Monday, May 26, 2008

My Town Monday: Grunion Runs



It's summer. It's dark. It's late. The tide is high. You're on a San Diego beach with that someone special. A wave rolls in. It leaves. The sand is covered with thousands of squirming silvery fish.

It's time for....GRUNION HUNTING!

Grunion are slender fish, 5-6 inches long with a blue-green back and silver sides and belly. Grunion is an anglicized version of the Spanish word for grunter. Apparently, these fish squeak while spawning.

Anyway, grunion have pretty predictable sex lives. As in, scientists can figure out a year in advance when these fish will show up to spawn on Southern California shores. Between March and September, they (the grunions, not the scientists!) exit the water twice a month to deposit their eggs in the moist sand.

And while these fish are stranded and waiting for the the next wave to sweep them back out to sea, enter you, a Fearless Grunion Hunter. You can scoop up the fish with your bare hands and tote them home for a fry. Clean and scale the fish, then dredge (how's that for a cooking term?!) them in a mixture of flour + corn meal, then pop them into hot oil for deep-frying. A warning: grunion are bony.

All that said, I don't think I'll be munching on any grunion. I suspect I'm more of a GRUNION GREETER. (more on this below)

These San Diego beaches definitely have grunion runs: Del Mar, La Jolla, Mission Beach and the Coronado Strand.

If you're over 16 years old, you need a fishing license. You can't use any equipment, only your bare hands. And no digging holes. That's cheating. There's no limit to the amount of fish you can grab, but it's unlawful to waste fish.

Here's a list of times and dates for 2008 grunion runs. These times are for Cabrillo Beach at the LA Harbor; San Diego beaches are 5 minutes earlier.

Here are a few hints: Bring a flashlight and some sort of bag to carry your catch. Wear a warm jacket. The best runs are usually on the 2nd and 3rd nights. The 2nd hour of each night is usually better. The grunions' peak spawning season is April and May. And there's no grunion hunting during these months.

You can write for a current schedule: GRUNION, California Department of Fish and Game, Marine Region, 4665 Lampson Ave. Suite C, Los Alamitos, CA 90720

In looking up info for this post, I noticed Scripps Aquarium is organizing a run (not that you have to go as part of an organized group) for June 4 at 9:30 PM - 11:30 PM.

I think I'd make an excellent GRUNION GREETER. These are people who are in charge of watching a small stretch of beach, then reporting on the habits of the grunion. Grunion greeters encourage "catch and release" or plain old observation.

Ya gotta love SoCal! So many fun things to do!

Happy Memorial Day to all!

My Town Monday comes to us via Travis Erwin. Thanks, Travis! Click on his site to read his post about Amarillo, TX. AND to find links to the other participants.

(Info from: http://sandiego.about.com/od/outdoorrecreation/a/grunions.htm
http://entertainment.signonsandiego.com/events/grunion-run-birch-aquarium-scripps/
http://arachnid.pepperdine.edu/grunion/ggproject.htm)

24 comments:

Laura said...

I use to go to SOCal for work quite often...and never really gave much thought to the sights and attractions - now I want to return! Love your Monday posts.

Just a Plane Ride Away said...

Oh my gosh--I've never heard of that! But you have to wonder... what about all those grunion babies buried in the sand??

JaneyV said...

As always your My Town Monday post is both fun and informative. Grunion Runs look like an interesting way to spend an evening, though as you say I think I'd rather just watch the spectacle. I love fish but I rather have them gutted, scaled and filleted before I get them.

I'm definitely putting SoCal on my list of places to go when I get the cash!

Joanne Rendell said...

Grunion is the best word ever! I'm going to try and weave it into my WIP somehow!

Larramie said...

As a child I heard about this, yet there also seemed to have been a suggestive "joke" about it as well...can't remember.

Travis Erwin said...

I remember the Beverly Hillbillies episode where they were going grunion hunting. I've wanted to do it ever since.

Lisa said...

I think I'd make a better greeter than hunter myself. What a fascinating thing it must be to watch!

Shelli said...

I ditto you and Lisa. I think I'd make a better greeter too.

Sherry/Cherie said...

Grunion Run sounds like an 80s metal band...I can see the t-shirt in my mind's eye!

Family Adventure said...

That is so cool...that picture is amazing.

Heidi

Alyson said...

I've heard of this since I grew up in CA, but have yet to see it. It would be so interesting. I think I'd like to be a greeter too!

Kellan said...

I have never heard or seen such a thing - that is crazy - crazy fun for boys like my son - he'd love that!!

Have a good Tuesday, Barrie - see you - Kellan

alex keto said...

I think John Steinbeck wrote about grunion runs. Either he did or some other literary person did because I've heard of it.
Maybe it was part of the Cannery Row books.
Anyway, it's nice to think it still goes on and people still do this.

WordVixen said...

That is too cool! Since I refuse to actually kill or clean fish, I'd have to be a greeter too. Although, I'd happily do the hunting if someone else would do the dirty work. :)

Angela said...

so interesting.
I do love learning about strange activities.

deboradale said...

Oh Barrie, I would be there right next to you as a fellow Grunion Greeter! Catch and release. No dredging, no fryin, no picking bones from my teeth. Those poor fish are really at our mercy, aren't they?
~Debbie

Bill Clark said...

these fish squeak while spawning

How very human of them!

One trusts they are not an endangered species - it just seems wrong somehow to carry them off and cook them when all they're trying to do is continue the family line.

Sign me up as a greeter, too.

Bina said...

Wow! I never heard of such a thing! Thanks again for a wonderful and informative post. I would LOVE to see this in action!

But I have a question. How far in the sand to they leg eggs, cause I wonder how come THOSE did get washed out to sea, or do they? Are the supposed to???

~Virginia~ said...

okay now i'm hungry for funyons just because it rhymed with grunion.

that is so neat! i'm not sure i'd be willing to catch one with my bare hands though! :) thanks for the info--very cool.

Charles Gramlich said...

Wow. cool pic. I love fish and would definitely be down there scooping them up if I were anywhere close. How do they taste?

Shelli said...

Barrie: I have a YA question for you. I want to begin reading more YA books, but I'm not sure where to begin. Is there an award for YA books? Sometimes I find that a list of award winners are good places to start. (Although I get depressed when I realize my writing is NOT that good! ha!) Or can you recommend some titles? My story has to do with a girl whose parents just divorced, she's starting at a new school...etc. etc. Thank you so, so much for your time.

doggybloggy said...

wow weee that grunion excursion seems like so much fun....bizzarro they way the photo looks....

Laura said...

I have always thought that grunion were crab-like creatures...thanks for clearing that up. Very interesting post.

Annie said...

Way cool!