We reporters go to many types of scenes where we report on what is happening, but we are not active participants.
I longed to be a participant Wednesday morning when I saw crab and fish washing ashore south of Courthouse Road in Gulfport. It seemed to be an isolated incident. The unexpected influx of seafood hadn’t yet been declared an official jubilee.
Growing up near Troy, Alabama, I had heard of jubilees in Daphne and other areas off the Mobile Bay. In my small hometown, the only bodies of water were ponds; it was a several-hour drive to a beach.
I’ve called the Mississippi Coast home for 32 years, but I’d never witnessed anything close to a jubilee until this week. Seafood just waiting to be caught with a net from the shore. Free for the taking. Easier than shooting fish in a barrel (not that I’ve done such).
Very warm, calm waters and not much wind cause the phenomenon, which depletes oxygen in the waters, making fish and crustaceans so sluggish and distressed that they head to shallower waters.
It amazed me to see crab so near the shore and people catching heaps of crab and fish within an hour or two. Most had started earlier in the morning.
The word jubilee means a celebration of a special anniversary such as a birthday.
I saw jubilee on the beach, but not just because of the abundance of seafood.
Ray Knots, a longtime shrimper, caught enough for many meals. He gave his catch to an elderly couple he met on the beach.
I got a kick out of talking to Ray.
“Ray Knots at your service, ma’am,” he said when I asked his name.
He talked enthusiastically about the sport of using a net to scoop up crab and fish and why he gave away his catch.
I enjoyed watching two children with nets dump crab after crab after crab in their buckets.
They are Joey Bennett’s grandchildren. He had come to the beach earlier and went to pick them up after he saw that crab were plentiful. He’s the pastor of Handsboro Baptist Church, but told me, “I don’t believe in titles.”
As a grandparent, it warmed my heart to see his grandsons’ excitement. And it felt good to see the grandfather building memories with them.
The enjoyment I witnessed made me want to stay and chit-chat with others, grab some seafood and enjoy the moment while gulls squawked and the sun glistened across the Mississippi Sound.
The longer I live on the Mississippi Coast, the more I appreciate our marine resources. The beach by day, by sunset or around a fire pit at night offers much relaxation and enjoyment from our open-air window to the Mississippi Sound.
We grown-ups can use time on the beach to show youngsters how to appreciate the landscape and seascape we sometimes take for granted. Our beaches aren’t as pristine as Ship Island or as beaches in Florida or Alabama. But they are OUR beaches. And they’re a sight to behold if you take time to stop and admire them.
From my perspective, a jubilee is not only celebrating free catches — it’s celebrating a special occasion of togetherness with others while enjoying the beauty of a treasured resource.
It’s a jubilee. Whether you like seafood or not.