Smoked Mullet

Mullet being an oily fish is a real delicacy when smoked. You may not see it in a supermarket as the fish is not farm raised or commercially fished with nets as they live in coastal, tropical and shallow waters. They live in salt or brackish (salt water meets fresh water) water. In most cases mullet is caught by fishmen who are able to cast a net, either from the flat boat or a small bridge.

The fish will refuse a typical bait such as worms, shrimp or an artificial lure. Mullet live in bays, with juvenile fishes most common in impounded areas, around mangroves, in seagrass beds, and offshore throughout the late fall and winter. Mullet feeds on detritus (organic material suspended in water which is referred to as marine snow) and dead matter.

Most species have unusually muscular stomachs and a complex pharynx to help in digestion.

fishmen Adam and Roger are very serious about catching fish.  
fish crabs cleaning fish cleaning fish fish washing fish
night's catch. About 50 fishes ocassionally crabs get into the net gutting mullet gutting drum gutted mullet, butterfly style cleaning fish with a brush and the garden hose
fish in brine washing fish draining fish drying fish drying fish smokehouse
clean mullet goes into previously prepared cold brine, 80° SAL it remains in brine for less than an hour and then is washed with tap water and briefly soaked in cold water fish are left to drain mullets hanging in a smokehouse (no smoke apply) to dry until tacky fish still drying, some heat (no smoke) applied), vent fully open a thin smoke is applied
smoking fish smokehouse fish smoking smoked fish smoked fish smoked mullet
a thin smoke coming from the bottom heavier smoke applied fish starts to develop color the color gets stronger in time smoked fish  
smoked fish smoked mullet        
           

Five large smoking screens, plus one smoking stick. Five gallons of 80° SAL brine was prepared a day earlier and placed in a freezer (it did not freeze due to the high salt content). Also three gallons of water were placed in a refrigerator and were later used for soaking brined fish. The fish were smoked at 110, 120, 130, 140° F, then the temperature was increased to 160° and the cooking was stopped when the fish was flaky. Three hours of smoking time was plenty and the fish acquired a strong smoky flavor. Hickory, oak and apple wood chips were used not for any particular reference, simply because they were available and chopping oak logs with an ax was not required.

Total time: about 1 hour in brine, 15 minutes in cold water, 1 hour in a smokehouse (no smoke), 3 hours smoking time.

Some of the fish was eaten the same day, some was given away, some smoked mullet was ground, some fish was mixed with cream cheese for breakfast. The rest was placed in large zip-loc bags and left in a freezer.