Mississippi Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo turns 72

One of Mississippi’s longest-running outdoor traditions, the Mississippi Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo in Gulfport, will be held for the 72nd consecutive year July 4-7 at the Gulfport Small Craft Harbor.

The Rodeo will feature plenty of fireworks, fishing and fun.

“It may not be the biggest tournament down here, with the biggest payout, but clearly it remains the biggest celebration of the wonderful tradition of Mississippi Gulf Coast fishing,” said Riley Edwards of Gulfport, a longtime fan of the event. “It’s the one event where anyone can enter for free, fish from land or boat, in salt or freshwater, perhaps win a prize but always have fun seeing all the fish brought in and displayed at the bins.

“That’s why I’ve been coming since I was just a kid in the 70s. My dad brought me and my brothers and sisters every year. He wasn’t a sport fisherman; he was a shrimper, but he wanted us to know what fishing was all about and what the fish we were always eating looked like before they were cooked.”

4th of July celebration

The event has always been scheduled on and around Independence Day. This year, the calendar is perfect for a July 4 opening day, meaning the Rodeo’s large fireworks display will help open the event instead of close it.

Daily and overall competition will be held in 20 divisions: barracuda, black drum, blackfish (tripletail), bonito, flounder, gar, gray (mangrove) snapper, grouper, jack crevalle, king mackerel, cobia, redfish, shark, Spanish mackerel, speckled trout, stingray, dolphin, red snapper, tuna and wahoo.

The five freshwater divisions are bream, catfish, crappie, bass and striped bass. All freshwater fish must be caught in accordance with Mississippi state law.

Tiger shark is a special category in the Deep Sea Rodeo. A state-record will be worth S$25,000.
Tiger shark is a special category in the Deep Sea Rodeo. A state-record will be worth S$25,000.

In addition to the regular Rodeo competition, special rewards are offered for state records in southern stingray and tiger shark. The anglers catching the largest record-breaking ray or shark will earn $25,000 bonus. Anglers must follow special guidelines and register in advance to be eligible for the bonus.

For the kids

A kid’s rodeo will be held Friday, July 5, for children ages 4 to 12. No preregistration is required, and it is open to both boys and girls, with 55 winners in 11 divisions. The saltwater divisions include speckled trout, redfish, white trout, croaker, ground mullet, flounder, sheephead and drum. The freshwater divisions are bass, bream and catfish.

The event also includes live music, rides, games and food. The big attraction is always the fresh fish in the huge ice bins where entries are on display for all to see. Scales open daily at noon, and close at 6 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and at 4 p.m. on Sunday’s final day.

For more information, visit mississippideepseafishingrodeo.com.

About Bobby Cleveland 1342 Articles
Bobby Cleveland has covered sports in Mississippi for over 40 years. A native of Hattiesburg and graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi, Cleveland lives on Ross Barnett Reservoir near Jackson with his wife Pam.