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During the highest tides, California grunion stampede out of the ocean to mate on the beach. When the party’s over, thousands of tiny eggs are left stranded up in the sand. How will their lost babies make it back to the sea?
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With summer just around the corner, Southern California beaches are ready to welcome the yearly arrival of some very unique and amorous guests. That’s right, the grunion are running!
California grunion are fish that spend their lives in the ocean. But when the tides are at their highest during spring and summer, grunion make a trip up onto beaches to mate and lay eggs.
Grunion mate on beaches throughout southern California and down into into Mexico. The grunion runs have taken on a special importance to coastal communities Santa Barbara to San Diego.
For some, coming out to see the grunion run has been an annual tradition for generations. For others it’s a rare chance to catch ocean fish with their bare hands.
— What are grunion?
California grunion are schooling fish similar to sardines that live in the Pacific Ocean that emerge from the sea to lay their eggs on the sand of beaches in Southern California and down the Baja California Peninsula in Mexico. There are also smaller populations in Monterey Bay and San Francisco Bay. Another species, the Gulf Grunion lays their eggs in the northern shores of the Gulf of California. California Grunion are typically about six inches in length.
— Why do grunion mate on land?
The ocean is full of predators who would like to gobble up a tasty fish egg. The grunion eggs tend to be safer up on the beach if they can make it there without raising the attention of predators like birds and raccoons. Grunion eggs have a tough outer layer that keeps them from drying out or being crushed by the sand.
— When do California grunion run?
California grunion typically spawn from March to August. The fishing season is closed during the peak spawning times during May and June. See https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/fishing/ocean/grunion#28352306-2017-runs for more detailed info on grunion seasons.
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