Freshwater Sport Fishing
MDWFP manages all public freshwater fish populations north of Hwy 90. This includes over 159,000 acres of flood-control and water-supply reservoirs, 20 state fishing lakes, 20 state park lakes and 20 community fishing assistance ponds. Over 50,000 miles of creeks, streams, and rivers are also managed. A freshwater fishing license is required to fish in public waters north of Interstate 10, unless you are exempt. Review the license section at the beginning of the digest for license requirements or call (601) 432-2055. Fishing is allowed year-round. Go to www.mdwfp.com for weekly fishing reports from February through November.
Free Fishing Days
On June 3 - 4, 2023, , 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 Methods
Hook and Line: Game fish may be taken by hook and line (one or more hooks, including rod and reel with artificial bait). You may actively fish with an unlimited number of poles or rod/reels except on waters where the number of poles or rod/reels is restricted. Check the Special Regulations Section for specific restrictions.
Bow & Arrow, Crossbow, Spear, or Gig are allowed for the harvest of the following: bowfin, buffalo, common carp, catfish, gar, shad, silver carp, bighead carp, black carp, grass carp, and snakehead. Only carp, gar, buffalo, and bowfin may be taken by bow and arrow at night at State Fishing Lakes and State Park Lakes. Catfish may not be taken with spear or gig from May 1 through July 15. No other species of fish may be harvested with these gears.
Snagging: Snagging is when fish are intentionally hooked in any place other than the mouth. Snagging is allowed statewide the entire year for all game fish and non-game gross fish. Any size hook may be used when snagging except when fishing in spillways. See spillway restrictions.
Trotlines, Throwlines, Limblines and/or Set Hooks are allowed for the harvest of game fish and non-game gross fish. No more than a total of 100 single hooks may be fished. Hooks must be tied securely at least 2 feet apart. The Mississippi Department of Marine Resources regulates trotline use in the waters south of Interstate 10. Anglers should call (228) 374-5000 to learn about fishing trotlines in these waters.
Each person having a valid sport fishing license may use no more than 100 hooks per person.
Free Floating Fishing Devices (FFFD), Jugs, and Yo-Yos: No more than 25 jugs and no more than 25 yo-yos may be fished by an individual with no more than 2 single hooks on each of these devices. If these devices are attached to a line, they must be tied securely at least 2 feet apart. See State Border Waters section for legal number allowed in those areas. These gears do not need to be attended or tagged unless you are fishing in the following waters:
- Arkabutla Reservoir in Tate and Desoto counties
- Eagle Lake in Warren County
- Enid Reservoir in Lafayette, Panola, and Yalobusha counties
- Grenada Reservoir in Grenada, Calhoun, and Yalobusha counties
- Lake Washington in Washington County
- Sardis Reservoir in Panola, Marshall, and Lafayette counties
In these waters, attended means devices (whether set, baited, or tripped) must remain within sight of the angler during daylight hours. These devices may be fished at night without attendance except at Lake Washington where attendance at night is required. At Lake Washington, yo-yos may only be unattended (tripped, with hook out of the water) from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Unattended yo-yos fishing during the day at the waters listed above and fishing at night at Lake Washington may be seized by MDWFP Law Enforcement officers except for those fishing unattended at Lake Washington from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. In these waters, all gear must be legibly marked with a tag. The tags shall be furnished by the angler and must contain either the license holder’s MDWFP number or the full name, residence address, and zip code of any angler exempt from purchasing a license. This information must be legibly written with either waterproof ink or stamped. Yo-yo tags shall be attached above the water line.
Crawfish and Freshwater Shrimp
A sport fishing license is required (unless exempt by 49-7-9) to harvest crawfish and freshwater shrimp from public waters for personal use. A freshwater commercial fishing license is required to sell crawfish and freshwater shrimp harvested from public waters. Shrimp and crawfish traps fished in public waters shall be marked with a waterproof tag provided by the angler, which shall contain either the license holder’s MDWFP number or the full name, residence address and zip code of any angler exempt from purchasing a license.
There is no limit on the number of crawfish traps and freshwater shrimp traps a person may fish.
Crawfish traps are any device constructed of coated wire with openings of throats or flutes not exceeding 2 inches and are used for the sole purpose of taking crawfish. Any commercially available crawfish trap with openings of the throats or flutes not exceeding 2 inches may be used.
