The largest fishing event in the state, participation-wise, is the Mississippi Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo, which will be held for the 70th time June 30-July 4 at the Gulfport Harbor.

A grand event that attracts thousands of anglers and onlookers every year, it celebrates the rich fishing tradition on the Gulf Coast and Gulf of Mexico. There is no entrance fee to fish, but registration is required prior to weighing in fish.

This year, there are two $20,000 rewards being offered, but it will take a heck of a fish to claim either. Anyone holding a new state record for shark and/or yellowfin tuna at the end of the Rodeo will win $20,000 per record. The state record for shark is 885 pounds, set in the Mississippi Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo in 1983 by Bruce Bartling of Jackson. The state record for yellowfin is 205 pounds, big enough to be sustained since 2001.

Those rewards may be tough to get, but there is more than  $50,000 in prize money that will be distributed daily and for overall winners in the 23 different saltwater divisions and five freshwater divisions.

Saltwater entries may include barracuda, black drum, blackfish (triple tail), bluefish, bonito, dolphin (mahi mahi), flounder, gar, gray (mangrove snapper), grouper, jack crevalle, king mackerel, lemon fish (cobia), pompano, redfish, red snapper, shark, sheepshead, Spanish mackerel, speckled trout, stingray, tuna and wahoo.

“Because we have a state season on red snapper, and the federal season is still open for licensed charter boats, we were able to keep red snapper in competition,” said longtime and second-generation weighmaster Mark Wright. “We’ve had to close a few divisions, though, due to closed seasons, like amberjack and triggerfish. The bottom line is that all fish weighed in at the Rodeo most have been caught in compliance with all state and federal fishing regulations.” 

Saltwater fish must be caught in the Gulf of Mexico, Mississippi Sound and connected marshes off the Coast of Mississippi, or can be caught in neighboring waters as long as the boat ports at a Mississippi harbor.

Rodeo officials have always proclaimed the event as one for all fishermen of all different skill levels, and to make it so have always maintained a freshwater division. Freshwater species include bream (all varieties in one group), catfish, crappie, green trout (largemouth bass) and striped bass. All freshwater entries must be caught in waters inside the state of Mississippi.

The rodeo is also staging a one-day speckled trout shootout on Monday, July 3 for all federal, state, county and city employees; and a children’s fishing rodeo (no registration required) on Saturday, July 1.

Rodeo scales and gates open daily at noon for the five-day event. The scales close daily at 6 p.m., with the exception of a 4 p.m. close on July 4’s final round. All fishermen in line at closing will be allowed to complete weighing in their catch.

For more information, visit the rodeo online at mississippideepseafishingrodeo.com