Flashlights drawn, this isn't a wild west shootout thought for the poor little grunion it may seem so.
Grunion run season occurs several months each year. They begin hitting Southern California beaches in late March. Grunion runs are a springtime and summer phenomenon the beaches from San Diego to Santa Barbara and even San Luis Obispo look forward to.
For human eaters, the small fish are used in dishes such as a green bean casserole, or cooked in a pan with some salt and seasoning over an open fire is a treat. But not everyone loves to eat grunion. And the advice the California Department of Fish and Game offers to them is "catch & release".
There's a catch for grunion hunters--many Southern California beaches shut down before the grunion run anywhere from 10:30 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. How are you supposed to park your car and enter beaches that are off limits?
We've tried it back before the beaches closed so early (years ago). One grunion runner summed up his experience. " I had to park on a city street where it was legal to park at night, then walk a few blocks to the beach, my bucket in hand." But the fun just began when the fisherman arrived at the beach and was approached by a patrol unit. "I told them I was hunting for grunion and they said I couldn't do that because the beach was closed. After haggling for a while, I waited till they left and then headed for the sand, my fishing license in hand. While I waited at the sand to look for them, sure enough, I did see the critters and began grabbing them in my hands, throwing them in my bucket. "
Having driven from San Bernardino to grunion hunt, the fisherman said he left with half a bucket full of fish before they disappeared. Would he do it again? Probably not. It was just too much hassle, the Inland Empire resident concluded--and the fish weren't that good.
For those seeking to run this year, call the local beach operations where you plan to fish for grunion. They will give you their official answer and you can decide if its worth the effort.
For those seeking a friendly grunion run, be sure to check out San Pedro's Cabrillo Beach operations and the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium grunion program. Another similar program can be found at Orange County's Doheny Beach in Dana Point.
The down side of these two grunion-friendly beach destinations is that both consistently rank lower in water quality grades as monitored by healthebay.org. Check out the water and if things look clear, then go!
Here's the deal: 16 and older- must buy a license; under 16 years it's free; but your parents and accompanying adults can't touch the fish you catch if they don't have a license.