California Grunion Run


Grunion are unusual little fish that have managed to capture the fascination of those who've heard about them and want to go fishing to catch grunion with their bare hands. In the South Bay, one Southern California area where grunion spawn, Grunion Greeters are actually trained in a workshop. The greeters are volunteer troops charged with attending grunion runs to observe specific markers utilized in university studies about the the Southern California beaches.  (www.healthebay.org)

Grunion as a dinner meal, are fairly small and best used in recipes such a delicious green bean casserole. Generally baked or fried, grunion are not found on menus in restaurants as their numbers are small and methods of catching them costly by commercial standards. In fact, the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) requests grunion-runners to use conservation practices in catching grunion. If you don't intend to eat them, don't keep them, but do throw them back into the ocean right away. Photo above:Long after the sun goes down at the Southern California Beaches the grunion run.

Grunion are thriving enough to allow the hunting season to continue but the live fish do live in a fine balance with spawning areas and pollution impacting their ability to thrive. Grunion appear mostly in Southern California and are visible at a grunion run, which is the night the fish spawn on the beaches. The DFG provides a chart listing the months you are allowed to catch them during spawning season (click on Grunion Runs link above). Called  Leuresthes tenuis, these members of the silversides family can only be caught with your bare hands.  On a grunion run, "anglers" put their catch in a bucket with a bit of ocean water till the take the fish home to clean and prepare them for cooking.  Regulations for hunting for grunion can be confusing. State and local beaches that impose curfews during the hours grunion spawn can be usurped by laws for fishing that allow fishermen with valid licenses to stand on the shoreline and fish most any time. The best practice is to call your local beach entity and get the scoop. 

 

First, you will discover that the fish are members of the New World silversides family, Atheriniopsidae, along with the jacksmelt and topsmelt. They normally occur from Point Conception, California from nautical miles west of Santa Barbara, to Point Abreojos, Baja California. Occasionally, they are found farther north to Monterey Bay, California and south to San Juanico Bay, Baja California. Like all fish, you can plan to stay up around midnight to catch them but if they aren't running on certain beach, then you may go home empty handed.

 

Some local beaches are nice enough to let you know if they've seen the grunion running. Others don't have time to deal with your request since they typically are a beach operations group and don't always concern themselves with what type of fish can be caught. So, there's a chart posted from California Department of Fish and Game that predicts the nights of grunion run but in the fishing world, you must go for the sport and consider yourself lucky if you get plenty.

 

Here's why: Grunion inhabit the nearshore waters from the surf to a depth of 60 feet. They most likely do not migrate according to tagging studies. Each spring and summer from March through August grunion leave the water at night to spawn on the beach for four consecutive nights starting the nights of the full and new moons. Spawning begins after high tide and continues for several hours. Peak spawning is late March to early June. As a wave breaks on the beach, grunion swim as far up the slope as possible. The female arches her body and excavates the semifluid sand with her tail to create a nest. She twists her body and digs until she is half buried in the sand with her head sticking up. She then deposits her eggs in the nest. Males curve around the female and release milt. The milt flows down the female’s body until it reaches and fertilizes the eggs. As many as eight males may fertilize the eggs in a nest. After spawning, the males immediately retreat toward the water while the female twists free and returns with the next wave. While spawning may take only 30 seconds, some fish remain stranded on the beach for several minutes.

 

 

