The present study was designed to identify maturity of female red mullet, Mullus barbatus barbatus, using microscopic criteria, offering an accurate determination of the ovarian cycle and estimation of maturity size. Histological analysis of 499 females from 13 monthly samplings was applied (Thermaikos Gulf, N. Aegean Sea, Greece). Oocyte development was divided into five stages, with a mean oocyte size range from 56 to 363 µm in diameter. Ovarian maturity was defined by the maturation stage of the most advanced oocytes and divided into four phases. By using the monthly changes in the percentage frequency of ovarian phases, the ovarian cycle of M. barbatus was divided into three periods: a long period of early oogenesis (November to February), a short period of vitellogenesis (February to April) and a spawning period from April through June with peak activity in May. Both gonadosomatic (up to 7.5%) and hepatosomatic indices (up to 2%) can be used together to predict the spawning period. Red mullet should be classified as a multiple spawning species. Females reached 50% maturity (Lm50) at 11.4 cm and 95% maturity (Lm95) at 15.5 cm TL. The Lm50 values for female red mullet populations across the Mediterranean Sea tended to show differences ranging from 11 to 14.4 cm FL or 11.4–14 cm TL. The current European Union fisheries management plan stipulates a minimum landing size (MLS) of 11 cm TL for Mullidae spp. fisheries in the Mediterranean. This MLS is at the lower part of the Lm50 range, thus allowing an extensive removal of immature juveniles. A revision of this MLS value is recommended to help ensure that red mullet stocks remain within safe biological limits.