One thing that has kept the Mississippi Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo running for 66 years is that it is and always has been the fishing event for every angler.

No kidding.

Its title may include “Deep Sea” and its mission is to bring focus on Mississippi’s marine fishing opportunities, but its competition divisions include such terms as bream, bass, catfish and crappie.

That’s why when the 66th Annual Mississippi Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo opens July 3-6 at Jones Park at Gulfport Harbor, over a thousand fishermen are expected to enter. 

Well, that and it’s free to register.

“What I like about it is that it focuses on fish that the average people down here fish for, you know, like redfish, specks and flounder,” said Julie Thomas of Biloxi, a longtime competitor and visitor. “They still have the cobia, kings, sharks and grouper and all that, but the Rodeo pays tribute to the species that most everyone catches.” 

Thomas backs up her claim with her past successes.

She’s won daily prizes in the past for speckled trout, redfish and black drum, and one overall for a trout. She’s also won for freshwater entries, including bluegill and shellcracker (redear) bream.

“That’s right, I’ve won using shrimp and popping corks and I’ve won using worms and those little Styrofoam bobbers,” she said. “I almost won for bass one time but right at the close of the scales a guy came in and beat my 6-pounder by an ounce. I had caught it bream fishing.

“If I’m not fishing (in the Rodeo), then I’m down there looking at what everybody else is catching, and even better, just people watching.

The four-day event features several competitions, including the regular rodeo and its 19 saltwater and six freshwater divisions: 

Saltwater: Black drum, bluefish, bonito, blackfish (triple tail), barracuda, flounder, gar, grouper, jack crevalle, king mackerel, cobia, redfish, gray snapper (mangrove), sheepshead, pompano, shark, Spanish mackerel, speckled trout and stingray.

Freshwater: Bluegill, catfish, crappie, largemouth bass (green trout), shellcracker (redear) and striped bass.

There is a military division, which is sponsored by Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, and a youth tournament on July 5. In the youth event, saltwater divisions are speckled trout, redfish, white trout, croaker, ground mullet, flounder, sheepshead and black drum. Freshwater divisions are bass, bream (bluegill, shellcracker) and catfish.

The Barksdale pavilion serves as home to the Rodeo scales and the popular fish bins. The scales will open daily at noon and close at 6 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and close for good at 4 p.m on Sunday. While there is no entry fee to fish, there is a daily $5 admission free. On July 3 only, visitors can purchase a 4-day armband for $10.

For more information on the event, grab a July issue of Mississippi Sportsman Magazine on newsstands now or visit the Rodeo online at http://mississippideepseafishingrodeo.com.