University of California
California Fish Website

Fish Species


 Common Name Striped Mullet
 Scientific Name Mugil cephalus
 Native Yes
 Identification
Striped Mullet from the Santa Margarita River, San Diego Co. Photo from Camm C. Swift. Approx. 1999
Striped Mullet from the Santa Margarita River, San Diego Co. Photo from Camm C. Swift. Approx. 1999

  • Thick, torpedo-shaped body
  • Broad, flat head
  • Small terminal mouth
  • Large eyes
  • Tail deeply forked
  • Two dorsal fins, widely spaced
  • Blue-green back, silvery sides and belly, narrow horizontal black stripes on upper half of body
  • Translucent adipose eyelid leaves a narrow slit over pupil (fish => 50 mm TL)
  • Mouth has inverted V-shape when closed, viewed from front
  • Spines: first dorsal 4, second dorsal 1, anal 3
  • Rays: second dorsal 8, anal 8-9, pectoral 16-17
  • Lateral line scales: 38-42, cycloid
 Life History Striped Mullet are present in coastal, tropical and subtropical ocean areas worldwide. They also inhabit the lower reaches of coastal streams. In California, Striped Mullet may be found as far north as San Francisco Bay, and they are also present in the Salton Sea. They live mainly in estuaries, have been observed at salinities from 0-75 ppt, and prefer temperatures not much below 14-16oC. Striped Mullet tend to school, including while spawning, but schools break up during feeding. Striped Mullet feed on muddy bottoms, ingesting organic detritus, diatoms, bacteria, and microinvertebrates. Age and growth are variable. Striped Mullets are usually mature at age 2-3 and a size of 23-35 cm SL. Fish may reach 29-37 cm SL by age 4-5 in the lower Colorado River. The oldest, largest fish, observed in the Salton Sea, were approximately 14 years old and 60 cm SL, but these fish were non-reproducing, potentially due to the ionic composition of the Salton Sea.

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