Hurry Down to the Beach–it’s a Jubilee!

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We drove south toward the Gulf of Mexico and on the bus we met Alex Robinson, the pretty and young chamber of commerce representative from the town of Fairport, population 16,000. She said that when she was young she used to come to Fairport to visit her grandparents, now she and her attorney-husband make it their home with their five-month old son.

“You know there’s one thing we have here that only happens in one other place in the world,” she said tantalizingly. “It’s called the Jubilee!” It turns out that this is a natural phenomenon in Mobile Bay that’s not easily explained, involving the oxygen levels in the gulf during the summer. At certain times it gets so low that all of the fish, crabs, eels and shrimp make a beeline for the shallowest water near the shore, and begin beaching themselves frantically, trying to get more oxygen.

The locals then pounce on all of this fresh free seafood and scoop them up to bring home in ice chests to their freezers. “It could be four in the morning, or four in the afternoon, you get a call and then you all run down to the beach and there are thousands of flounder, shrimp, all sorts of crabs, and people make gigs, long strings to collect as many as they can. It’s a really neat thing,” said Alex. “One woman one time grabbed a handful of shrimp and then just drove off, one hand on the wheel the other holding six or seven shrimp!”

This Jubilee, so named because of the joy the old timers used to get out of picking up all of this free fish, is easier now in the age of cellphones. You can get a call any time and when you hear about it–bam, you’re down at the beach ready to pick up whatever you can find. “And the fish don’t even flop around, the crabs don’t wriggle,” said Alex. “It’s like they’ve accepted that it’s time to go.”