Freshwater Sport Fishing
MDWFP manages all public freshwater fish populations north of Hwy 90. This includes public reservoirs, 19 state fishing lakes, 19 state park lakes and 20 community fishing assistance ponds. A freshwater fishing license is required to fish in public waters north of Interstate 10. Review the digest’s license section for requirements or call (601) 432-2055. Go to www.mdwfp.com for weekly fishing reports from February through November.
Freshwater Guides & Outfitters
Freshwater Fishing Guides and Outfitters are required to purchase a Fishing Guide License and a Guide Boat License. See the license section.
Free Fishing Days
On June 1-2, 2024, during National Fishing and Boating Week, a sport fishing license is not required for Mississippi residents for all public waters, and fishing permits for all anglers at State Lakes and State Park Lakes are free! Mississippi residents can fish without a fishing license on July 4th in all waters of the state. State Fishing Lake and State Park Permits are required to fish in State Fishing Lakes and State Park Lakes on July 4.
Saltwater fisheries and public fishing south of Hwy 90 are managed by the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources. For information concerning saltwater fishing, please call (228) 374-5000 or go to www.dmr.ms.gov. A saltwater fishing license is required to fish all waters south of Hwy 90.
On all public waters south of Interstate 10 and north of Hwy 90 either a freshwater fishing license or a saltwater fishing license is valid for use.
Many public waters in the state are located on or near private land. These waters must be accessed through a public access point or by permission from the landowner. Contact MDWFP if you have questions about access to fishing waters and for public access points.
Game fish are defined as: bream (redear sunfish, bluegill, longear sunfish, warmouth, green sunfish), crappie (white, black), black bass (largemouth, smallmouth, spotted) shadow bass, walleye, sauger, yellow perch, hybrid striped bass, striped bass, white bass, yellow bass, and pickerel (redfin, grass, and chain).
Non-Game Gross Fish
Non-game gross fish are defined as: gizzard shad, threadfin shad, gar (alligator, shortnose, longnose, spotted), eel, bowfin, common carp, paddlefish, bullheads (yellow, black, brown), buffalo (smallmouth, bigmouth, and black), spotted sucker, river carpsucker, quillback, highfin carpsucker, blacktail redhorse, freshwater drum, and catfish (channel, blue, flathead).
Legal Sport Fishing Techniques in Mississippi
Versatile Fishing Methods for Anglers
Mississippi offers a variety of legal methods for sport fishing, catering to the diverse preferences of anglers. Whether you prefer the tranquility of hook and line fishing or the thrill of using a bow and arrow, the state provides ample opportunities to engage in these activities while ensuring the conservation of aquatic ecosystems.
Hook and Line Fishing
- General Rule: Anglers may use hook and line, including rods and reels with artificial bait, to catch game fish. This traditional method is favored for its simplicity and effectiveness.
- Flexibility: There is no limit on the number of poles or rod/reels an angler can actively use, except in areas with specific restrictions. Always refer to the Special Regulations Section for water-specific rules.
Alternative Harvesting Methods
- Bow and Arrow, Crossbow, Spear, Gig: These methods are permitted for catching certain species like bowfin, buffalo, common carp, catfish, and various carp species, including invasive ones like silver carp and snakehead.
- Night Fishing: At State Fishing Lakes and State Park Lakes, bow and arrow can be used at night to target carp, gar, buffalo, and bowfin. However, catfish cannot be taken with spear or gig from May 1 through July 15.
- Restrictions: These alternative methods cannot be used to harvest any species not explicitly mentioned.
- Definition: Snagging involves hooking fish in any part of their body other than the mouth. This method is legal statewide for all game and non-game gross fish throughout the year.
- Hook Size: Any size hook may be utilized, except in spillways where specific restrictions apply.
Trotlines, Throwlines, Limblines, and Set Hooks
- Usage: These stationary fishing methods are approved for capturing both game fish and non-game gross fish.
