Mobile Bay Experiences First Jubilee of the Summer

Photo courtesy of Explore the Eastern Shore/Facebook

Alabama’s first jubilee of the summer occurred June 12 on Mobile Bay’s Eastern Shore. With flounder, shrimp, blue crabs and other tasty critters flopping around in the shallows near Point Clear, many collected coolers full of seafood, while others went home with citations from Alabama game wardens.

A jubilee is a rare natural phenomenon in which weather, water and tidal conditions push oxygen-depleted water toward the Eastern Shore of Mobile Bay. It corrals helpless sea creatures in the shallows against the shore, and Eastern Shore residents have long spread the word when jubilees occur. People flock to them to fill coolers using gigs, cast nets and their hands.

Following the June 12 jubilee, during which several people were issued citations by conservation enforcement officers, officials with the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) reminded the public that jubilees are not free-for-alls and they are not fish kills, either. Most of the critters caught up in a jubilee swim or scuttle away no worse for the wear once oxygen levels return to normal with a shift in tide or weather conditions.

Regular Alabama size, season and bag limits will continue to be enforced, and those participating in jubilees must have a regular Alabama saltwater fishing license.

Here is an explanation for jubilees from ADCNR’s David Rainer:
The event starts with an incoming tide with very warm, still water, followed by organic load that creates a situation that depletes the oxygen in the water. Often, jubilees follow an afternoon rain shower and an easterly or northeasterly wind. The Mobile Bay National Estuary Program explains that phytoplankton also contributes to this phenomenon by consuming oxygen near the surface of the water. When the easterly breeze starts blowing, this creates a water current that causes the oxygen-poor water to migrate toward the shore. This has a corralling effect, herding the bottom-dwelling species into the shallows. There those species become so lethargic that people can just pick them up. These events usually lasts two to three hours.

In case you were wondering whether Mobile Bay’s jubilees are the result of climate change or pollution, know that they have a very long history going back to the 1800s, when bells would ring to sound the jubilee because locals were dependent on seafood to feed their families.

August and September are the best months to encounter a jubilee, but it’s not the kind of thing you can predict. You just have to be there and hope to encounter it… or have friends in the know on social media.




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