Editor’s Note: Many local authorities have temporarily closed access to beaches due to public safety concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic. Please check with city or county authorities for information about specific beaches.
The 2020 schedule of expected California grunion runs is now available on the California Department of Fish and Wildlife website.
Grunion are famous for their spawning behavior. From March through August, these fish surf the waves high onto sandy beaches at night during the full and new moons, where they bury and fertilize eggs in the sand. Then they ride the next set of waves back out to sea.
Grunion are easily startled by human beach activity. To avoid scaring off the fish, remain quiet while awaiting their arrival, and during the entire run. Operating in “stealth mode” is a tactic commonly used by naturalists, hunters, and fishermen to get close to the animals or fish they’re seeking.
Staying calm and quiet on the beach is also essential for grunion survival. Lots of noise, lights, and people running to and fro interrupt their spawning activities at best, and may scare the fish away at worst. This results in fewer grunion eggs laid in the beach sand, and fewer grunion hatching to populate future runs. Being a stealthy grunion hunter, rather than a noisy one, is best for the fish and the hunter or observer.
To avoid being cited, remember to obey grunion fishing laws:
- No grunion fishing is allowed during April and May. Being a super stealthy grunion observer is essential during the closed season.
- If you are 16 years old or older, you must have a valid California sport fishing license to catch grunion during the open season.
- Use nothing but your hands to capture grunion.
- Do not dig holes to trap the fish.
- Take only what you can use; waste of fish is against the law.
Picking up and handling any fish can damage their scales and protective slime. If you don’t intend to keep and/or eat grunion, consider simply observing and marveling at this amazing spectacle of nature. For more information about California grunion, visit the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Grunion Facts and FAQs web page.
post by Mary Patyten, CDFW Research Writer