- Regulations: Anglers are limited to using no more than 100 single hooks, which must be spaced at least 2 feet apart for effectiveness and safety.
- Marine Resources: The Mississippi Department of Marine Resources oversees trotline fishing in waters south of Interstate 10. Anglers planning to fish in these areas should contact (228) 374-5000 for guidelines.
Streamlining Sport Fishing: Hook and Device Regulations
Maximizing Fishing Efficiency with Legal Hook Limits
Mississippi anglers holding a valid sport fishing license are granted the use of up to 100 hooks per person. This generous allowance is designed to enhance the fishing experience while maintaining a balance with aquatic life conservation efforts.
Free Floating Fishing Devices: Jugs and Yo-Yos
- Device Limitations: Individuals are permitted to use no more than 25 jugs and 25 yo-yos, each equipped with no more than 2 single hooks. This regulation ensures effective management and monitoring of fishing activities.
- Spacing and Attachment: When using lines with multiple devices, they must be securely tied at least 2 feet apart to prevent tangling and ensure a humane catch.
- State Border Waters: Refer to the State Border Waters section for specific device limits applicable in those areas, acknowledging the need for cross-jurisdictional conservation efforts.
Attended Fishing Requirements
Certain reservoirs and lakes have specific rules regarding the attendance of fishing devices during use:
- Specific Locations: Regulations at Arkabutla, Eagle Lake, Enid, Grenada, Lake Washington, and Sardis Reservoir require devices to be within sight during daylight hours to ensure responsible fishing.
- Night Fishing: Devices may be used at night without direct attendance, with the exception of Lake Washington, where night attendance is mandatory to minimize ecological impact.
- Lake Washington Special Rule: Yo-yos can be left unattended only from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., highlighting targeted management practices for specific water bodies.
Gear Identification and Compliance
- Tagging Requirements: In designated waters, all fishing gear must be clearly marked with a tag displaying the MDWFP number or the angler's full name, residence address, and zip code. This rule aids in the accountability and traceability of fishing activities.
- Tag Specifications: Tags should be made of durable materials and inscribed with waterproof ink or stamping to withstand aquatic conditions. Yo-yo tags, in particular, must be positioned above the water line for visibility and compliance.
- Enforcement: MDWFP Law Enforcement officers are authorized to seize unattended devices that do not comply with these regulations, underscoring the importance of adherence for the preservation of Mississippi's aquatic ecosystems.
Guidelines for Harvesting Crawfish and Freshwater Shrimp
Licensing Requirements for Harvesting
To harvest crawfish and freshwater shrimp from public waters for personal use, an individual must possess a valid sport fishing license, unless they qualify for an exemption under section 49-7-9. Those intending to sell crawfish and freshwater shrimp harvested from public waters are required to obtain a freshwater commercial fishing license, ensuring that commercial activities are regulated and sustainable.
Trap Identification and Use
All traps utilized in public waters for catching shrimp and crawfish must be properly marked. Anglers are responsible for providing a waterproof tag on each trap, which should include the license holder’s Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks (MDWFP) number or the full name, residence address, and zip code for those exempt from license requirements. This identification facilitates accountability and aids in the management of natural resources.
Crawfish Trap Specifications
- Construction: Crawfish traps are to be made from coated wire, designed specifically for capturing crawfish without harming other aquatic life.
- Design Limitations: The openings or throats of the traps must not exceed 2 inches, a regulation that ensures the targeted capture of crawfish while minimizing the accidental trapping of non-target species.
- Commercially Available Traps: Anglers are permitted to use any commercially available crawfish trap that adheres to the specified dimensions, promoting the use of standardized equipment for effective resource management.
Freshwater Shrimp Trap Regulations
- Illegal Practices: The use of traps that exceed 36 inches in length, 24 inches in width, or 12 inches in height is prohibited. Additionally, traps with external or unattached wings, weirs, or devices designed to funnel shrimp into the trap are not allowed, preventing overharvesting and ensuring the conservation of shrimp populations.
