Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Goal #120: Experience a grunion run in real life

Have you ever heard of a grunion run?  I didn’t either until I moved to Southern California. When my friends told me about it they told me that it had to do with the lunar cycles and you had to wait until midnight to see them. You were not allowed to catch grunion with a bag or bucket. You can only catch them with your bare hands. That’s it.

As far as I was concerned, this had all the markings of a great Snipe hunt adventure. So, on the first hunt I went on I was just waiting for my friends to leave me on some remote beach at midnight holding an empty bucket. That is not how it happened at all.

Grunion are small fish about the size of a sardine. They are long and thin; about 3 to 4 inches long and ¾ inch wide. A few days each month they spawn on shore to lay and fertilize their eggs. The females burrow into the sand with only the upper third of their body exposed. The mails then gladly wrap themselves around the female letting their seamen drip out into the sand to fertilize the eggs. This is all done very quickly because the next wave or two washes them back into the ocean.

It all starts after it gets dark, usually starting anywhere from an hour or two before midnight to an hour or two after midnight. I found that just before the action starts, the grunion usually send up a few hundred scouts along the beach. If it looks safe, they go back and somehow let the rest know that it’s OK. Within 5 or 10 minutes, the beach started glimmering with the slivery pulsating bodies of literally thousands of grunion, carrying out one of the most hedonistic show of debauchery ever put on by nature. It’s really an amazing thing to see.

Just by coincidence, my very first grunion run just so happen to take place during a phosphorescent tide. That jacked up the excitement a whole level or two higher. With all the phosphorescent in the water, each grunion swimming along left a glowing faded blue light about 3 feet long. It was just unbelievable. I've posted a great YouTube video above that gives you a feel of what a grunion run is like.

So far, I have found Doheney Beach to be the very best place to see a grunion hunt. Doheney Beach is located in Dana Point, California. I believe they still allow camping on the beach there, which makes it especially fun. Check it out. Believe me, this ain't no snipe hunt.

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