Grunions take the local beaches

Views 146 | Time to read: 2 minutes | Uploaded: 4 - 25 - 2017 | By: Erik Hansen

Every year from March until September, thousands of silver fish called grunions (from the Spanish, gruñon, meaning ‘grunter’) take to the beaches from Baja to Santa Barbara sometime around midnight and mate on the beach. The late-night lovers shimmy their way up the sand where females deposit thousands of eggs for males to fertilize. The spawning process only takes around 30 seconds, but grunions remain on the beach for several minutes, offering plenty of time to observe and even catch the wriggling wonders.
Grunion runs, as the events are called, are nothing new. Archeologists have found remains of grunions in Native American camps dating back 8,000 years, and the Conquistadors noted their “grunting” sound. Nowadays, people come in droves to watch the magic, and maybe catch a few themselves during grunion runs.
Though people are often suspicious of the spectacle, they gain a certain childlike wonder as soon as the grunions emerge. Children run out to play with the fish. Parents chase after the children running toward the ocean. Adults with state-required fishing licenses grab fish by the handful.
Unfortunately, grunions have not been predictable. Grunions do not show up on every night listed on official schedules, so sometimes it is necessary to go multiple nights. Furthermore, observation is only in April and May, so no catching is permitted. In any other month, anyone with a fishing license (not required for ages 15 and under) can grab as many fish as they plan to use, as long as they only use their hands (there’s always a catch!). Due to this increased regulation (and slippery scales), grunion populations have stabilized, with beach erosion and harbor construction the main threats to the species’ livelihood.
The key to finding grunions is to go to quiet, sandy beaches on the days following a full or new moon. Once the high tide recedes, the grunions come out, according to The New York Times. Grunion catching is completely legal on public beaches in Santa Barbara, so check out hotspots such as East Beach and Goleta Beach.
The next grunion observation time should be this Wednesday, from 10:30 p.m. to midnight, at a beach near you.


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