When I was looking for a family destination that included fishing and fun, we threw a dart and hit a bullseye with Biloxi, Mississippi. I don’t know what I love better — catching fish or eating them. Fortunately, Biloxi offered us an incredible variety of both. As we were soon to find out, this amazing coastal community is home to a lot more than great fishing.
Diversity of Fishing is Incredible
One of the many unique aspects of the Biloxi area is the variety of fishing opportunities. Anglers are pretty much guaranteed to catch fish in one of several ways — fishing off the sea wall, taking a head boat to fish for white trout just outside the main harbor, fishing inshore with light tackle for redfish, trout, ground mullet and flounder, or going off shore fishing for giant redfish, mackerel and shark. My son and I got to experience inshore the first day, and offshore the last day, trolling the deeper waters 10-12 miles out where we caught giant redfish and 25-30 pound Jack Crevalles. The costs for these trips vary. On the head boats that take large group out, an angler can expect to pay $35 per person. The inshore and offshore trips cost more, due mostly to the gas consumption. But the great thing about this region is that many of the boat operators offer “split charters”. Instead of paying for the entire boat, anglers can jump on a boat with a handful of other fisherman and split the charter and the cost. So instead of chartering the entire boat, our 3.5 hour trip only cost us $270— that was for me and my son and we didn’t need to buy a fishing license. It’s a great way to cost effectively experience the thrill of big game fishing.
A New Found Respect for Shrimp- My Favorite Cocktail Snack
Before my trip to Biloxi, I only knew 2 things about shrimp — they come from the south and they’re delicious. But I had the opportunity to learn firsthand how incredible the shrimping industry is. We took a 90-minute tour with the Biloxi Shrimping Trip, a large boat that had a miniature version of actual shrimping boat equipment with trawls and nets. The captains showed us how the equipment works, putting the nets in the water then dragging them through the channel outside the marina. After a short troll, they pulled the nets in loaded with a variety of marine life which they placed in a small glass tank. As dolphins splashed around the boat, the captains explained the different kinds of creatures and talked about shrimp, specifically the trillions of shrimp that thrive in these waters. In fact, only about 5 percent of the shrimp population is harvested for human consumption. Fish and other sea creatures dine on the rest, which is one reason why this is such an incredible fishery. The kids had a blast and learned a lot, as did I. Be sure to take the Biloxi Shrimping Trip, you can contact them on their website HERE.
Fun for Everyone – In and Out of the Sun
In addition to the fishing, there were plenty of other great activities for the family. Thanks to our friends at the Visit Mississippi Gulf Coast Tourism Bureau, we got a chance to try some out. We took a tour of the Gulf Coast Gator Ranch where we took an airboat tour through the cypress swamps and watched our guide, Tim feed wild alligators, as well as see how the baby gators are hatched and raised. Only 40 minutes from Biloxi, this is a “must see” during your stay. The Gator Ranch is dedicated to rescue and preservation of alligators. In addition to an awesome airboat ride, visitors can take a tour of the facility and see how alligators are cared for throughout each step of their lives. Be sure to visit this family-friendly attraction. Get info on their website HERE!
We took a day trip by ferry boat to Ship Island, a federally-managed park 10 miles off the coast, where we toured historic Fort Massachusetts, played in the surf and saw wild manta rays. The folks at Ship Island Excursions do an absolutely incredible job of providing a safe, convenient trip to this unique attraction. The combination of history and playing on the beach is sure to please the entire family. The kids brought their nets and caught live starfish washing up in the surf, probably the highlight of the day.
Back on the mainland, we took tours of the Lynn Meadows Discovery Center and the Maritime and Seafood Industry Museum, both spectacular family-oriented venues and true treasures to the community. Formerly a grade school, the Lynn Meadows Discovery Center serves the community by offering an educational, fun learning environment with programs and classes for youngsters, as well as a performing arts center. And luck was on our side— our trip coincided with the Biloxi Seafood Festival, where I have never in my life tasted the biggest and best variety of seafood ever prepared.
Rich in Seafood, and History
At one time, Biloxi was the seafood capital of the world. That’s right, the world. The barrier islands that enclose this part of the Gulf of Mexico form the Mississippi Sound. And it’s these islands that offer marine life a sanctuary from open ocean, creating one of the richest ecosystems on the southern coastline. In fact the entire Gulf Coast region produces 70 percent of the nation’s oysters and 69 percent of domestic shrimp. And being of Slovenian descent, I was fascinated to learn that many of the original pioneers who began the shrimp and oyster industry in Biloxi were immigrants from Yugoslavia, Poland, Germany and Austria. Families worked 14-hour days to harvest the bounty of the Mississippi Sound that produced seafood for the nation, passing their skills and heritage down from one generation to the next.
A Region Recovered
Just about everyone I talked to during our stay had a “Katrina” story. From the alligators washing out of their enclosures at the Gator Ranch, to the Biloxi lighthouse glass that blew out only to have each prism miraculously recovered and reconstructed. Biloxi didn’t garner national media attention like New Orleans, but the devastation they endured was horrific nonetheless. After ten years since Katrina, it’s clear that the people of this region are resilient. They built back, better and stronger. Their hardiness and perseverance is obvious. The highway that runs along the coast through Biloxi and other communities is peppered with new restaurants, museums, shops, casinos and marinas, fostering a culture of tourism and establishing an amazing family-friendly destination.
The history and culture here, as well as the southern hospitality we experienced far exceeded my expectations. I had a chance to spend time with my family, learn about the treasures of the Mississippi Gulf Coast and experience one of the coolest destinations in the country. To plan your adventure here start with GulfCoast.org.
Here are links to all of the amazing adventures that we experienced…
Check out the pix below, then start here to plan your trip…
Visit Mississippi Gulf Coast Tourism or GulfCoast.org.