Unfortunately, I wasn't present for the night of the attacking mullet. The event, now part of Wakulla Springs lore, ranks up there with Tarzan, the Creature of the Black Lagoon, and the Wakulla Lodge fire of 1943. It happened two years ago during the after-dark jungle boat ride, which was part of the annual Wakulla Springs Wildlife Festival. Biologist Dana Bryan was leading the tour.
"We were nearing the end of the tour in the back jungle when we came upon maybe two hundred mullet in a tight area," Bryan recalled. "The water was churning with jumping mullet. Well, they must have panicked because they started leaping and hitting the boat and then jumping into the boat. Everyone was screaming. Even people at the lodge heard the screams and wondered what was going on. Mullet were flopping everywhere, people were trying to throw them back in, and at the end of the tour, fish scales and mullet blood was all over the floor."
I joined Bryan on the 2013 tour on April 20th, hoping for a repeat performance by the attacking mullet. One elderly couple sitting in a front row seat recalled the attack. "I had three mullet jump into my lap!" the woman said. "I was one of the ones screaming." Since no one was hurt during the mullet attack, other than one woman being hit in the head by a flying fish, I guess the couple came back for another adrenalin rush.
Once on the tour, as stars and planets emerged and cypress trees transformed into dark silhouettes, we spotted a barred owl, a manatee, numerous bats, yellow-crowned night herons, and alligator eyes that glowed red when hit with a flashlight beam. Bullfrogs croaked from within bulrush and katydids sang from treetops. When we reached the back jungle, I volunteered to shine a flashlight from the boat's bow to serve as a type of headlight for boat driver Jake Hines. I soon spotted a few dozen mullet moving at a rapid pace. "MULLET!" I cried. "Lots of them. They're luring us in for the kill." People chuckled nervously and swung flashlight beams to the water. A few silvery mullet leaped, but to my disappointment, their numbers weren't great enough to launch themselves wildly at the boat and passengers. No kamikaze attack on this night. But the night tour was still memorable and I vowed to make it an annual tradition. And maybe I'll get lucky one year and have a mullet or three jump into my lap!