Friday, August 31, 2012

Hurricane Isaac

As many you probably know, Hurricane Isaac hit the Mississippi Gulf Coast as a Category 1 this past week. My plan was to ride the storm out as most people say that a category 1 or category 2 storm is typically safe to stay for.  This all changed once Ocean Springs issued a mandatory evacuation for all residents south of Highway 90.  Doing as I was told, I evacuated to Kennedy, Alabama where I was largely untouched by Hurricane Isaac.

Last night we drove back to the coast, witnessing the massive amount of destruction the storm caused. Houses on and around rivers had several feet of water in them.  The amount of water that the storm dumped was unfathomable for this relocated yankee.  Witnessing some of the destruction caused by the storm was truly sobering and affirmed my decision to leave.

This morning, I took a drive around Ocean Springs to see how the town had faired. During my drive I passed Bayou Simmons in Gulf Park Estates.  All around the bayou, there were birds. Pelicans, Terns, Seagulls, and even a DOZEN Magnificent Frigate Birds which typically stay far out at sea were swooping down at the water grabbing fish. The fisherman in me associated birds with feeding reds and specks so I went home to grab my kayak.

magnificent frigate bird
Never have seen this many frigate birds in one spot.

What I found was quite opposite of my expectations. As I approached the launch, I immediately noticed that I was witnessing a unique phenomena.  In the shallows of the launch, flounder, baitfish, and crabs were beaching themselves.  Their gills seemed to be frantically working.  It almost seemed as if the fish were suffocating.  The flounder were so stunned I was able to literally grab them out of the shallows with my hand. Unbelievable.  I got in my kayak and paddled around the bayou finding more of the same phenomena. Fish everywhere struggling to breath. They would stick their mouths above the water and seemingly were sucking air.  I never pulled the fishing rod out as I thought to myself that these fish seemed to be trapped and anything worth catching on a line and hook was probably concentrating on breathing at the moment.  The fishing was not going to be good. However, the bird watching was breathtaking. The frigate birds were unbelievable, diving and swooping at the oxygen deprived fish.

Upon arrival at my house, I googled the phenomena. According to my search, what I was witnessed was a fish kill caused by several factors: 

1.) The salinity levels in Simmons Bayou had dropped drastically due to the report over 20" of rainfall during the storm. This was definately apparent when I tasted the water and when the actual temperature of the water (typically in the 80's this time of year) was much cooler than usual.

2.) High winds typically blow the oxygen rich water on the surface of the bayou into one spot causing the low oxygen water from the depths to rise to the surface. Typically this low oxygen water is accompanied by decaying plant and animal matter which is eaten by bacteria, thus lowering the oxygen levels in the water.

3.) With all the flooding water, it swept decaying plant matter which would typically decompose on land into the water.  The increased organism activity in the water further lowers the oxygen levels for the fish.

These causes were consistent with my observations that the fish were literally suffocating.  I don't claim to be a biologist, but if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, its probably a duck.  While I understand that this is a natural phenomena which these animals have had to adapt to survive, it is very concerning to see this happening in the waters I enjoy fishing.  I never realized how difficult a hurricane can be not only on humans, but also on the surrounding wildlife. I hope that this phenomena is isolated and not widespread as I could see more disaster coming from such an event.


  1. That's crazy man! Would that be considered a jubilee then? Nice picture of the frigatebird too!

    1. I would guess it's a derivation of it. It was pretty wild.