Jubilee in Mobile Bay

Let’s imagine that you love to eat crab, shrimp, fish, and other critters of the sea. Let’s further imagine that you enjoy such seafood so much, you wouldn’t think twice about grabbing a bucket, filling it up with such deepwater delicacies, and consuming them until you’re in a state of gluttonous glee. Let’s take it up one more notch, and imagine that there is a place in the state of Alabama where this is a realistic possibility. You can fill your bucket or nets up until your heart’s content, and it won’t cost you a dime; you just need good timing and a little luck.

Although this sounds like a radio prize resulting in the gift for an “All-You-Can-Eat” buffet pass on Alabama’s sandy coast, there is actually a scientific phenomenon that occurs in Mobile Bay called jubilee. Generally once a year (but sometimes more) when certain conditions exist in the bay during the late summer, a slew of many oceanic species come up to the very shallow waters and even on the shore in a moribund state, making their capture fairly easy by those lusting after their deliciousness. The Eastern Shore of the bay from Daphne down to Point Clear is where most of the action happens, and the event generally occurs during the predawn hours. If someone witnesses the event occurring, the neighborly gesture is to wake up the local residents with shouts of “Jubilee!” so everyone can come and grab a bountiful harvest of seafood.

So exactly WHY does it happen?  A short and amateur explanation is that the water near the Eastern shore is usually very oxygenated. When certain factors develop harmoniously such as an Easterly wind and rising tide, these levels can deplete rather quickly, forcing the sea life in the area towards the shore where there is usually enough of an oxygen supply to sustain then until the event is over (which doesn’t last very long). In the meantime, thank Mother Nature for blessing us with this little gift that is thought to only occur in two places globally; Tokyo Bay in Japan, and of course, Mobile Bay in Alabama.

For further reading and more information, check out:

Extensive Oxygen Depletion in Mobile Bay – May 1973

The South’s Easiest Fishing: Alabama’s Fascinating Jubilee