The 2022 Mexico Beach Artificial Reef Association Kingfish Tournament will be happening a little earlier than in years past.
This year’s tournament will be held during the last weekend of July – July 29 and 30 – instead of the last weekend in August. Organizers say they hope this date will allow more families to participate in the event.
“We’re having it a month earlier than we’ve always had it,” said Captain Mitch Coleman, the tournament’s director. “We thought it would be good to try to do it before school started back up.”
The King and Spanish Mackerel fishing tournament is the largest annual fundraiser for the MBARA, and proceeds from the event will support the organization’s efforts to install reefs in the Gulf of Mexico to enhance sustainable fisheries in the area. This will be the tournament’s 26th year.
The date isn’t the only change fishers can expect this year. The tournament has also introduced some new divisions – including a ladies’ division and a children’s division, each with a $500 top prize.
There have also been some updates to the rules when it comes to qualifying for the tournament’s two divisions – the open and the recreational.
Any boat that is 26 feet or larger or that has a person on board that is or has been a professional tournament fisherman, recreational for hire or commercial captain, guide, crew member or fisherman in the business of fishing or harvesting seafood must register and compete separately in the open division.
Charter boats with recreational fishermen must also register in the open division. Any boat fishing in the recreational division reported and found to have a person on board meeting criteria of the open division will be disqualified for fraudulent entry and forfeit all entry fees and prizes.
Boats under 26 feet can enter the open division but cannot fish both the open and recreational divisions. The price for registration in either division is $200.
“That’s a change,” Coleman said. “In the past, the recreational included boats of any length, but there just weren’t that many fishers in the open division. There’s so many people with great big beautiful boats over here, so we thought we’d make it more competitive.”
The Captain’s Party for the tournament will be held on the 29 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. CDT at the Mexico Beach Public Boat Ramp.
It is open to the public, including those who are not registered to fish in the tournament, and it will feature live music, gumbo and a raffle.
Fishing will begin the day after, with the open division beginning at 12 a.m. and the recreational division beginning at 5 a.m. CDT. Both divisions will end at 6 p.m..
Weigh-in will be held from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the boat ramp.
The first place winners for King Mackerel in both the recreational and the open division will bring home $3,000 and will get to name an existing reef valued at $2,500.
For more information about prizes or to register for the tournament, visit https://www.mbara.org/tournament-registration.cfm.