MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Folks along part of the eastern shore of Mobile Bay were treated to quite the phenomenon on Labor Day. A rare jubilee occurred during the daytime hours Monday near and around the Fairhope area.
Wait, what exactly is a jubilee?
That’s exactly what we’re here to tell you!
A jubilee happens when a combination of several different factors come together juuuuust right, leading to an exceptional number of fish and crustaceans such as flounder, crabs and shrimp wind up right along the shorelines of Mobile Bay. Occasionally there may even be eels, stingrays, jellyfish, and other bottom-dwelling sea creatures thrown in the mix!
But why would a bunch of delicious seafood want to move to the shallow water only to get captured and eventually end up on someone’s dinner plate?
Put simply, they are seeking water with sufficient amounts of oxygen.
Sometimes the bottom waters in Mobile Bay can become deprived of the oxygen levels needed to sustain life. Then, every so often, an up-welling event will occur, which is the upward movement of the oxygen-poor bottom waters. As this happens, the animals seek the shoreline waters that are not impacted by the up-welling.
In addition to up-welling, the City of Fairhope names other conditions that must be met for jubilees to occur:
“They usually only occur in the summer, usually in the morning before sunrise. The previous day’s weather conditions must include an overcast or cloudy day, a gentle wind from the east, and a calm and slick bay surface. Also, a rising tide is necessary; a change to a falling tide will stop the jubilee. It takes a combination of all these conditions to produce the phenomenon.”
All of these conditions are only satisfied in two locations across the world: Mobile Bay and Tokyo. Despite us knowing jubilees happen in Mobile Bay, it’s pretty much a guessing game trying to determine when and where the next one will happen.
There’s typically at least one jubilee annually somewhere along the shoreline of Mobile Bay.
Some years can feature a couple to even several jubilees, but knowing where exactly they will happen and how large they will be is virtually impossible. Still, Mobile-area residents and vacationers alike listen for the “jubilee” call during the summer months ready to flock to the bay’s shoreline.
The jubilee write-up by the City of Fairhope says residents are “excited by the prospect of gigging hundreds of flounder or catching tubs of crabs in just a few hours.”
Not every jubilee is the same, but the potential to catch a substantial amount of seafood like flounder, crabs and shrimp in a short period of time without doing much work provides plenty of motivation to be on the constant look-out!