Friday, April 24, 2009

Grunion Run

I've heard about grunions ever since I moved to California 17 years ago. But I've never really paid them much mind. How exciting can little sardine like fish be, anyway? Pretty exciting, it turns out!! Grunions are unique to Southern California and northern Baja, California, They spawn out of the water, on the beach, during high tide during a full and new moon. They spawn so regularly that their habits can be predicted up to a year in advance. They usually make their appearance on the California beaches from March through September. April and May are 'observe only' months- no fishing/hunting of them is allowed. But June through September, with a fishing license, you can fish. But you have to use your bare hands. No digging, trapping or netting allowed. Hands only, and only as much as you will use. (What a funny sight THAT must be!!) Dante and I went out two weeks ago for our first grunion experience.

Grunion spawn by burying their dorsal side into the sand and release their eggs. They bury themselves up to their necks and then wiggle back out of the sand and are carried back out to sea with the high tide. They come out to lay eggs on the full and new moon, during high tide at night. It is quite exciting to see the sand covered in shivering silver fish. Just watch your step! I had a few flop on my feet and Dante stepped on a head as it was buried. (No fish were harmed!) Next grunion run for us TBA-but we're definitely going again- maybe next time we'll even have a grunion party!


Dante is still sleepy in this picture. He didn't really wake up until the first waves hit his feet. He was so excited to be woken up in the 'middle of the night' to go to the beach! It was really only 1030-and we stopped for hot chocolate at 7-11 on the way.


Yes- you have to get your feet wet when grunion hunting. I was amazed at how warm the water was at 1130 at night. We didn't get cold at all!


Other crazy grunion hunters. Allan was convinced I was nuts and didn't want to go with us because he had to work in the morning and thought we would be up too late. But he was nervous about us being out so late, and sure we were going to be abducted or arrested or something. He called me about every 15 minutes- he might as well have come with us!! We met some students who were watching the grunions, too- from Pepperdine University in Malibu. They were marine biology majors.


First sighting!


Notice the squiggle lines on the sand where they 'side wind' to bury themselves, and get back to the water.





My dork light. I wasn't the only one out there with it- AND I've decided to embrace my inner nerd, anyway.