THE GRUNION RUN….on a Southern California beach, 1952
One of the most memorable nights that I can remember was at a beach just north of Ventura, California. My friend Gayle and I were there during our summer break from college. The year was 1952 and we were working as waitresses at The Pierpont Inn.
Our work schedules were quite full but we did manage some fun excursions and this one topped the list. It was close to midnight and a group of us had lit a blazing bonfire on the sand. There was a full moon and the waves were very active, crashing rhythmically on the beach. A feeling of tension was in the air. We had no idea if we would be lucky enough to see the grunion, or if it would be another night climaxed by disappointment.
Suddenly a great cry went up, and was heard to echo down the length of the beach: “the grunion are running”...and there they were. Thousands of small, silvery fish were riding a wave to the shore. As the wave receded back into the ocean, the grunion remained on land, the females drilling grooves into the sand as they twirled on their tails, depositing eggs. The male grunion would curve around her in order to fertilize the eggs and the spawning was accomplished before the next wave appeared to return them to the depths of the ocean. It was a sight to behold.
Suddenly all bedlam broke loose as old and young alike raced for the fish, trying to catch them by hand. They were considered a great delicacy and it was a challenge to harvest them because they were on land for such a short time. The smell of fried fish soon filled the air and I realized that those bonfires were used for more than just alleviating the chill.
Observing the grunion, however, was more to our style than trying to catch them. Gayle and I watched in fascination as the show played out in front of us.. As I understand it, the southern coast of California and the Baja Peninsula are among the very few places where the grunion run so we were fortunate indeed.