Southern California Grunion Runs

S C Surfbutler
Grunion Facts

I received a question from Neighbor Linda regarding the Grunion runs in Dana Point.

Neighbor Linda’s

“Hi  S C Surfbutler,  its neighbor Linda.  You are so knowledgeable on everything to do with our beaches, I know you will be able to answer my question.  I have very fond memories of grunion hunting in my earlier days.  We would go to the beach at midnight to catch those slippery guys, and have a great time.  Now the beaches close at 10:00.  Are we still allowed to go grunion hunting, and if so where can we go?  Also, when do they run and do you need a fishing license?”

”  This is a great question  Neighbor Linda.”

Grunion are pretty important culturally here in Southern California because this doesn’t happen anywhere else in the world and it’s  a pretty unique experience.  The grunion runs are closed during their peak spawning period March through April.   June 1 is open season to the public to witness these slitherly, silvery,  moonlit  Southern California phenomenon.

Doheny State Beach here in Dana Point closes its gate access at 10:00 pm.  The beach is open to the Grunion runs during open season , so it is important to park elsewhere in the harbor, like meter beach near the jetty.  Once you find a parking spot, head toward the north of the beach between lifeguard towers 12 and 13.  A fishing license is required for ages 16 and up for those  plan on catching one of these slimy, silvery  fish.

Grunion are among the few fish to spawn completely out of water.  They do it by the thousands and they only do it Southern California.  If you are lucky enough to see a grunion run, it is a pretty remarkable experience.

The grunion spawn during the highest tide of the month from as early as March and as late  August, but April through June tends to be the most active period.   When they spawn, the female fish will wash ashore on the high tide, wiggle a few inches into the sand, tail first, leaving her head exposed.  She will lay about 3,000 eggs a few inches deep in the sand and then the male fish will wrap around the female fish to fertilize the eggs.   There is a two-hour window after high tide to see the grunion run.  To see them be patient and look for the shorebirds, they always know where to find the grunion.

Grunion Run Tips:

  • Legally you can use only your hands to capture the grunion.
  • People over the age of 16 must have a license to catch grunion.
  • Grunion can not be captured in April or May.
  • Be sure to wait after the fish have spawned before capturing them.
  • Only catch what you will use.

Check out these facts:

California Grunion Facts

  • The California grunion (Leuresthes tenuis) is a member of the New World silversides family.
  • Grunion are famous for their spawning behavior.
  • Their usual run ranges  from Point Conception, California to Point Abrejos, Baja California.  Occasionally they’ re found farther north to Monterey Bay California and south to Juanico Bay, Baja California.
  • Grunion prefer a sandy  beach with flat slopes and quiet conditions.
  • They inhabit the nearshore waters from the surf to a depth of 60 ft.
  • Tagging studies indicate they do not migrate.
  • Most grunion in Southern California are 5 to 6 inches long.
  • Despite local concentration grunion are not abundant.

Again, I would like to thank Neighbor Linda for her question about the Grunion Runs  in Dana Point.  Unfortunately we missed 2012 season , but don’t think we will forget 2013 Grunion runs.

Do you have a  local beach ocean minded question?  I would love to answer them!

See you at the beach!


4 responses to “Southern California Grunion Runs

  1. Thanks… another good read!

    Something similar happens in South Africa. The sardine runs off the Natal coast are famous but they don’t spawn on shore… millions of the slippery little dears are forced into the shallows and washed ashore. People come with trucks to ‘harvest’ 🙂

  2. Reblogged this on SC Surf Butler and commented:

    Open season for grunion runs. Here is a post I wrote last October.

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