Southern California Beaches
 

City / County
LA=Los Angeles;
OC=Orange County;
SD=San Diego
beach name / address
SB= State Beach;
CB= County Beach
web / contact
Capo Beach, OC Capistrano Beach
35005 Beach Road
www.ocparks.com
Cardiff, SD Cardiff State Beach www.parks.ca.gov
Cardiff, SD San Elijo State Beach www.parks.ca.gov
Carlsbad, SD Carlsbad State Beach www.parks.ca.gov
Carlsbad, SD South Carlsbad State Beach www.parks.ca.gov
Corona del Mar, OC Little Corona Beach
Poppy Ave.
www.parks.ca.gov
Corona del Mar, OC Corona del Mar State Beach
Iris & Ocean Blvd.
www.parks.ca.gov
Corona del Mar, OC Crystal Cove State Park
Muddy Creek Beach
www.parks.ca.gov
Corona del Mar, OC Crystal Cove State Park
El Morro Beach
www.parks.ca.gov
Corona del Mar, OC Emerald Bay www.ocparks.com
Coronado, SD Central Beach, Ocean Blvd. ww.coronado.ca.us
Coronado, SD Ferry Landing Marketplace ww.coronado.ca.us
Coronado, SD Glorietta Bay Beach ww.coronado.ca.us
Coronado, SD Silver Strand State Beach www.parks.ca.gov
Dana Point, OC Doheny State Beach www.parks.ca.gov
Dana Point, OC Monarch Beach  
Dana Point , OC Salt Creek Beach
33333 S. Pacific Coast Hwy.
www.ocparks.com
Del Mar, SD Del Mar Beach  
Del Mar, SD San Dieguito River Beach  
Encinitas, SD Moonlight Beach SB
Encinitas Blvd.
www.parks.ca.gov
Encinitas, SD Leucadia State Beach www.parks.ca.gov
Hermosa Beach, LA Hermosa Beach
Hermosa Ave. and 33rd St.
http://beaches.co.la.ca.us
Huntington Beach OC Bolsa Chica State Beach
PCH from Golden West
to Warner
www.parks.ca.gov
Huntington Beach OC

