Update for June, 2007 Grunion Runs

A Message from Karen Martin, Ph.D., Pepperdine Professor of Biology


It's the start of Open Season – fishers can catch using their bare hands, but no gear is allowed and adults over the age of 16 must have a fishing license. Anything else is poaching. And please do not take any more fish than you need. We encourage "Catch & Release" for the grunion.

Emily "And THAT’S how a grunion run works!" McLain & friend, photo by Joe McLain

Question: "I counted over 100 people on the beach and in the water. There were many 5 gallon plastic buckets above the high tide line being used for grunion storage. No one that I asked had a fishing license and several said that they were doing it just for fun. Do you need a license to do it just for fun???" – Chris L.  
Answer: Yes, grunion are a managed species found no where else in the world. The fish caught for fun end up just as dead as the ones caught for food or bait. (Frankly, it's not so much fun for them.)

Noisy crowds chasing the grunion kept the runs pretty small at many beaches. People picked up nearly every fish that came ashore in some areas. Dayna W. saw "Big bonfires, lots of people. They were picking up the scouts. No one had licenses that we could see. We did a lot of education that night." Fortunately many who can’t resist catching these little fish out of water turn around and release them to their marine home once again.   

One of San Diego's Finest shows Taylor and Drew how they handle grunion poachers! (We wish!), 
photo by Donna Cottingham

We had some big runs, a few W-4s and many W-3s around the state. Santa Barbara Greeters reported W-3s on two beaches, bigger runs than we have recorded in previous years, so that's good news indeed. Amy M. wrote, "LOTS of people & kids running around/ collecting. Run was larger than in May." In San Diego Walter H. enjoyed "A wonderful, balmy evening. My granddaughter brought two of her school friends -- who had never seen them -- they had a blast!" "Grunion were leaping out of water--reminded us of miniature dolphin!" says Melissa S.

Grunion Delight, Photo by Melissa Studer

The grunion continue to spread out along large areas of the beaches, which makes sense since it keeps the spawning adults, and later their eggs, separated enough that a predator or some other negative impact will only affect a small segment of the whole population. "The grunion were scattered all along the length of the beach. There were quite a number of fish in various locations along the beach," says Leiana F.

Squid Alert!

We've had numerous reports of Humboldt (jumbo) squid washing up on beaches, including Newport Beach in the hundreds, also Long Beach, Ocean Beach in San Diego, Cabrillo Beach, Silver Strand, and Del Mar City Beach. The squid have shown up during and after grunion runs on those beaches. We think they may be feeding on our favorite fish, but they apparently lack the grunion’s surfing expertise.

Lori M. reported "Big excitement was seeing a huge SQUID up close!" Keith G. described: "a large squid, beautiful, varied grey tones to white in color, 6-7 inches in diameter, maybe 24-30 in long. Curiously, the body did not flatten noticeably when stranded on the sand. Perhaps it was full of little fish." 

Emma Hatfield & Jumbo Squid, photo courtesy Eric Hochberg

Should you find yourself in a Squid Situation, please be sure to use Safe Squid practices. The Humboldt squid has a sharp beak and large ones have the ability to take a bite the size of an orange out of, say, a shark. They snap grunion in half. Don't let this happen to you! 

We are very interested in collecting some stranded squid, so if you choose to join the Squid Squad, bring along a large plastic bag (i.e. a trash bag) with you to carry the specimen. Handle it by the mantle only. Keep your hands away from the animal’s mouth, which is located below the eyes and at the center of the tentacles. Save the squid in a freezer and let me know by e-mail or by calling the Hot Line that you have a specimen, and we will give you further instructions. Alternatively, just leave the cephalopods on the beach and let us know where to find them. We’ll ask the local Beach Professionals for assistance. 

Dennis Simmons, Beach Manager for City of San Diego, addresses our Field Day for 
Beach Professionals, May 22, 2007, photo by Scott Merrill

Other Predators

Other grunion predators seen last weekend, besides people and jumbo squid, included sand sharks, guitarfish, great blue herons, black-crowned night herons, egrets, gulls, owls, cats and dogs.

Grunion Greeter Fish Tales:

"My girlfriend and I were the only two on the beach. It was a beautiful night and the grunion increased in numbers between 11-12" – Andy H., North San Diego County

"Lots of children and adults catching grunion, some noisy but others quiet and just delighted, watching. We spoke with them: some planning on using grunion for bait, others catching and releasing. We educated about 10-15 people about the grunion, which was fun, and changed some behavior that was previously disturbing spawning." Miriam I., Imperial Beach.

"My family just happened upon this phenomenon going for a walk tonight. When my stepmom shouted 'it's the running of the grunion' I thought she was joking. I didn't realize this existed. I came home and Googled it immediately. Very cool!" – report from the South Bay area of Los Angeles County.

Grunion in Green, photo by Dennis Lees

"Thousands along basically the whole area. The run started at about 11, the peak hit about 12:30 and there’s still activity going on right now!"  – Hot line call from Kirk M. in Los Angeles County.

"It is obvious to me that the squids have been so successful at being big squid in the ocean they are now trying to invade land. Let's thank Neptune they haven't figured it out yet…." – Chad W., aboard the R/V New Horizon

And Finally:

For those of you who prefer the virtual to the actual, you can see a grunion run the 21st century way, on YouTube. A few fuzzy fish footages have been uploaded from several grunion beaches. My favorite, posted by Grunion Greeter Jeff Jamison, is here: http://youtube.com/watch?v=J5knOi1lwIM&mode

See you on the beach. And may the fish be with you! 

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