Some of the world’s biggest blue marlin swim the deep blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico. That’s why the Gulf Coast Triple Crown Big Game Fishing Championship series is so popular, bringing anglers from all over the world to the Gulf Coast, from the Florida Panhandle all the way to the Louisiana-Texas border.
Situated right in the middle is Mississippi, with possibly the Gulf Coast’s best combination of world-class offshore fishing and on-land attractions. Located no more than 90 minutes east of New Orleans along Interstate 10, the Biloxi-Gulfport area sits at the center of the Mississippi Gulf Coast, with the two cities separated by a 15-minute drive along scenic Beach Boulevard/Highway 90. But there are 13 coastal communities, each with their own personalities, along the 62 miles of coastline. The Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic brings anglers to Biloxi each year as part of the Gulf Coast Triple Crown series, and the marina outside the Golden Nugget Casino and Hotel will be packed June 4-10, 2018, as anglers aim for that one big catch to bring them a massive payday. Last year’s tournament included 120 teams competing for a total prize purse of $2.3 million.
Summer through early fall — think May through October — is the best time to chase blue marlin and sailfish. The 2018 Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic, one of the best Gulf Coast sport-fishing events and part of the Gulf Coast Triple Crown series, is scheduled for June 4-10 at the Golden Nugget Casino and Hotel. But the fishing stays strong for months after the competition ends, and there are a lot more pelagics you can catch besides blue marlin and sailfish. There were plenty of swordfish, tuna, wahoo and dolphin caught during the 2017 tournament.
Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic
This tournament is known as one of the premier tournaments along the Gulf of Mexico. The 2018 event will be the 22nd edition of the tournament, which began in 1997 with 60 boats. The tournament started with a $300,000 purse and now is above $2 million, evidence of the growth in popularity and prestige through the past two decades. In 2004, the tournament exceeded a $1 million purse and had a 106-boat fleet, a quick rise in just eight years for the competition.
Beyond the potential winnings and size of the fleet, the fishing also is noteworthy. The Mississippi and Gulf of Mexico blue marlin records were set during the tournament in 2002, when angler Barry Carr on Sea Wolff caught a 1,054.6-pound fish. That topped the previous Mississippi record set in the tournament’s inaugural year, when David Pippen of Miss Orleans caught a 917.4-pound blue marlin.
The tournament also is a leader for billfish conservation in the region. Tournament officials decided before last year’s event to increase the minimum length requirement for qualifying blue marlin to 107 inches from the tip of the lower jaw to the fork of the tail. The previous requirement was 100 inches, making this new increase a significant statement for billfish conservation.
The Mississippi records for bluefin tuna, yellowfin tuna and bigeye tuna also were caught during the Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic. In 2017, a new swordfish state record was set when Scott Cothran of Pay Dirt caught one that tipped the scales at 252.54 pounds.
It doesn’t get too cold here. According to Weather.com, the average low in January is 42 degrees, the lowest monthly average for the area. The hottest it gets is around 90 degrees, the average for July and August. Temperatures usually stick around the low to high 70s.
If you’re traveling by air, the Biloxi-Gulfport International Airport is located in close proximity to the main attractions and marinas. The airport offers direct flights from Atlanta, Charlotte, Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston, Orlando and St. Petersburg/Clearwater.
If driving, the Mississippi Gulf Coast is just off Interstate 10, which runs east and west from the Jacksonville area to southern California. That’s the easiest access point for anyone traveling from more than an hour away. If driving in from the north, the nearest interstates intersecting are Interstate 59 in Slidell, Louisiana (around 45 minutes west of Gulfport) and Interstate 65 in Mobile, Alabama (around an hour east of Biloxi).
The Mississippi Gulf Coast offers an array of accommodations: luxury casino resorts, boutique hotels, chain hotels and coastal bed-and-breakfast inns.
Palace Casino Resort is located along the Biloxi Bay with boat slips conveniently located nearby. That is one of many casino hotels, for easier access to the tables and slot machines. Others include Island View Casino, Beau Rivage Casino and Resort, Silver Slipper, Hollywood Casino Gulf Coast, Boomtown Casino Biloxi and Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. Golden Nugget Hotel and Casino is the location for the 2018 Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic.
Eating and Drinking
A trip to the Mississippi Gulf Coast is incomplete without a taste of the world-famous seafood. But the food options don’t end there. Barbecue, authentic Southern cuisine and international flavors are available.
Restaurant Row is the place to be for the largest quantity of options and variety. The Reef is a seafood-speciality restaurant with affordable prices and a beachfront location and Gulf view. Shaggy’s has a laid-back, island-like atmosphere with seafood and cocktails to match. Bacchus on the Beach specializes in oysters, shrimp and more local options. Baja is a Tex-Mex offering with two-for-one margaritas all the time.
The Blind Tiger in Biloxi Beach offers one of the best scenic views while enjoying local food options and/or drinks. Live music accompanies the open-style setup with a view of Biloxi Beach. The Dock, in Gulfport, is another live-music venue and seafood restaurant with a waterfront view for guests. McElroy’s in Biloxi is located in the Small Craft Harbor, accessible by foot or boat, with a delicious seafood menu. The Ole Biloxi Fillin’ Station has one of the best — if not the best — burgers along the Gulf Coast. Government Street Grocery in Ocean Springs is another popular stop.
There is a music and nightlife option for whatever ambiance you’re seeking, from dancing clubs and cozy waterfront views to sports bars and live music. Some of these options include jazz venues, nautical-themed bars, vast beer options and karaoke options. Gil’s Fish Camp in Ocean Springs is an award-winning venue, named as one of the best dive bars in America by The Daily Meal.
Additionally, all 12 area casinos on the coast offer some sort of nightlife and entertainment
You’re on the Gulf Coast: If you’re at least 21 years old, it won’t be hard to find a casino offering your favorite game — and the chance to make back the money spent getting there and fishing (hopefully). Beau Rivage Resort and Casino, Golden Nugget Hotel and Casino, Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, Harrah’s, and Island View Casino are all located on along the coast on Beach Boulevard between Biloxi and Gulfport. Silver Slipper is a beachfront hotel in Ocean Springs. Palace Casino Resort is located just west of Biloxi Bay and a block off the coast while Boomtown Casino Biloxi is just south of the Intracoastal Waterway along Bayview Avenue. IP Casino in Biloxi is just a mile from the beach.
Whatever your game — blackjack, craps, roulette, slots, or something else — you can find some fun when the sun goes down and fishing ends at one of the area’s award-winning casinos.
What Else to Do
If casinos are not your thing, there is much more. The Gulfport Premium Outlets, located along Interstate 10, includes more than enough for a day-long shopping excursion. There also are plenty of boutiques, small local stores and downtown shopping districts in various downtowns along the coast. For outdoor enthusiasts, non-fishing options include kayak or paddleboard rentals through Intracoastal Waterways and multiple barrier islands to explore.
The area also has plenty of museums for adult visitors, including the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art, Walter Anderson Museum of Art and Shearwater Pottery Workshop and Showroom. The Maritime & Seafood Industry Museum is especially interesting for anglers and boaters. If you’re looking for more family friendly activities, you can find some here. There also are plenty of free activities in the area.
• Visit Mississippi Gulf Coast website
• Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic
• List of Casinos
• Hotels and Motels
• Vacation Rentals
• RV parks and Campgrounds
• Bed and Breakfasts
• Flights into the Biloxi-Gulfport area