Unlimited Trap Use with Responsibility
While there is no limit on the number of traps an individual can use for catching crawfish and freshwater shrimp, anglers are encouraged to fish responsibly. The absence of a numerical cap on traps highlights the importance of sustainable practices and adherence to regulations designed to preserve aquatic ecosystems for future generations.
Specific Areas Off-Limits for Certain Fishing Methods in Mississippi
Overview of Restricted Zones
Mississippi enforces specific restrictions on the use of trotlines, throw lines, set hooks, limblines, Free Floating Fishing Devices (FFFD’s), jugs, and yo-yos in designated areas to protect aquatic ecosystems and ensure public safety. These regulations are crucial for maintaining the balance between recreational fishing activities and the conservation of water bodies across the state.
Detailed Restrictions on Fishing Methods
- Aberdeen Lock Spillway Areas: From the spillway downstream to the U.S. 45 overpass, including the auxiliary spillway and bank fishing areas in the Tombigbee River cutoff below the dam, are off-limits for the mentioned devices.
- All Spillways with Specific Restrictions: Refer to the Spillway Restrictions section for detailed prohibitions across various locations.
- State Park Lakes and Fishing Lakes: The use of these fishing methods is banned across all State Park Lakes and State Fishing Lakes to preserve the tranquil and natural environment of these areas.
- Amory and Fulton Lock Areas: From the Amory Lock downstream to the MS Hwy 6 overpass and from the Fulton Lock downstream to the MS Hwy 78 overpass, the usage of these fishing devices is prohibited.
- Lock-Specific Restrictions: Several locks, including the G.V. Sonny Montgomery, Glover Wilkens, Jamie L. Whitten, and John Rankin Locks, have specific downstream areas where these fishing methods are not allowed.
- Lake Washington Exceptions: While limblines and set hooks are banned, Lake Washington permits the use of sportfishing trotlines, FFFD’s, and yo-yos under regulated conditions.
- Ross Barnett Reservoir: Restrictions apply within Pelahatchie Bay, certain creek areas, and specific zones of the reservoir, particularly near sandbars, public boat launches, and navigational channels, to ensure safe and responsible fishing practices.
- Sardis Lower Lake: The area from the outlet structure to Spaulding Creek is closed to most of these fishing methods, except FFFD’s, which are allowed under certain conditions.
Spillway Fishing Regulations: Seasonal and Gear Restrictions
Targeted Spillway Areas with Special Rules
Mississippi enforces precise spillway restrictions to manage fishing pressure and protect aquatic ecosystems in sensitive areas. The following locations are subject to special fishing restrictions:
- Aberdeen and Columbus Spillways
- Arkabutla, Enid, Grenada, Sardis, Okatibbee, and Ross Barnett Reservoirs: Restrictions apply from the spillway outlet to the end of the riprap.
- Bluff Lake Spillway in Noxubee County.
- Lowhead Dam on Ross Barnett Reservoir: From the dam to the end of the Idle Speed Only/No Wake Zone downstream of the dam.
Seasonal Fishing Restrictions
Winter Season (December 1 - February's End): Anglers are limited to one pole or rod per person with no more than two single hooks, which must be at least 1 inch apart and no larger than size #2. This restriction applies to all specified spillway areas, except the lowhead dam area of Ross Barnett Reservoir.
Rest of the Year (March 1 - November 30): The same one pole or rod per person limit applies, with up to two single hooks of any size, maintaining the minimum 1-inch spacing between hooks.
Gear and Lure Restrictions
- Artificial Lures: Throughout the year, up to two artificial lures equipped with no more than three treble hooks each are permitted. These hooks must not exceed size #2.
- Prohibited Practices: The use of bare or baited treble hooks is strictly forbidden within these spillway areas to prevent undue harm to fish populations.
Additional Gear Allowed
Only specific gear types are allowed for capturing bait within these areas, including:
- Dip or Landing Nets, Cast Nets, Boat-mounted Scoops, Wire Baskets, Minnow Seines, and Minnow Traps: These can be employed exclusively for shad and minnows capture.
