May 12, 2010
Mullet: It's Not Just a Bad Hair Cut Anymore
Our lake has a tiny concrete dam at one end where the water splashes over, runs through a pipe under the road, and flows downstream to our neighbor's pond. Throughout all of April there were fish swarming the dam, crammed in belly to belly, and it was very stressful to watch because the fish would get so close to the precipice that their tails would dangle in the air. I held my breath waiting for a wayward fish to slide downstream. I'm not sure that downstream is a safe place for them to be. It's shallow and rocky there and seems like a good spot for a fish to be stuck.
R googled and talked to a few people and discovered that the fish are white suckers (they eat just about anything) and are also sometimes called mullet, although they have no relation to the grey mullets that spend their time in tropical waters. For example, no one wants to eat the white sucker mullets, whereas one of the characters in The Elegance of the Hedgehog dines on mullet in a very posh French restaurant. It was a strange coincidence that I read that line in the book while our mullets were in a frenzy at the dam. I took it as a sign that I needed to write a little something about the fish, but then I got distracted, so it's May, and the mullets have gone, but here I am writing about them.
It appears that the dam is a hot pick up spot for mullets-- where they meet, mate, and lay eggs before stumbling the swim of shame back to the green depths. There's something about the fast-moving water that draws them to the dam. It seems crazy to me, though, because the water is so shallow there, and if I were a fish-loving bird, that's where I'd be spending my time. Free lunch!
I hoped to take a photo of the white sucker mullets, but there's a chain link fence surrounding the dam, so I couldn't get very close, and every time I tried to sneak up on them, Bella -- our lovely labby-- would bound up and frighten the poor fishies away. Maybe next year.
It just occurred to me that the mullets at the dam next year will probably be grown from this year's eggs, unless they're gobbled up in Finding Nemo fashion. Ah, well. Lately I find myself rooting for the predator and the prey-- everybody's gotta eat.
Maybe I'm toughening up, New England style.