Wednesday, June 01, 2022

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 back east and were working as waitresses at The Pierpont Inn.  

Luckily it wasn't all work. We had some fun escapades too 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 speedily 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. (the only way then that California allowed them to harvest the fish.) They were considered a great delicacy and it was a challenge to capture any since they were on land for such a short time and were very slippery too. However, 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.


Blogger Marie Smith said...

Like the Caplin run in Newfoundland. Fun to see.

5:16 PM  
Blogger Anvilcloud said...

I never realized that it all happened that way. I don’t think I’d be running to catch the fish either. 😀

6:18 PM  
Blogger Linda P. said...

Thank you so much for these respites from what is happening here. Your story reminded me of the time my husband heard that redfish were running close to the beach nearest us in Texas. We were newlyweds. We went out at night to watch for them in the shallow waters as the waves rolled in and to watch others fish for them. My husband's Sicilian family had, in the 1930-1950's often seined the beaches and brought fish and shrimp home to their families. I don't even know if seining is allowed any longer on those beaches, but the trip to the beach brought out many fond memories for my husband. We weren't as lucky as you and Gayle were. We didn't spot any redfish that evening, but it was still a bit of adventure for a young couple who could not afford many adventures.

5:09 AM  
Blogger Arkansas Patti said...

This post made me smile. In highschool our boyfriends would often entice us to go to the beach to watch the "grunion run." There were no grunion in Florida and it was just an excuse to get us on the beach in the moonlight for some necking. Thanks for letting me see what it should have looked like.

8:31 AM  
Blogger Joared said...

I always thought it would be fun to see a grunion run but we never went to the beach for that as always seemed to be something else more important.

12:23 AM  

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