The mullet is found in tropical and temperate waters throughout the world. Most species are marine, but some are also found in brackish and fresh water, and other species are restricted to fresh water.
Mullets are torpedo-shaped and generally less than 2 feet (60 cm) long. The dorsal fin is separated into two parts (a front spiny-rayed portion and a hind soft-rayed portion) and the caudal fin is markedly bilobed. Mullets are usually grayish with the lateral line absent or vestigial. They prefer shallow water and usually swim in schools over sandy or muddy bottoms, where they feed on algae and decaying vegetable and animal matter.
The striped mullet (Mugil cephalus) is found along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of North America as far north as Maine. It is often called black mullet in Florida. It is an unusually large species, sometimes reaching a length of 3 feet (90 cm) and a weight of 15 pounds (7 kg). It grows very fast and is frequently used in brackish and saltwater pond culture.
True mullets belong to the family Mugilidae, whereas surmullets, or goatfish, are of the family Mullidae.