If you’re visiting La Jolla and notice groups of locals on the beach at night shining flashlights onto the surf, chances are good the grunion – tiny little fish – are going through their odd mating ritual. Nothing – well, almost nothing – intrigues San Diegans like a good grunion run.
On certain spring and summer nights following high tides, hundreds of the small, silvery fish ride waves onto shore for this remarkable dance. While on the beach, female grunion bury themselves in the sand to lay eggs, while males wrap themselves protectively around the females to fertilize their eggs. Both catch a wave to return to sea.
You can grab a flashlight (and jacket) and head to La Jolla Shores on your own or you can join the folks at Birch Aquarium for a more educated approach to the spawning phenomena. Reservations must be made in advance by calling 858-534-7336. The program costs $12 per person.
Dates of the spring Birch Aquarium escorted runs are:
Friday, April 16, 9:30-11:30 p.m.
Friday, May 14, 9:30-11:30 p.m.
Friday, May 28, 9-11 p.m.
Saturday, May 29, 9:30-11:30 p.m.
If you want more info, “Grunion Groupies” meet Saturdays and Sundays, April 3-June 6 at 11:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. at the Birch Aquarium at Scripps. Here, naturalists describe the tale of the elusive California grunion, including how these fish “run” up our local beaches and lay their eggs in the moist sand.
The Grunion Groupie lecture is included in the cost of admission to the Aquarium: $12 adult, $9 senior, $8.50 youth 3-17, and children under 2 free.
The California Department of Fish & Game also provides information on their website and posts the schedule for the “expected grunion runs” March – August 2010 http://www.dfg.ca.gov/marine/grunionschedule.asp
You really haven’t seen La Jollans at their kookiest until you’ve been to a grunion run.