Davenport

www.surfcity-hb.org
Huntington Beach OC Humboldt Beach www.surfcity-hb.org
Huntington Beach OC Huntington City Beach,
PCH - Golden West
& Beach Blvd.
www.surfcity-hb.org
Huntington Beach OC Huntington Beach SB
Pacific Coast Highway
& Beach Blvd.
www.parks.ca.gov
Imperial Beach, SD Borderfield State Park www.parks.ca.gov
Imperial Beach, SD Imperial Beach  
La Conchita, Ventura La Conchita Beach  
Laguna Beach, OC 1,000 Steps Beach www.lblg.org
Laguna Beach, OC Crescent Bay Beach
Pacific Coast Hwy.
& Crescent Bay Dr.
www.lblg.org
Laguna Beach, OC Diver's Cove Beach www.lblg.org
Laguna Beach, OC Shaw's Cove Beach www.lblg.org
Laguna Beach, OC Boat Canyon Beach www.lblg.org
Laguna Beach, OC Oak Street Beach www.lblg.org
Laguna Beach, OC Brook Street Beach www.lblg.org
Laguna Beach, OC Mountain Road Beach www.lblg.org
Laguna Beach, OC Bluebird Canyon Beach www.lblg.org
Laguna Beach, OC Pearl Street Beach www.lblg.org
Laguna Beach, OC Rockledge Beach www.lblg.org
Laguna Beach, OC Victoria Beach www.lblg.org
Laguna Beach, OC Treasure Island Beach www.lblg.org
Laguna Beach, OC Wood's Cove Beach www.lblg.org
Laguna Beach, OC Moss Point Beach www.lblg.org
Laguna Beach, OC Irvine Cove Beach www.lblg.org
Laguna Beach, OC Laguna Main Beach www.lblg.org
Laguna Beach, OC Aliso Creek Beach www.lblg.org
La Jolla, SD Children's Pool
850 Coast Blvd.
www.sandiego.gov
La Jolla, SD La Jolla Cove
1100 Coast Blvd.
www.sandiego.gov
La Jolla, SD La Jolla Shores
8200 Camino del Oro
www.sandiego.gov
La Jolla, SD Torrey Pines State Beach www.parks.ca.gov
La Jolla, SD Torrey Pines State Reserve www.parks.ca.gov
La Jolla, SD Windansea Beach
6800 Neptune Place
www.sandiego.gov
Long Beach, LA Alamitos Bay  
Long Beach, LA Long Beach  
Long Beach, LA Mother's Beach  
Malibu, LA Dan Blocker
26000 Pacific Coast Hwy
http://beaches.co.la.ca.us
Malibu, LA Las Tunas
19444 Pacific Coast Hwy.
http://beaches.co.la.ca.us
Malibu, LA Leo Carillo State Park www.parks.ca.gov
Malibu, LA Malibu Lagoon State Beach ww.parks.ca.gov
Malibu, LA Malibu- Surfrider
23050 Pacific Coast Hwy.
http://beaches.co.la.ca.us
Malibu, LA Nicholas Canyon
33850 Pacific Coast Hwy.
http://beaches.co.la.ca.us
Malibu, LA Point Mugu State Park www.parks.ca.gov
Malibu, LA Port Dume
7103 Westward Road
http://beaches.co.la.ca.us
Malibu, LA Robert H. Meyer Memorial SB www.parks.ca.gov
Malibu, LA Topanga
18700 Pacific Coast Hwy
http://beaches.co.la.ca.us
Malibu, LA Will Rogers State Beach www.parks.ca.gov
Malibu, LA Zuma
30000 Pacific Coast Hwy.
http://beaches.co.la.ca.us
Manhattan Beach, LA Manhattan Beach
400-500 The Strand
http://beaches.co.la.ca.us
Marina del Rey, LA Mother's Beach, North Jetty http://beaches.co.la.ca.us
Mission Beach, SD Mission Beach www.sandiego.gov
Mussel Shoals
Ventura
Mussel Shoals Beaches  
Laguna Beach, OC Monarch Beach  
Newport Beach, OC
city code
Santa Ana River CB
Summit & 61st Sts
www.city.newport-
beach.ca.us
Newport Beach, OC Rocky Point Beach www.city.newport-
beach.ca.us
Newport Beach, OC Harbor Patrol Beach www.city.newport-
beach.ca.us
Ocean Beach, SD Ocean Beach www.sandiego.gov
Oceanside, SD Harbor Beach  
Oceanside, SD Buccaneer Beach  
Oceanside, SD St. Malo Beach  
Oxnard Mandalay State Beach www.parks.ca.gov
Playa del Rey, LA Dockweiler Beach
12000 Vista del Mar
http://beaches.co.la.ca.us
Redondo Beach, LA Redondo Beach
400 - 1700 Esplanade
http://beaches.co.la.ca.us
San Clemente, OC Poche Beach  
San Clemente, OC North Beach  
San Clemente, OC San Clemente Beach  
San Clemente, OC Trafalger Street Beach  
San Clemente, OC San Clemente State Beach
Avenida Califia
 
