August 3, 2011 and August 17, 2011 – Trying to catch the Jubilee

This year I was prepared.  I wanted to be ready when the Jubilee hit.   At the end of July, I began to practice throwing my cast net into the gulf before leaving the beach at the end of my work day.    Jubilee is an event that generally occurs in July or August when many species (particularly large shrimp) leave deeper waters and swarm in large numbers closer inland.  As a resident at the LUMCON camp in Port Fourchon over the past several summers, I learned first hand from the caretaker of the property about this phenomena.   Wilton had been taking notes over the years, trying to piece together enough characteristics so that he might figure out a way to predict when the Jubilee would hit.   Two years ago his cousin had welded together a stand that could be rolled out on the beach and then into the gulf just for this occasion.  Once in place, the platform allowed a cast net to be thrown from above the wave resistance reducing the amount of energy required for throwing and pulling in a full net of shrimp.  This year Wilton was constructing his own support with some minor upgrades in the design.

Often the Jubilee is something you come across mostly by word of mouth.  At the end of July, I moved out of the camp an hour and a half north and away from this grapevine.  Wilton had kept a record of the dates the Jubilee had hit in the past and he had begun to compare these dates to the tidal record to see if there might be some correlation.  Two dates in August were pinpointed as dates to watch… both of these days had a double tide.

The first date was Wednesday, August 3rd.  I met my friend Al in Grand Isle just after lunch.  I was running late and the first low tide had come in at approximately 10:28 a.m.  The afternoon low tide wouldn’t hit until around 7:32 p.m. and I hoped the shrimp would be moving inland at that time.

Grand Isle, Louisiana

Al fishing by the rocks in his kayak.

Al reported that he had caught a few larger shrimp earlier with his cast net at the shoreline.  This activity had ceased by the time I arrived.  Crabs however were running so there was sure to be some catch.

I walked out as far into the gulf as I could to handle the depth of water while throwing the cast net.  At first there were smaller fish but soon this died down and the net ended up empty.  We decided to switch to fishing with a pole… me waist deep in the gulf and Al back in his kayak.  Cast after cast didn’t get me but one nibble all afternoon.  Al was able to catch a speckled trout and a couple of unwanted catfish.

In the end, jellyfish started moving closer inland and you couldn’t move without one stinging past you.

I learned the next morning that there was a small Jubilee that hit a half hour west in Port Fourchon just before sunset.  I wondered if maybe the shrimp Al had caught earlier in the day were associated and perhaps had he moved closer to the rocks in the deeper water maybe more shrimp would have been found.  Still, there was another double tide date ahead to look forward to.

My friend Jill accompanied me to Port Fourchon on Wednesday, the 17th.   We had our cast nets but also brought along some crab traps just in case.  When we arrived at the beach we spotted a platform in the back of a pick up truck.   We learned it was Wilton’s cousin.  He and his family had a crab line stretched fifty plus feet or so and it looked as though they were taking turns gathering crustaceans.   We set up west where the rock filled breakwater sunken barges weren’t as far from the shoreline.  A small boat towing a trawling net nearby turned out to be Wilton.  Two guys who were either friends or family of Wilton’s had just finished throwing their cast nets with zero results.  It turned out that they were the ones that had caught the mini Jubilee two weeks ago.

I was disappointed that I missed even a mini Jubilee but we caught enough crab to keep me happy.  Besides, there’s nothing like standing in the gulf watching the day end while the sun is setting.

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