The Mississippi Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo is always a popular attraction along the state’s Gulf Coast, offering much to do for visitors to the 70-year-old event.
For starters, there’s the carnival-like atmosphere with carny rides, games, food and other vendors.
At the end, the five-day Rodeo closes with the largest firework show on the coast, set for 8:45 p.m. on Tuesday July 4.
In between, there’s live music daily and, of course, there’s the fish. 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.”
Listening to the conversations as families and friends stroll down the fish bins for viewing has always been a favorite part of the staff and visiting media, especially photographers.
Many people who have eaten seafood all their lives never knew what the fish looked like until they made a pass down the fish bins. Redfish have been confused with red snapper, flounder discovered to be flat with eyes on only one side of the head, and jack crevalle mistaken for yellowfin tuna.
A favorite line: “Don’t matter to me what they look like in real life, when they leave my frying pan, they look wonderful!”
One of the most popular stops along the fence is where the entries to most unusual fish are displayed. Past displays have included starfish, a 400-pound sawfish, a giant eel, the mysterious oyster fish, and some species that attending biologists took hours and some even days to verify.
The Rodeo goes to great expense to keep the fish fresh and looking good for the crowds.
“We go through tons of ice daily, from the big blocks we have for a base all week to the cracked ice we put on top almost hourly,” Wright said. “But, it’s important because the Rodeo is a celebration of Gulf Coast fishing, and getting to see and know about the different species is a nice aspect of it. I think it’s what keeps bringing people back, year after year.”
Admission is $5 daily or $10 for all five days.