San Diego, SD Black's Beach www.sandiego.gov
San Diego
Ocean Beach, SD
Sunset Cliffs  
San Diego
Ocean Beach, SD
Ocean Beach
1950 Abbott Street
www.sandiego.gov
San Diego, SD Point Loma  
San Diego, SD Mission Beach  
San Diego, SD South Mission Beach www.sandiego.gov
SD -Mission Bay, SD Mission Bay Beaches
Bonita Cove
1000 W. Mission Bay Dr.
@ Mariners Way
www.sandiego.gov
SD -Mission Bay, SD Mission Bay Beaches
Crown Point
3700 Crown Point Dr.
www.sandiego.gov
SD -Mission Bay, SD Mission Bay Beaches
DeAnza Cove
3000 East Mission Bay Dr.
www.sandiego.gov
SD -Mission Bay, SD Mission Bay Beaches
Enchanted Cove
on Fiesta Island  
www.sandiego.gov
SD - Mission Bay, SD Mission Bay Beaches
Leisure Lagoon
1900 East Mission Bay Dr.
www.sandiego.gov
SD - Mission Bay, SD Mission Bay Beaches
Tecolote Shores
1600 E. Mission Bay Dr.
www.sandiego.gov
SD - Mission Bay, SD Mission Bay Beaches
Ventura Cove
1000 W. Mission Bay Dr.
www.sandiego.gov
SD -Pacific Beach, SD North Pacific Beach www.sandiego.gov
SD -Pacific Beach, SD Pacific Beach www.sandiego.gov
San Diego, SD Tourmaline Surf Park www.sandiego.gov
San Onofre, SD San Onofre State Beach www.parks.ca.gov
San Onofre, SD San Onofre Surf Beach www.parks.ca.gov
San Pedro, LA Cabrillo Beach
3720 Steven M. White Dr.
http://beaches.co.la.ca.us
San Pedro, LA White's Point & Royal Palms
1799 Paseo del Mar
http://beaches.co.la.ca.us
Santa Monica
Pacific Palisades, LA
Will Rogers State Beach
17700 Pacific Coast Hwy.
http://beaches.co.la.ca.us
Santa Monica, LA Beach Park #1,
Ocean Park Blvd
& Barnard Way
http://santa-monica.org
Santa Monica, LA Chess Park
Ocean Front Walk
@ Seaside Terrace
http://santa-monica.org
Santa Monica, LA Muscle Beach
Ocean Front Walk
S of SM Pier
http://santa-monica.org
Santa Monica, LA Santa Monica State Beach www.parks.ca.gov
Santa Monica, LA South Beach Park
Barnard Way
http://santa-monica.org
Solana Beach, SD Solana Beach http://sblifeguards.com
Sunset Beach, OC Sunset Beach
Pacific Coast Highway
www.ocparks.com

Torrance, LA

Torrance Beach
387 Paseo de la Playa
http://beaches.co.la.ca.us
Venice, LA Venice
3100 Ocean Front Walk
http://beaches.co.la.ca.us
Ventura, Ventura Emma Wood State Beach www.parks.ca.gov
Ventura, Ventura McGrath State Beach www.parks.ca.gov
Ventura, Ventura San Buenaventura SB  
 

Mature individuals may spawn during successive runs at about 15-day intervals. Females can spawn up to six times each season. Females lay between 1,600 and 3,600 eggs during one spawn, with larger females producing more eggs. The eggs are deposited during the highest tides of the month and incubate in the sand during the lower tide levels, safe from the disturbance of wave action. The eggs are kept moist by residual water in the sand. The eggs hatch during the next high tide series when they are inundated with sea water and agitated by rising surf. This occurs after about 10 days.

 

Most grunion seen on southland beaches are between 5 and 6 inches long. Some are as long as 7 inches. An average one-year old male is 4.5 inches long while a female is slightly larger at 5.0 inches. At the end of two years, males average 5.5 inches and females are about 5.8 inches long. By the end of three years, an average male is 5.9 inches and a female is 6.3 inches in length. Few live to be older than 3 years. Grunion mature and spawn at the end of the first year. You can watch grunion eggs hatch by collecting a cluster of eggs after a grunion run and keeping them in a loosely covered container of damp sand in a cool spot for 10-15 days. Then, add one teaspoon of sand and eggs to one cup of sea water and shake gentlyy; the eggs will hatch before your eyes in a few minutes.

Grunion are not abundant and contributing factors such as loss of spawning habitat, harbor construction and pollution. Birds eat the grunion eggs and humans contribute to depletion. Still, it is legal to hunt grunion during the open season with a fishing license required for persons 16 years and older. Grunion may be taken by sport fishers using their hands only. No holes may be dug in the beach to entrap them. There is no limit, but take only what you can use. It is unlawful to waste fish. With these regulations, the resource seems to be maintaining itself at a fairly constant level. While the population size is not known, all research points to a rather restricted resource that is appropriately harvested under existing law. There is a grunion program offered to the public at Cabrillo Beach in San Pedro on several nights of the season. Call (310) 548-7562 for details.


For a current schedule, send a self addressed stamped envelope to: GRUNION, California Department of Fish and Game, Marine Region
4665 Lampson Ave. Suite C,
Los Alamitos, CA 90720


Sports / free fishing - derbies - Grunion Runs

 

Grunion Run California

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