Grunion Run, eh, what is THAT?
What is a Grunion Run and what exactly is a Grunion?
A Grunion Run is an activity unique to Southern California.
Unless you are from the region, your first question is probably, “What are grunion and why are they running?”
Well to begin with run is a noun here (to migrate or move in considerable numbers; especially to spawn) and grunion are fish; small, silvery fish about 5 to 6 inches in length, with bluish green backs, found only along the coast of Southern California (and northern Baja California in Mexico).
They are not a particularly popular or well-known fish, even in Southern California, but they have one little peculiarity that sets them apart from other fish, their spawning behavior.
Grunion come ashore to plant their eggs in the sand, much like the sea turtle, but since it’s a fish, it has no legs, making things a little more challenging for the grunion. They come completely out of the water at night and lay their eggs in the wet sand on the beach, making a faint squeaking noise while spawning.
Wait…what…a fish out of water? That isn’t allowed even in a game of Marco Polo. But it’s true – first, the female grunions catch a wave and wash themselves up on the shore after high tide. They twist their bodies and half bury themselves into the sand, using their tails to excavate an opening, so they can deposit their eggs a few inches down into the sand. Then the male grunion squiggle over to join the females, giving them cozy hugs while fertilizing the eggs.
The fish spawn only on 3 or 4 nights after the highest tide. The waves bring in the grunion and deposit them on the beach where you will sometimes see thousands of the squirming little fish depositing their eggs in the sand. The helpless grunion are briefly stranded before another wave comes in and washes them back out to sea.