I have been watching mullet in the Baltic sea since I was a young boy aged 5. Every summer hundret thousands of them were visiting the Baltic sea to eat plankton. I think for decades the Baltic sea was a great place, where few enemies would disrupt the mullet from filtering the weed for about 5 to 6 hours every day. At around 11 am the mullet entered the shallows and started eating before going back into the deeper water at around 7pm.
All those mullet were around the Swedish, Danish and German coast of the Baltic sea as well as along the coast of the German and Danish north sea. Yes, that was a truly large area, where lots of mullets could be found!
25, 20 and still 15 years ago we didn't see any mullet below 60cm. 65-70cm (4-4,5Kg) was the average size. The biggest mullets were around 80-85cm (>7Kg). So it was fair to say, that you would only find large mullet in the Baltic sea.
10 years ago that started to change a bit and suddenly we also saw mullet of 50cm entering the Baltic sea. At the same time the number of the truly monster mullet (75+cm) seemed to decrease.
Then it got less mullets every year before suddenly three years ago the mullet summer-run seemed to have stopped totally.
Last week I caught one of around 60cm though, but that was the only one (kind of the last unicorn) I saw within three years! 10 years ago I would have told this (not to see mullet during summer time) to be impossible!
Of course a lot of us anglers as well as the biologists are wondering where all those great fish have gone.
What we do know:
In some areas the water quality has decreased in that there is too much farming along the coast line increasing the chemical pollution. That makes for a lot of weed to grow and then when all the weed dies low oxygen levels come in.
The number of divers hunting mullet with speergun (Denmark) did increase a lot.
The number of anglers chasing them did increase as well.
A serious number of net fishermen started to chase mullet, while 15 years ago they didn't.
A hell lot of cormorants were attacking nearly every fish in the Baltic sea, even those that are too big to be eaten by them.
Groups of porpoise did attack mullet at times.
The number of seals along the German and Danish coast of the North sea as well as in the Baltic sea has increased a lot. Probably they attack mullet as well.
As far as I know no one for sure knows the cause for the mullet to no longer visiting the Baltic sea.
Personally I tend to believe that the large number of seals are a big factor. Having said this I have made a calculation about the amount of food they eat per year. Based on the number of seals, that biologists published for the coastal areas, which the mullet would pass on their run, it should be more then 500 000 tons of fish per year! I think that mullet would not be the typical food for a seal as long as there is enough smaller food available. Fair to summarize: I saw much much less smaller baitfish during the past years as well, when fishing those areas, where lots of mullets should be.
Then at the same time the number of sea bass has decreased significantly as well. Sea bass are running partially parallel to the mullet. Well, they did ten years ago!
At the moment I am fishing on Samsö island in Denmark. That's what I have done every September for almost 20 years now. Very clearly the number of baitfish and Sea trout has decreased a lot during the past 5 years. The mullet though have nearly decreased at all.
Also the number of Sea trout entering the Danish rivers around the Isefjord (not far from Samsö) has decreased a lot. Yet, the cause there still has to be found, too.
Since I love both mullet and Sea trout I truly hope for better times in the future!
If you know anything about changes in the stock of mullet in your area, pls. share the information! Every piece of the puzzle may help to find the cause for the decrease of mullet!?
Thanks a lot for your thoughts!
Besides missing all those mullet we managed to have several first Sea trout on fly rod being caught among our fine group (hosting a trip on Sea trout fishing at the moment).
Great fishing week to all of you!
All my best
Some pictures of our last days...