The Mississippi Department of Marine Resources has been the caretaker of state saltwater records since 1994. Previously records were kept by the MDWFP dating back nearly a hundred years. As of 2010, 122 species of saltwater fish are being tracked for conventional tackle.
These species range from the classic big-name pelagic game fish like the wahoo, yellowfin tuna, blue marlin and red snapper to such relative unknowns as the lookdown, leopard toadfish and bighead searobin.
The longest-standing record is the nearly half-century-old, 19-pound, 10-ounce sheepshead caught by Roy Grouse Jr. in 1966.
Every year, on average, about a dozen records fall and are replaced by new titleholders. The best year in recent history was 2007, when 18 new records joined the list. These included many records still standing today, including a 10-pound, 4-ounce flounder, a 158-pound stingray and a 75-pound swordfish.
Some years are better for certain species; for instance, five of the 12 current shark records date back to the summer of 2009. The spring and summer of 2011 saw three back-to-back record-breaking big-eye tuna.
Many anglers are certified record stalkers, and as of 2010 six sportsmen hold three or more individual records that still stand. These include the two current high-scoring aces Lenny Maiolatesi (featured in the July 2011 Mississippi Sportsman) and Tommy O'Brien.
Saltwater fly-fishing records
Fly fishing for saltwater fish in Mississippi waters is tracked separately. Currently the state's fly-fishing records include 38 species ranging from a 13-ounce pinfish to a 106-ound spinner shark.
The state's multiple titleholder for saltwater fly-fishing is coastal angler Doug Borries with an 14 standing records.
If you're planning to go after one of the fly-fishing records, note that one big no-no is the use of treble hooks.
Rules for consideration
MDMR regulations state, in part, that all fish considered must be hooked, fought and brought in by the same person. This means that if someone hands you a fish already on the line to bring in, and it is a record breaker, neither person can legally submit it.
The fish must be weighed on certified scales in front of two neutral witnesses as soon as possible. It cannot be stressed that enough that time loss is weight loss in fish out of water, as the cold-blooded sea creatures will rapidly lose weight once they have walked down the tunnel into the light.
Recently, a team of anglers had their collective heart broken when they were forced to wait over 24-hours to weigh their giant wahoo, only to miss breaking the current record by .6 of an ounce.
Backing up the scales, you must take two pictures of the fish (one of the fish only and one with the angler and fish), two lengthwise measurements in inches (snout to tail-fork, snout to tail tip) and one measurement around the thickest girth.
You also must catch fish on conventional pole and line: No handlines, spearfishing, nets, hand grenades, crank-up telephones, etc., are allowed.
Of course, fish also must be caught in Mississippi waters and landed on scales inside the state itself.
One of the easiest ways to vie for a record is to be lucky enough to have caught the fish during one of the many fishing rodeos and tournaments carried out almost every warm weekend on the coast. Official weighmasters are often MDMR representatives, and can walk you through the two-page application as well as certify the weight.
A professional marine biologist must certify the record, and several weeks or months may pass before its official. But in the end you may have made your own little mark in state sporting history.