The second annual Ben Gullett Mullet Tournament is Friday and Saturday, a chance for the sharp-shooting and sneaky cast netters of Manatee County to do some old-fashioned mullet fishing.
The weigh-in is at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Star Fish Co. This is the last chance to register. Anglers also can download a form at www.cortezvillage.org. Fishing begins Friday afternoon and ends with a weigh-in from 2-4 p.m. Saturday. A $5-a-plate benefit dinner will follow at 5 p.m. at Star Fish Co.
What makes a good cast netter? Practice, the ability to sneak up on schools of mullet, and a relaxed, Frisbee-style toss.
Strength doesn’t always have much to do with it.
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“A lot of people try to throw it too hard,” said Rick Gullett, son of tournament namesake Ben Gullett. “Some people try to throw it with one arm. It takes a while. I’ve seen guys 6-foot-7, 300 pounds that can’t even open a 5-foot net because they’re not used to it. And I’ve seen skinny guys throw the net wide open.”
Ben Gullett was born and raised in Duette. He died in an ATV accident in October 2008. He was 72.
In his backyard, Ben would teach anyone how to throw a cast net. And he loved to catch mullet. Working full time at a railroad, he’d come home and often smoke or fry mullet on his back porch.
Sometimes, residents of his Bayshore neighborhood would gather for smoked and fried mullet.
“I grew up eating mullet,” Rick Gullett said. “We want to carry that on.”
Mullet are found inshore, but adults migrate offshore in large schools to spawn. The silvery mullet are certainly a Cracker favorite on the table. “Gullet by Mullet” is a fish stand common at the Cortez Fishing Festival, and last year, people couldn’t keep their hands off the smoked delicacies.
Some of the proceeds from the tournament go toward the Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage.
So far, there are about nine teams registered. Each team will weigh in their top six mullet. Boundaries are from Ruskin to Venice.
It is not the typical fishing tournament. Instead of netting for bait, anglers will be netting for weigh-in fish.
There is little that compares to watching a perfect cast net unfold, spiraling into a flurry of mesh that slaps the water and sucks in a fat area of water.
“People throw it different ways, I guess,” Rick Gullett said. “But to see someone spread it, in a perfect circle, you can see every seam and stuff. It’s just a sight to see it.”
Nick Walter, Herald staff writer, can be reached at 745-7013.