- Catch Handling: Legal fish caught using these methods must be immediately stored on ice or in a dry container, except in the Lowhead dam area on Ross Barnett Reservoir, where all game fish must be released immediately upon capture.
Grabbling Season Guidelines in Mississippi
Seasonal Availability for Grabbling
Mississippi designates the period from May 1 to July 15 as the official grabbling season. This unique form of fishing, which involves catching non-game fish such as catfish directly with hands or using a rope (without any attachments), is a traditional method that connects anglers closely with the natural aquatic environment.
Approved Containers and Materials
- Wooden Containers Only: For grabbling, the use of wooden containers is permitted to create an environment for catfish to nest. This sustainable choice ensures that materials integrate naturally into aquatic ecosystems without causing harm.
- Prohibited Materials: The state prohibits the use of non-biodegradable materials for grabbling structures. This includes plastic or metal barrels, hot water tanks, concrete pipes, tires, and similar items. These regulations are in place to protect Mississippi's water bodies from pollution and to maintain the natural habitat of fish species.
Restrictions on Structure Placement and Alteration
- Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway: No cavity-type structures intended for hand-grabbling purposes may be placed in the waters of the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway. This rule is designed to preserve the natural state of these waters and ensure the safety of both aquatic life and participants.
- Natural Area Alteration: It is illegal to modify natural areas for grabbling by adding boards, wire, or any other materials to logs, holes, or similar structures. Such alterations disrupt the natural habitat and are detrimental to the ecosystem.
- Capture Methods: Raising any part of a natural or wooden container out of the water to aid in fish capture is also prohibited. This ensures that the grabbling experience remains a fair and sustainable practice, focusing on skill rather than manipulation of the environment.
Fish Attractors in Mississippi
Prohibited Materials for Fish Attractors
The introduction of non-biodegradable materials into public waters as fish attractors is strictly forbidden. Items such as:
- Plastic or metal barrels
- Plastic or metal pipes and tubing exceeding 4 inches in diameter
- Hot water tanks
- Concrete pipes
are considered harmful to aquatic ecosystems due to their inability to decompose, posing environmental risks and potentially harming wildlife.
Permissible Materials and Construction
For those looking to enhance fish habitats through attractors, the following materials are allowed, subject to certain conditions:
- Wood: Recognized for its natural decomposition process, which benefits aquatic life.
- Plastic Tubing and Pipe: Acceptable as long as the diameter does not exceed 4 inches, preventing the creation of hazardous obstructions.
- Concrete, Rope, Wire, and Nails: These materials may be employed to construct effective and environmentally safe fish attractors.
Before placing any fish attractor materials in public waters, individuals must secure written permission from the relevant federal or state agency overseeing the water body. This requirement ensures that all structures placed in public waters contribute positively to the habitat without causing navigation hazards or environmental damage.
Specific Permit Requirements
For those aiming to install fish attractors or grabbling boxes in Ross Barnett Reservoir, a permit is mandatory. This additional layer of regulation helps manage the reservoir's ecosystem effectively, maintaining balance and accessibility for all users.
- Permit Application: Interested parties should contact the Ross Barnett Reservoir office directly at (601) 856-6574 to initiate the permit application process.
Carrying Written Permission
Upon obtaining the necessary permissions, individuals are required to have a copy of the written authorization with them at all times during the transportation and placement of fish attractor materials. This documentation serves as proof of compliance with state and federal regulations, ensuring that activities are conducted responsibly and within legal parameters.
Prohibitions on Illegal Fishing Practices in Mississippi
Unlawful Methods and Practices
Mississippi enforces strict regulations against illegal fishing methods to preserve aquatic ecosystems and ensure sustainable fish populations. The following practices are prohibited:
- Muddying: Disturbing the water to disorient fish and make them easier to catch is not allowed.
- Chemical Use: Employing lime, poison, or any toxic substance to capture fish is illegal due to its harmful impact on water quality and aquatic life.
