My family and I moved to Liberty County on St. Patrick’s Day in 1971. During Easter weekend that year, my husband, brother-in-law and son went fishing.
We were very surprised when they came back with a cooler full of mullet fish. They caught them using cane poles and tiny pieces of earthworms near Riceboro.
We knew what mullet were. Mama used to buy them off the rolling store when they were 5 pounds for $1. She usually bought two, and Sid wrapped them in newspaper. She cleaned them immediately and fried them for dinner.
Since we had lived far away in Long County, we never had fished in brackish water or saltwater in order to catch mullet. I know they can be caught in the freshwater rivers as well. This began our love for fishing for mullet.
We discovered the various places we could fish for them. And we also learned that we could take a mullet net and cast for them. I enjoyed standing on a dock at Maxwellton or Yellow Bluff, watching for the mullet to come down the creek. They travel in large schools, and their mouths can be seen as they stick them up into the air at the top of the water. Little popping noises under the water can be heard as they get nearer.
I looped the long nylon tuck line around my left arm and gathered the remainder of the line into my hand. I caught the cast net by the horn and then caught it about halfway from the edge the folded net. I put one edge of the lead line at the bottom of the net between my teeth and held it while grabbing hold of the outer edge of the lead line. With a half turn, I cast the net into the salty water. If I was lucky, the 5-foot monofilament cast net opened up perfectly. I waited for the net to sink to the bottom of the water. Quickly, I tucked it by giving it a quick jerk or two on the lead line. Then I began pulling in the net for my catch. Oh, what a thrill to feel five or six of the swift silver mullet jumping around in the net as I pulled it up from the bottom of the creek and onto the dock.
People tell me that I cast a net backwards. I am right-handed, but I cannot throw the net, hit a softball or hoe with my right hand. Casting a net is fun, but it is very tiring. I have tried to learn to throw the net by placing it folded across my arm instead of putting some into my mouth. One time I threw it out and forgot to open my mouth, as unbelievable as it sounds. The sinker almost knocked my tooth out.
One of the best times that I recall was in 1971 when we went to Yellow Bluff dock and several people were casting for mullet. We caught more than a washtub full and even tried filling paper grocery bags. Some men were out in their small boats at night and had lights. The mullet were jumping into the boat sometimes, hitting the men in the face. One teenager went back to the dock as he said the fish hurt when they hit him in the face.
Fresh mullet are excellent fried. Some even like them smoked. My aunt always wanted the gizzards (yes, really) out of the larger ones. I liked the ones that could be fried whole.
Several times in the next few years, we went casting for mullet or shrimp off the docks at the Liberty County coast. The old store at Yellow Bluff owned by the Goodmans was always a friendly place to visit. People often told tall fish tales while sitting around the heater inside or outside, perched precariously on a Coca-Cola crate turned on its end.
Yellow Bluff has changed many times in the past 200 years. It used to be a plantation owned by the Roswell King family. Many plantations were in the coastal area. Buddy Sullivan wrote a book, “All Under Bank,” using the real journals of Roswell King Jr. This is an excellent book to read and familiarize yourself with the history of Yellow Bluff, Maxwellton, Maybank, Melon Bluff and other areas around there.
Today, there are more changes going on at Yellow Bluff. It is going to be developed into a community, which sounds great. People everywhere are finding our great treasure that we have known about.
No matter how fine and fancy the homes and yards will be in the future around Yellow Bluff, I do not believe the newcomers ever will get any greater pleasure than we did in the years past.
Just standing on the docks at Yellow Bluff and Maxwellton, throwing the cast nets and hoping for a good catch, fighting the chizzywinks, as we called those pesky little biting creatures, getting wet and muddy, looking across the beautiful marsh with the sun setting and sometimes seeing the dolphins as they came down the creek frolicking always will be precious and beautiful memories.