Why do mullet jump?

This is an age old question and I’m pretty sure I’ve heard all the answers. Why do mullet jump?

Check out a few answers I came across on the Internet. Some are laughable, others could be true!

“Mullet jump so they can see where they’re going.”

When I heard this I laughed out loud. It was just too cute. If a kid asks me this, that is exactly what I am going to tell them. It’s just so obvious.

I have been told that mullet will jump out of the water to see where they are going because it’s hard to see underwater. I’m a fan of simple explanations, but I’m afraid Occam’s Razor doesn’t apply here. Wouldn’t other fish do the same thing, too? In all seriousness, I am pretty sure this is not the reason why. When you’re done chuckling, move on to the next theory.

“Mullet jump because they are running from predators.”

Yes! And no. The long jumps where we see mullet just kinda sail through the air (like a football being tossed by Drew Brees) are not in response to predatory action. They’re just too calm and deliberate in their jumping. Besides, when I see a mullet long jump, I don’t ever see predators in the vicinity chasing them.

I do, however, see mullet skitter in a clear frantic pattern to get away from a hungry fish. I have especially seen finger mullet do this. Trust me, when you see it you will have no doubt in your mind! The dead giveaway is when you immediately catch fish in the area with mullet in their stomach.

“No one knows. Fires burn, the sky is blue and mullet jump.”

Touché, Old-Timer Knowledge! You win again. You always do! Hey, mullet jump because they do. Let’s not delve into semantics, alright? Even if we can’t find a clear explanation on “the why”, I still think it important to know the difference between a normal mullet jump and when mullet are jumping because they are running for their lives. It’s more of a frantic “SH*T! SH*T! SH*T!” jump pattern than the usual “long” jump.

“Mullet jump to get rid of parasites.”

Okaaaaay. Sounds plausible. While I doubt Myth Busters will be cracking this one anytime soon, I don’t believe this to be the case. I say so because we simply don’t see other fish doing it as often as mullet do.

“Mullet jump to breathe air.”

I have heard this and wasn’t sure. After some research, I find it likely to be true. Let this reference explain:

The research of Hoese (1985) suggests that Sea Mullet use this second category of movements to fill the pharyngobranchial organ (an area at the back of the throat) with air.

The trapped air is believed to allow the fish to remain active in water of low oxygen concentration for about five minutes.

I found this information at an Aussie Aquarium Website. I find it to be intriguing. Think about the situational awareness this kind of information would give you!

Do your searches on various fishing forums and you will read about mullet jumping a lot in areas of fish kills. You can also find stories about fish swimming more near the surface in areas where there is O2 depletion. What they’re doing is called aquatic surface respiration. Interesting, huh?