- Explosives: Using explosives to catch fish disrupts ecosystems and is dangerous to both the environment and human safety.
- Electrical Devices: The use of electrofishing equipment by unauthorized individuals can lead to indiscriminate fish harm and ecological imbalance.
- Wire Baskets, Fish Traps, Dip Nets: Except for specific allowances for shad and minnows, these devices cannot be used due to their potential for overharvesting and bycatch.
Bait Fishing Regulations
- Shad and Minnows: Residents may use certain gear types under specific regulations to harvest shad and minnows for bait. These exceptions are designed to balance the need for bait with the preservation of native fish populations.
Respect for Fishing Gear Ownership
- It is a violation to interfere with, use, or take fish from sport fishing gear without the explicit permission of the gear's owner. This rule protects the rights of anglers and ensures ethical fishing practices.
Stocking and Releasing Aquatic Species
- Prior to introducing any aquatic species into Mississippi's public waters, individuals must secure a permit from the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks (MDWFP). This requirement aims to prevent ecological disruptions caused by non-native or invasive species.
Regulations for Using Bait in Mississippi Sport Fishing
Legal Bait Options for Anglers
Mississippi offers sport anglers a variety of options for bait under specific conditions to ensure sustainable fishing practices. Permissible bait includes:
- Game Fish and Non-Game Gross Fish: Can be used as long as they were legally captured and the angler does not exceed the daily creel limit.
- Goldfish and Minnows: Also allowed for bait under the condition they are legally obtained.
Restrictions and Prohibitions
- Mussels: The use of mussels for bait is strictly prohibited to protect these species and maintain ecosystem balance.
- Minnows and Sale Restrictions: While minnows, non-game gross fish, and non-game fish can be harvested for personal bait use without a commercial license, selling such bait requires a freshwater commercial fishing license. It's illegal to transport minnows caught in public waters out of state for sale.
Bait Harvesting Gear: For personal use in sport fishing, shad and minnows may be captured using dip/landing nets, cast nets, boat-mounted scoops, and wire baskets, but only by residents. Minnow seines and traps have size and construction regulations to minimize environmental impact.
- Minnow Seines: Must not exceed 25 feet in length and 4 feet in depth.
- Minnow Traps: Should be made from glass, plastic, nonmetallic materials, or wire mesh, with dimensions not exceeding 32 inches in length and 12 inches in diameter, featuring an entrance no larger than 1 inch in diameter.
Handling of Caught Game Fish
- All game fish inadvertently caught while bait fishing must be promptly returned to the water to ensure their survival and preserve fish populations.
Special Considerations for Spillway Areas
- In spillway regions, fish caught for bait purposes must be immediately stored on ice or in a dry container to maintain freshness and prevent spoilage.
Regulations on the Sale of Game Fish and Commercial Fishing Practices in Mississippi
Prohibition on Game Fish Transactions
Mississippi law strictly prohibits the commercialization of game fish to preserve the state's aquatic ecosystems and ensure sustainable fishing practices. This includes:
- Buying or Selling: Engaging in transactions involving game fish harvested within Mississippi or imported from other states is illegal.
- Offers and Exchanges: Proposing to sell or exchange game fish is similarly forbidden under state regulations.
Commercial Fishing Restrictions
To further safeguard Mississippi's aquatic resources and regulate fishing activities, specific rules apply to commercial fishing:
- Gear Separation: When on the water, it is unlawful to have both commercial and sport fishing gear in the same boat. This regulation helps to clearly distinguish between commercial and recreational fishing activities, preventing the misuse of equipment and ensuring that each practice adheres to its respective legal and regulatory frameworks.
Fishing in State Border Waters: Mississippi Regulations
Validity of Mississippi Resident Licenses
Mississippi resident fishing licenses extend their validity to several state-line waters, promoting accessible fishing opportunities across borders. These areas include:
- Pickwick Lake
- Aliceville Pool
- Mississippi and Pearl Rivers, and their border lakes when these rivers serve as boundaries with Tennessee, Louisiana, and Arkansas.