Shrimp traps—It is illegal to take or attempt to take freshwater shrimp by the use of any trap which exceeds the following dimensions: 36 inches long (from the rear of the heart to the leading edge of the trap), by 24 inches wide (between the leading edges of the trap, or heart opening), by 12 inches high; or has external or unattached wings, weirs, or other devices intended to funnel shrimp to the trap heart.
Areas Closed to Trotlines, Throw Lines, Set Hooks, Limblines, FFFD’s, Jugs, and Yo-Yos:
- Aberdeen Lock spillway downstream to U.S. 45 overpass, including auxiliary spillway and associated bank fishing access area in the Tombigbee River cutoff below the dam.
- All spillways listed in the Spillway Restrictions section.
- All State Park Lakes and State Fishing Lakes.
- Amory Lock downstream to MS Hwy 6 overpass.
- Fulton Lock downstream to MS Hwy 78 overpass.
- G.V. Sonny Montgomery Lock downstream to mile marker 406.
- Glover Wilkens Lock downstream to mile marker 375
- Jamie L. Whitten Lock downstream to MS Hwy 4 overpass.
- John Rankin Lock downstream to mile marker 398.
- John C. Stennis Lock spillway downstream to mile marker 334, including auxiliary spillway and associated bank fishing access area in the Tombigbee River cutoff below the dam.
- Lake Washington: Limblines and set hooks may not be fished or set, but sportfishing trotlines, FFFD’s and yo-yos may be used.
- Ross Barnett Reservoir: Pelahatchie Bay, Pelahatchie Creek, and the area of the reservoir north of the main dam and south of a line between the point where Twin Harbors channel enters the main lake in Madison County and the Fannin Landing boat launch in Rankin County; within 100 yards of any sandbar or public boat launching facility within the main lake or river; in any marked navigational channel between State Highway 43 and Ratliff Ferry in Madison County.
- Sardis Lower Lake from the outlet structure to Spaulding Creek, except that FFFD’s are permitted in Sardis Lower Lake.
Special restrictions apply to spillways at the following lakes:
- Aberdeen and Columbus spillways.
- Arkabutla, Enid, Grenada, Sardis, Okatibbee, and Ross Barnett Reservoirs from the spillway outlet to the end of the rip rap.
- 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 Area downstream of the dam.
From December 1 until the last day of February anglers fishing these waters may use no more than one pole or rod per person (except those in the lowhead dam area of Ross Barnett Reservoir) with no more than 2 single hooks. Single hooks must be at least 1 inch apart and must be no larger than #2.
From March 1 to November 30 anglers may use no more than one pole or rod per person (except those in the lowhead dam area of Ross Barnett Reservoir) with no more than 2 single hooks of any size. Single hooks must be at least 1 inch apart.
Artificial lures with no more than 3 treble hooks no larger than #2 may be used year round.
The use of bare or baited treble hooks is illegal in these spillway areas. No other gear may be used in these waters except for dip or landing nets, cast nets, boat-mounted scoops, wire baskets, minnow seines, and minnow traps that can be used to capture shad and minnows. Anglers keeping legal fish caught with these gear types in these waters, except for Lowhead dam in Leake County on Ross Barnett Reservoir, must immediately place their catch on ice or in a dry container. All game fish caught with these gear types must be released immediately upon capture.
Grabbling is open from May 1 to July 15. Grabbling is fishing for non-game fish, most notably catfish, with your hands or with rope (no attachments). Only wooden containers may be used. It is illegal to place or take fish from structures such as plastic or metal barrels, hot water tanks, concrete pipe, tires, and other non-biodegradable materials in any public waters of the state. It shall be illegal to place any cavity-type structure, intended to be used for hand-grabbling purposes, in all Mississippi water of the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway.
It is unlawful to alter any natural areas by placing boards, wire, or any other obstruction to logs, holes, etc., or to take fish from such altered devices. It is also unlawful to raise any part of a natural or wooden container out of the water thereby aiding in the capture of enclosed fish.
It shall be illegal to place structures such as plastic or metal barrels, plastic or metal pipes and tubing larger than 4 inches in diameter, hot water tanks, concrete pipes and tires, and any other nonbiodegradable material into the public waters of the state for use as fish attractors. However, wooden materials and plastic tubing and pipe materials may be used as fish attractors provided that the plastic materials are no larger than 4 inches in diameter. Concrete, rope, wire, and nails may be used to make fish attractors. Written permission to place such legal fish attractor materials into public waters must be obtained from the federal or state agency which owns the specific water body. The person placing such fish attractor material into the public water must carry a copy of the written permission on them at all times when transporting and placing such material. A permit is required to place fish attractors and grabbing boxes in Ross Barnett Reservoir. To apply for a permit, call the Ross Barnett Reservoir office at (601) 856-6574.
