Hundreds of crab, flounder, speckled trout and other fish crawled or swam to the shoreline near Courthouse Road on Wednesday as fishermen and beachgoers grabbed nets and scooped up the bounty.
Several referred to it as a jubilee or a Red Tide, but it was neither phenomenon, and could happen again after sunrise over the next couple of days, Mississippi Department of Marine Resources spokeswoman Melissa Scallan said.
Wednesday’s occurrence provided unexpected catches near the edge of the Mississippi Sound.
Ray Knots, a shrimper for 27 years, had launched his pleasure boat at the beach near Courthouse Road and found 31 dead crabs in the two crab traps he had set out.
“A relative called me and told me to come ashore,” Knots said. “He told me that’s where the fish were.”
Knots grabbed a net and caught three gallon buckets of crab, 15 flounder, about 50 speckled trout and some other fish.
“I enjoy it for the sport,” said Knots, of Gulfport. “I’ve got a license, of course.”
Knots has a seafood allergy. He gave his catch to a couple he met on the beach.
Rick Poley, a Medford, Oregon, resident who is visiting family in Gulfport, had brought out his boat, but grabbed a net and went to the shoreline. He collected about 80 crab in about two hours.
Gulfport resident Joey Bennett had come down to the beach, but went home to get his grandsons after he noticed the easy-to-catch seafood.
His 8-year-old grandson, Gabe Franklin, had a ready response when his grandfather told him the crabs were out.
“Oh, yeah!” Gabe said. It wasn’t his first time to enjoy using a net to grab crab near the water’s edge with his 11-year-old brother, Alex Franklin.
It appeared to some to be a jubilee, a phenomenon of a rapidly depleting oxygen supply in the Mississippi Sound that sends seafood swimming toward the shore.
Some called it a Red Tide, a phenomenon of algae blooms that discolor the water, also sending fish close to shore. A Red Tide also can cause respiratory problems for beachgoers.
Both phenomenons kill fish.
“The low oxygen level in the Sound is causing this, but we haven’t seen a lot of dead fish,” Scallan said.
“This sometimes happens at sunrise when the oxygen level is low, there’s not a lot of wind and it’s hot. We have a crew monitoring this, but we expect it will happen again over the next couple of days. It starts just before dawn.”
As long as the seafood is still alive, it’s safe to eat.
But anyone who takes seafood or fish out of the water needs a recreational fishing license, Scallan said.