Grunion Fish Make Their Annual Run

Spawning season under way in Santa Monica Bay

By Toi Creel

Grunion, the small silver fish, have made their way to the shores of Venice Beach and Santa Monica Bay as part of their yearly spawning season.

The fish lay eggs at night, traveling to the sand through the waves, burying their eggs in the coast. This particular process happens only in southern California and the northern Baja coast.

Female Grunions bury in the sand, tail first, and lay eggs. A male Grunion comes afterwards, wraps around the female and then proceeds to fertilize the eggs. Ten days later the eggs hatch and the small Grunions swim away with a life span from between two to four years.

A female Grunion will only lay eggs once, laying between 1,600 and 3,600 eggs during one spawn. Males can fertilize many sets of eggs and will come back several times during the night. The eggs are buried in the sand to avoid predators and disruption while young grunions are developing.

The Grunion spawn starts as early as March and as late as August, but usually the fish are more active during high tide months from April through June.

The fish are usually visible from flat, sandy beaches and start spawning around 10:00 p.m. and can go till around 1:00 a.m. For the best viewing locations and times you can visit the California Department of Fish and Wildlife at https://wildlife.ca.gov/Fishing/Ocean/Grunion .

According to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, despite local concentrations, grunion are not abundant.

“The most critical problem facing the grunion resource is the loss of spawning habitat caused by beach erosion, harbor construction, and pollution. By the 1920s, the fishery was showing definite signs of depletion. A regulation was passed in 1927 establishing a closed season of three months, from April through June. The fishery improved, and in 1947 the closure was shortened to April through May. This closure is still in effect to protect grunion during their peak spawning period,” the California Department of Fish and Wildlife writes on their website.

During the open season, a fishing license is required to capture grunion using hands only.

“No holes may be dug in the beach to entrap them. There is no bag limit, but fishermen may take only what they can use—it is unlawful to waste fish,” the Department added.

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