Illegal Fishing Methods
It is unlawful to take any fish species by muddying and by the use of lime, poison, explosives, electrical devices, wire baskets, fish traps, or dip nets; except that shad and minnows may be taken by residents only as specified below under the Bait section. It is illegal to take fish, crawfish, or shrimp from, tamper with or use any sport fishing gear without the consent of the gear’s owner.
No person shall stock, place, release, or cause to be released into any of the public waters of the state any aquatic species without first obtaining a permit from the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks.
Sport anglers may use game fish, non-game gross fish, goldfish, and minnows for bait, as long as they were legally taken and you do not possess more than the daily creel limit. Anglers can harvest minnows, non-game gross fish, and non-game fish for personal use as bait without a commercial fishing license. A freshwater commercial fishing license is required to sell those fishes legally taken in minnow seines and minnow traps from public waters. No minnows caught in public waters shall be taken outside of the state for sale. Shad and minnows may be taken for sport fishing bait using dip/landing nets, cast nets, boat mounted scoops, and wire baskets by residents only for personal use during sport fishing. Minnow seines and minnow traps can be used to harvest minnows, nongame gross fish, and nongame fish for bait. Minnow seines must be no more than 25 feet in length and 4 feet in depth. Minnow traps shall be constructed of glass, plastic, nonmetallic, or wire mesh not more than 32 inches in length and 12 inches in diameter without leads or wings and having an entrance no larger than 1 inch in diameter. All game fish caught with these gears must be immediately returned to the water. Freshwater mussels cannot be collected or used for bait (State Law 49-9-5). Fish caught for bait in spillway areas must immediately be placed on ice or in a dry container.
Sale of Game Fish
It is illegal for any person, while in Mississippi, to buy or sell, offer for sale, or exchange any game fish harvested in Mississippi or coming from another state.
It shall be illegal to possess while on the water, both commercial and sport fishing gear in the same boat. See the Commercial Fishing brochure for information or go to www.mdwfp.com/fishing-boating/freshwater-commercial/.
State Border Waters
Mississippi resident licenses are valid for fishing certain state-line waters including:
- Pickwick Lake
- Aliceville Pool
- Mississippi and Pearl Rivers and border lakes along these rivers where they are the boundaries between Mississippi, Tennessee, Louisiana, and Arkansas.
In Mississippi waters that border adjacent states, the legal number of FFFDs shall be that of the adjacent state or the Mississippi limit, whichever is greater, but not to exceed 50 per individual. Yo-yos and FFFDs must be attended during daylight hours on borderline waters between Arkansas and Mississippi.
For details on state border waters and current reciprocal agreements, visit our website, www.mdwfp.com
Public waterways are defined in Miss. Code Ann. §51-1-4, and set forth on a map at www.mdeq.ms.gov/water/surface-water/public-waterways/ by the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality. All citizens of the state of Mississippi and other states have the right to use the public waterways for free transport, fishing, and water sports. Any person using the public waterways of the state does so at his or her own risk. The use of public waterways of the state does not entitle any person to trespass upon any lands adjacent to the stream or waterway. No person using the public waterways may harm or disturb the banks or bed of the stream, nor may any person hunt, fish, or go across any adjacent lands under floodwaters outside the natural banks of the waterway. The right of the public to use the public waterways does not include the use of motorized vehicles (ATVs, trucks, etc.) on the streambed. Exceptions to this prohibition are set forth in Miss. Code Ann. §51-1-4.
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.
How to Measure a Fish
Lay the fish on its side, with the mouth closed and the tail lobes pressed together. Measure the total length from the tip of the snout to the end of the tail. Paddlefish are measured from the front of the eye to the fork of the tail.
Minimum limit: Fish measuring equal to or shorter than the regulated size length must be returned to the water immediately after capture and may not be possessed on designated waters. Fish exceeding the minimum length may be kept.
Maximum limit: Fish measuring equal to or longer than the regulated size length must be returned to the water immediately upon capture and may not be in possession on these designated waters. Fish shorter than the maximum length limit may be kept.
Slot length limit: Fish measuring equal to or between the designated range in inches must be returned to the water immediately upon capture and may not be in possession on these designated waters. Fish shorter than or longer than the designated range may be kept.