, especially in coastal and saltwater locations around the world…

But what about freshwater catfish? Will catfish eat mullet? What if there are no mullet native to the area?

In this article, I’ll explain everything you need to know to target catfish with mullet…and the information may surprise you!

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Table of Contents

Do Catfish Eat Mullet?

Both saltwater and freshwater catfish will eat mullet. The oily skin and durability of mullet make it a great choice when targeting catfish.

Additionally, if you live in a coastal or estuarine area there is a good chance there are plentiful mullet in your area, which make them easy targets to cast net for bait or catch on hook and line.

Catfish are opportunistic scavengers who will take advantage of almost anything edible that comes their way. A majority of them are omnivores, but a few (like the flathead catfish) are specifically carnivorous.

Will Catfish Eat Mullet? Is It Good Bait? Try This!

Catfish are bottom feeders and have adapted over the years to hunting without sight in the poor lighting conditions of waterbeds. Their whiskers provide an excellent sense of smell and above-average sonar intelligence, making them impressive hunters.

Their attraction to mullet fish is attributed to this penchant for smell hunting. Mullet have a unique smell that catfish can easily isolate, which makes them irresistible.

Is Mullet Good Catfish Bait?

Mullet is an excellent choice for catfish bait because of its strong odor and oily skin. Mullet are durable, and stay on the hook well, even when fishing in heavy current. Lastly, mullet can be fished live, whole, cut, and even frozen.

Catfish thrive in murky waters with poor visibility. Their eyesight is poor, but they make up for it with a heightened sense of smell and an overdeveloped sensory intuition which they use to detect food within their vicinity.

There is a reason why so many fish target and eat mullet…they are a natural prey fish and irresistible to predatory fish, including catfish!

Effectiveness of Mullet As Catfish Bait

Mullet can be an effective catfish bait, whether dead or alive, because they are oily and emit a strong odor easily detected by catfish whiskers.

While baitfish like shad and skipjack bleed more than mullet, the blood is easily washed off in the water, so you need to strike gold within the first moments of angling if you are relying on it to draw in the catfish.

The retained blood on the mullet enhances the authenticity of the bait and retains its strength long after the first cast.

Catfishes’ inherent predisposition to smelly stuff also makes them susceptible to the strong odors emitted by mullet innards (guts). You can even save the guts from a cut or dressed mullet and use them to make your own cost-effective stink bait.

Mullet can be released into the water as fish chum in all forms – dead or alive, small pieces of cut bait, whole bait, or just the stinky innards.

In fact, commercial fishermen have been using saltwater mullet for crab traps, crawfish traps, hoop nets, and trotlines for decades! It’s effective and readily available.

How to Cut Mullet for Catfish Bait

The most common way to cut mullet for catfish bait is ‘chunk bait‘. That is cutting 1″-2″ sections of fresh whole mullet. Keep the skin on, and hook directly under the backbone.

Smaller finger mullet can be fished whole, and larger adult-sized mullet can be cut into cubes. Always try and match your bait size to the fish size your targeting.

If I am fishing for giant blue catfish on the James River in Virginia, I am going to use large chunks of 3″-5″ fresh mullet (the stinkier the better!) and a 7/0 or 8/0 hook.

But if I am fishing in the tranquil lakes of central Florida for small brown bullheads, I’ll use a small thumb-sized piece of mullet meat, and a 1/0 circle hook.

Chunking Mullet

This style involves slicing the mullet bait into two or three chunks, depending on the size of the mullet and the targeted catfish.

Simply lay the fish horizontally on a cutting board, and cut into a few chunks starting with behind the head.

The head is the most valuable part as it’s the catfishes’ favorite and is tough, which gives it a firmer placement on the hook. The rest of the fish is also good and can be used for chunk-baiting and various chumming techniques.

Whole Mullet As Catfish Bait

Whole mullet can effectively be used as catfish bait, as long as they are not too large. Catfish have relatively small mouths when compared to larger predatory fish, so they must be small enough for them to eat.

Flathead catfish and Sail Catfish both prefer live bait, and a 3″-6″ whole finger mullet is a great bait choice!


Believe it or not, many people eat mullet, including the meat and roe. It’s delicious on a smoker!

However, when filleting mullet for a cookout, or processing them for food…save the skin, bones and innards as catfish bait!

With all of those mullet scraps, you can create a chum or make your own catfish stink bait. If you live near a lake, dump those scraps in the water the day before your fishing trip.

When you come back the next day to fish, I bet there will be plenty of catfish in the area and nearby attracted by all those mullet scraps you dumped in the water.

Final Thoughts

If you are fishing in saltwater and targeting sail catfish, or even hardhead catfish, both species of catfish will readily eat mullet (alive, dead, frozen, chunk- it doesn’t matter!)

If you are fishing in freshwater, and targeting channel catfish, blue catfish, white catfish, bullheads, they too will readily eat mullet as bait even hundreds of miles from saltwater!

If you are specifically targeting flathead catfish, they’ll also eat mullet but they should be live (Flathead catfish are notorious for only eating live bait).

Growing up in Florida, I’ve been surrounded by saltwater my entire life…and I love sharing my passion with others.

To learn more about why I started Saltwater Mecca, visit the ABOUT page.

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