This arrangement facilitates cross-state fishing activities, ensuring anglers can enjoy their sport in a broader range of locations under a single state license.
Regulations for Free Floating Fishing Devices (FFFDs)
In waters that border adjacent states, the regulations for using Free Floating Fishing Devices (FFFDs) are tailored to foster cooperative management of shared resources. The key points include:
- Legal Number of FFFDs: Anglers are permitted to use the number of FFFDs allowed by either the adjacent state or Mississippi, opting for the greater limit. However, the total number of devices must not exceed 50 per individual, ensuring sustainable fishing practices.
- Daylight Attendance: In border waters between Arkansas and Mississippi, there is a specific requirement for yo-yos and FFFDs to be attended during daylight hours. This measure aims to promote responsible fishing and minimize the risk of gear loss or environmental damage.
Rights and Responsibilities on Mississippi Public Waterways
Definition and Access
Public waterways in Mississippi are defined by the Mississippi Code Ann. §51-1-4 and detailed on maps available through the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) website. These waterways grant all citizens, both from Mississippi and other states, the right to engage in activities such as transport, fishing, and water sports at no cost.
Individuals utilizing Mississippi's public waterways do so at their own risk. This provision underscores the importance of personal responsibility and safety awareness while enjoying these natural resources.
Land Adjacency and Trespassing
The privilege of accessing public waterways does not extend to adjacent lands. Users are explicitly prohibited from trespassing on lands adjacent to streams or waterways, emphasizing respect for private property rights alongside the enjoyment of public water resources.
Environmental and Property Respect
Activities that might harm or disturb the banks, bed of the stream, or any adjacent lands under floodwaters outside the natural banks are strictly forbidden. This restriction is in place to protect the ecological integrity of waterways and the rights of landowners.
Hunting, Fishing, and Land Crossing
While public waterways can be used for fishing, the right to hunt or cross flooded lands outside the natural banks is not included. This limitation ensures that the impact on wildlife and private properties is minimized.
Motorized Vehicle Use
The use of motorized vehicles, such as ATVs and trucks, within the streambed of public waterways is generally prohibited, with specific exceptions outlined in Miss. Code Ann. §51-1-4. This rule helps preserve the natural state of waterways and reduces the risk of environmental damage.
The creel limit is the specified maximum number of fish a person can take in one day.
No person shall transport more than seven daily limits of game fish for each licensed or exempt angler present in the vehicle. A single angler may only transport his or her own daily limit(s) of fish, not to exceed seven daily limits.
While fishing areas with established MDWFP length limits all game fish must be intact (with head, tail, skin, and scales) and comply with length limits for that body of water.
Fish Measurement Guidelines and Size Regulations
Measuring Fish Length
To accurately measure a fish and ensure compliance with size regulations, follow these steps:
Standard Measurement: Place the fish on its side on a flat surface. Ensure the mouth is fully closed and the tail lobes are pressed together. Measure the total length from the tip of the snout to the end of the tail.
Paddlefish Specific Measurement: For paddlefish, the measurement should be taken from the front of the eye to the fork of the tail, acknowledging the unique physical structure of this species.
Using a flatboard or a similar straight-edge tool can aid in achieving an accurate measurement.
Understanding Size Limits
Size limits are crucial for fish conservation, allowing for the sustainable management of fish populations. Here's how to interpret and apply these limits:
Minimum Limit: Any fish that measures equal to or shorter than the regulated minimum size must be released back into the water immediately. Keeping fish below the minimum size is not allowed on designated waters.
Maximum Limit: Fish that are equal to or exceed the regulated maximum size must also be returned to the water right away. This rule helps protect large, breeding-age fish, contributing to the health of the fish population.
Slot Limit: This regulation targets a specific size range to protect developing fish. Fish within the designated slot length must be released immediately. Only those that are shorter or longer than the slot range can be retained.