Sidi J. Mahtrow


A mullet is not a fish? ?


So said the smart talk back in 1916.
For an out-of-work lawyer pickings were lean.
For clients; some local fishermen
Had their day in court, once again.

Tho th' lawyer served without recompense
He needed to prove to the judge their innocence.
Not guilty was the verdict to be won
Of fishing during the closed season.

These six young commercial fishermen
Were known to sell fish through thick and thin.
They had been caught fair and square
And summoned before the judge to appear.

It could not be disputed
That the fishermen had mullet netted.
And that the season for catching
Had closed before their going fishing.

As an aside. Many's the time they had treated
The lawyer to a fine meal of mullet they had netted.
So it was that the lawyer had paid close attention
To cleaning in the mullet's preparation.

To the casual observer, a fish is a fish.
But mullet are not like other fish.
For one, they are mostly caught in seines or nets
As they are difficult to catch on a hook to be set.

They are bottom feeders on grass and morsels
Such as small oysters, snails, and mussels.
And because of their appetite for what they find,
They have a gizzard; by nature designed to grind.

We return to the courtroom of the Judge
Where the game officers refused to budge.
So in providing his defense,
The Lawyer placed the judge on the fence.

He asked the Judge, a question hard;
'Do fish have a gizzard? '
And answered his own question;
'Don't think so.' Ask anyone.

To the Game Warden's surprise,
On this the case rested, which was most wise.
The Judge considered; Only one other species
To his mind had a gizzard and they aren't fishies.

He recessed the court and went to the grocery store,
Where in the poultry section he found galore,
Fresh chicken; whole and in parts,
Plus chicken livers, gizzards and hearts.

It was obvious that the mullet was a relative
To chickens, turkeys, duck and other avi.
The Judge so ruled that mullet are fowl
And therefore catching mullet he would allow.

'Of course another court must decide,
If mullet can be caught on th' tide,
During lent, which is the season
When only fish should be eaten.'

'Not guilty of violating Florida's fishing laws.'
It was decreed in this Court of Laws.
At the next mullet fry, you can safely bet,
The judge was there with appetite wet.

In a small community,
All are included with impunity
Even Judges; and Game Wardens
Tho, don't have that many friends.



This tale helps to keep 'Old' Florida alive and safe from the reach of those whose vision is limited by the reach of their pocketbook. The article on which this poem is based was published in the Sarasota Herald Tribune November 24,1998, about Pat Whitaker who as a trial lawyer convinced a Tampa judge that mullet was not a fish, in 1919.

Another fish is said to have a gizzard. The gillaroo trout has evolved this feature as an adaptation to its diet: mainly invertebrates of the lake bed, including a high proportion of freshwater snails and crustaceans. The thick muscular wall is used to grind up these very tough food items. However, many other forms of trout can develop a similar thickened stomach wall when feeding for a long period on similar foods. see: http: //lochwinnochac.net/Trout/gillaroo.html

Submitted: Wednesday, April 19, 2006
Edited: Friday, July 16, 2010

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Comments about this poem (A mullet is not a fish? ? by Sidi J. Mahtrow )

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  • Michael Gale (11/13/2008 2:36:00 PM)

    Maybe the judge should have quit being chicken and smell something fishy.

    A fish is a fish...
    Until-it's an eaten dish.

    Have no bones to pick here...
    Another spicey fare, is doe or deer.

    When is a deer not a deer? ...
    When it is a tractor, hear?

    Did you hear about the genie
    who got rubbed the wrong way? ...
    He wasn't in the mood to play.

    God bless all poets-MJG. (Report) Reply

  • Ivor Hogg (5/26/2008 2:55:00 PM)

    No worse than the fathers of the church deciding barnacle geese were fish and could be eaten on Fridays.
    The law as always proves to be an ass (Report) Reply

  • Graham Jones (6/2/2007 6:23:00 AM)

    I was drawn by the title of this, and it has turned out to be a fascinating read and also very informative, very good work indeed. (Report) Reply

  • Michael Gale (5/8/2006 10:01:00 AM)

    I cannot believe that comments about a fishe's trial has not been commited to this site...I enjoy the sport of fishing and it's watery dripping, wetish fights.How about the tale about the one that got away? At the end of the 'not catching anything
    wasted day'.With hands and arms spread apart in an exagerated motion...While lying and fibbing is the 'whopper that size'alibied notion.The truth would not be recognized by that old fellow tellin that tale...It's now so old and tiredly stale.I once thought a Mullet was just a lower classed type of hair cut or style...If you had told me that it was a fish, i'd probably not accept that concept but with only a verbal denial. Do you know what you'll have if you try to catagorize this thing you you've caught and now see? ...It will be named and known as 'Chicken of the Sea'. Hey Sidi! This was a very good poem...I love it when an artist or author's imagination can experimently wander, tinker and roam.Imagery is the paint that the artist just throws at his canvas. Congrats! You have just painted another master piece. A wonderful reading has just crossed my path. I just love it when that happens. Please keep up the good work and God bless and best regards-Mike Gale. (Report) Reply

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