Harrison County

Record number of boats will vie for record in Billfish tourney

More than 125 boats already have registered for the 21st Biloxi Billfish Tournament in June in the quest to land a swordfish that will beat the state’s record.

It doesn’t have to be a whopper, said Bobby Carter, tournament director.

He told the City Council on Tuesday the records are 400 pounds in Florida and Alabama, more than 400 pounds in Texas and more than 300 pounds in Louisiana — “and Mississippi is only 75 pounds.”

A potential prize of more than $325,000 will go to the angler who catches the heaviest fish that breaks Mississippi's record, he said, making this a real draw for the tournament.

Last year’s tournament drew 84 vessels. The record before this year was 111.

“Emeril will be back,” he said, referring to celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse, whose wife is from Gulfport. He will return this year, along with some champion fishermen and multimillion-dollar boats, Carter said.

Point Cadet Marina adjacent to Golden Nugget Casino is already at capacity, and he said some of the overflow will be docked in Gulfport and Ocean Springs.

The purse for the June 5-11 tournament is expected to be close to $2 million. Fishing days will be June 9 and 10.

Also on Tuesday, the council approved a bond of up to $7.5 million bond to make improvements to the city’s wharves, piers, docks and boardwalks.

City attorney Peter Abide said the bond is repaid by the county. About $1 million is left to pay on the current bond at 6 percent, he said, and with interest rates low, the city wants to use the opportunity to improve port and other facilities.

Biloxi was notified by the state that due to budget issues the $1 million grant for the Festival Boardwalk in West Biloxi is being cut by $200,000 to $300,000, Abide said, and this will be used in part to make up for the shortage.