With today's close of the red snapper season in the federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico, Mississippi fishermen are turning a hopeful eye toward a yet-to-be-confirmed, but rumored fall season.

"We can only hope, but I'm not gonna hold my breath over it," said Bill Riley of Biloxi, who spent Thursday night prepping for a rough final day of snapper fishing. "We've had some bumpy rides to reach the rigs this week, but what are you going to do? With such a small (28-day) window to fish, you can't let 2- to 4-foot seas stop you."

Friday's forecast included small craft advisories for the Gulf with winds between 10-15 knots building to 15-20 Friday night, but Riley and friends were heading out in a 42-foot boat with a cabin.

"It'd be tough in my 26-foot center console, but one of my buddies offered up his blue water Bertram and we're loading it up with our snapper gear," Riley said. "I know several guys with smaller boats are saying they are going out and I know some who aren't. I hope that the (federal officials) who decide harvest numbers take all that into consideration.

"Maybe that would help us get that additional opportunity this fall. In a 28-day season, 20 of the days are weekdays when people have to work. That leaves eight weekend days and some of those have been ruined by weather. I think that should all be considered when they guess-timate the catch numbers. If they did that, then maybe they'd give us a few more days in the fall, like that Louisiana fisheries guy talked about. I read a story where he said the federal guys were talking about a fall season."

Louisiana's fisheries secretary Randy Pausina said June 6 that the National Marine Fisheries Service has promised it would find "another closet of fish," enough to establish a fall season of at least 20 days. Pausina says he was told it would include a four million pound quota.

"That would be nice, and let's hope it happens," Riley said.

Of the five states that border the Gulf, only Mississippi and Alabama do not have seasons established in state waters, called non-compliant seasons. Florida, Louisiana and Texas all do.

Texas is the most liberal, with a year-round season and a four-fish limit in state waters. Louisiana set an 88-day season, open on weekends and holidays only, March through September, with a three-fish daily limit. Florida has a 44-day season and two-fish limit.


Reservoir celebration

Barnett Reservoir will be home to its 2nd annual Independence Day celebration Saturday, offering a variety of activities that includes a blessing of the fleet, a lighted boat parade and mid-lake fireworks show that caps the event at 10 p.m.

Old Trace Park in Madison County and Lakeshore Park in Rankin County will both have live music, headlined by Greenwood native and country music star Steve Azar at 8 p.m. at Old Trace, and The Chill, a local band with a big following, at Lakeshore Park at 6 p.m.

Old Trace will also feature the annual WaterFest event, sponsored by Rezonate, a Barnett Initiative to build awareness about the reservoir. WaterFest will include education exhibits and children's crafts and games.

Lakeshore will have several military displays and a classic car drive through.

Both parks will feature water slides, climbing walls and other attractions for children.

The blessing of the fleet will start at 6:30 p.m. near the Jackson Yacht Club and the parade starts at 8 p.m., with boats leaving Main Harbor and passing both parks.

For more information, visit TheRez.ms online.


An eye on BUI

Conservation officers of the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks will be on the water this weekend taking part in Operation Dry Water, a national initiative to curb boating under the influence of alcohol and drugs.

During Operation Dry Water, Conservation Officers will be patrolling waters to detect individuals who are operating a vessel with a blood alcohol content that exceeds the state limit of .08.

"We are dedicated to keeping boaters safe on the water," says Maj. Jerry Carter, MDWFP Boater Safety Administrator. "Boating is a safe and enjoyable pastime when people stay alert and follow boating regulations."


Youth fishing rodeo

The MDWFP is sponsoring a youth fishing rodeo Saturday at Roosevelt State Park in Morton, free for kids ages 15 and under. Registration will begin at 8 a.m.

Participants are encouraged to bring their own fishing gear, catfish bait and stringers.

Fishing rodeos offer quality fishing experiences for young anglers in a controlled and safe environment. The rodeo locations are well stocked with catfish to make it easier for participants to catch fish.