-- Nearly everyone who's spent time on the bays and estuaries of the Gulf Coast has seen mullet jump through the air along the coast. It's a majestic sight, the foot-long or so fish breaking the water and soaring several feet through the air before splashing back down to the surface. Sometimes the mullets stay pointed straight ahead and travel further. Sometimes they flutter their fins from side to side, making a distinctive flapping sound.
But for every mullet seen or heard flying through the air, there are probably dozens more waiting below the surface. I proved this for myself while standing on a dock on Perdido Bay not long ago. By keeping my feet still and staring hard at the extremely murky water for several seconds, the outlines of fish began to emerge like a Magic Eye puzzle.
First I saw the white semicircle of their lower lip, then some light reflecting off a fin. Gradually the white semicircles multiplied, and the number of fins increased. Within 20 minutes, I could make out dozens, if not hundreds, of distinct individuals calmly congregating at the end of the dock. If I moved my feet too much, the school dispersed. If I moved my head too far, I lost focus and had to readjust my eyes before the outlines would show up again, but they were definitely there.
That's when I decided to try my luck with a GoPro to capture video of the scene under the water. I laid down on the dock with the camera held on a 4-foot monopod just below the surface of the water. That motion and the camera dipping down beneath the surface scared the school off, but after several minutes of me laying on my stomach with the video running, they began to return.
The 20-minute raw footage has been cut down to about two minutes in the clip above. You'll see dozens of mullets schooling around the dock, very close to the surface, as well as one sheepshead, who swims into the frame 40 seconds into the video.