It may still refer to offshore fishing in its name, but Mississippi Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo mostly focuses on near-shore, inshore and even fresh water fishing.
The 67th event, long a staple of the Gulf Coast’s Independence Day celebration, will be held Thursday through Sunday at the Gulfport Harbor’s Jones Park.
With competition scheduled in 19 saltwater divisions and five freshwater divisions, the Rodeo bills itself as offering something for every level of fishing ability.
But the saltwater division only includes a handful of offshore species and none truly consider “deep sea” fish. Only gray snapper (mangrove), grouper, king mackerel and cobia require a long run to deep waters.
“The Rodeo is always more than the fishing,” said president Mike Casano of Diamondhead. “It is a celebration of all things related to the rich tradition of sport fishing on the Gulf Coast, and, combined with the holiday weekend, there’s a lot to celebrate.”
A popular part of the Rodeo has always been its fish display where the best fish in the event are kept on ice for the public to view.
“A lot of people, even those from the Gulf Coast, would never have seen what these fish look like had it not been for this event,” said weighmaster Mark Wright, who followed his father George in that role and basically grew up at the Rodeo. “All my life I have watched people walk down in front of the fish bins and ooh and ah over the fish. It’s educational, for sure, and it’s entertainment.”
Prizes are awarded daily for the biggest fish in each division, plus overall points are recorded for each day. At the rodeo’s end, overall division winners will be rewarded as well as the kings and queens of both freshwater and saltwater competition (based solely on daily point totals).
Two one-day “shootouts” are being held during the Rodeo, including speckled trout on Saturday and flounder on Sunday. The purses for the two events will be based on number of entries.
Plenty of other entertainment is provided on site, including carnival rides and live music. On Saturday night at 8:45, the annual Rodeo Fireworks Show, one of the largest in the state, will commence on the east end of the Harbor.
The scales open daily at noon and close at 6 p.m. everyday except Sunday, when the scales close for good at 4 p.m. There is no cost to enter the Rodeo competition — the shootouts do carry a $115 entry fee per event — but fishermen must register prior to presenting fish to the weighmaster.
For more information, visit mississippideepseafishingrodeo.com.
What: 67th annual Mississippi Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo
Where: Jones Park, Gulfport Small Craft Harbor
When: Thursday through Sunday; scales open at noon daily and close at 6 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and at 4 p.m. on Sunday.
Who: Competition is free in the Rodeo, except for the speckled trout (Saturday) and flounder (Sunday) shootouts. Daily admission is $5.
Freshwater: Bream, catfish, crappie, largemouth bass (green trout to locals) and striped bass.
Saltwater: Barracuda, black drum, blackfish (triple tail), bluefish, bonita, flounder, gar, gray snapper (mangrove), grouper, jack crevalle, king mackerel, lemon fish (cobia), pompano, redfish, shark, sheepshead, Spanish mackerel, speckled trout, and stingray.