Silver Spectacle on the Sand: It's Grunion Time

Open Season for the eternal and amazing spectacle is here, but do review the rules before heading to the beach.

Steve Howard

What to Know

  • Open Season begins on March 2, 2022 (you must be age 16 or older to take the grunion by hand, and a license is required)
  • Closed Season, when you can observe but not gather the grunion, opens April 1; the California Department of Fish and Wildlife has all the 2022 dates and details
  • "Meet the Grunion" programs will return to Cabrillo Marine Aquarium on select evenings from April 18 through June 16

Catching the sight of something shimmery near the edge of the ocean? It can fill an observer with a sense of ethereal beauty, and maybe a connection to the eternal.

Or at the very least? It can prompt a person to pull out a camera and begin recording the marvelous moment.

But finding such marvelous moments, where the water meets the land, is usually left to chance.

No calendars or schedules exist, to help us know when and where we'll be mightily moved by nature, with a few notable, and notably amazing, exceptions.

One of those incredible exceptions? It's the annual Grunion Runs, which most definitely boast their own easy-to-follow timetables, thanks to the fact that this ancient occurrence is very much tied to the moon.

Make that the full moon, and the new moon, too, and since we humans can keep track of the lunar calendar, we can also know just when these small and silver-bright fishes, which belong to the New World silversides family, will wriggle onto the sand to spawn.

For that's exactly what they're doing: Visiting terra firma to create future grunion.

And, as is tradition, the grunion will return to the Golden State's shores just ahead of spring's start, beginning this time around on March 2, 2022.

There are as many asterisks to note here as there are little fishies in the sea — okay, not really, but they are plentiful — so peruse all before you go in search of this spectacular, almost supernatural (but very natural, in reality) sight.

The grunion only visit certain beaches, on certain nights, and everything will wrap up around the end of August.

There is an Open Season, when people who are age 16 or older may take grunion by hand, and only by hand, with a proper license, and a Closed Season, which is when we may observe the old rite (grunion gathering is not permitted, however).

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife has all the 2022 dates and details, so you'll want to "wriggle" by this site now, to bone up on everything you need to know.

And if you'd simply like to know more about the grunion, all while getting the chance to observe the fish-tastic phenomenon yourself?

Cabrillo Marine Aquarium will again offer a program called "Meet the Grunion" on a number of spring nights.

The first happening is up on April 18, and the conclusion arrives in mid-June. An adult ticket is $7, while tickets for children and seniors are $3 each.

You'll hear the story of the grunion, and load up on fascinating facts, before trekking to the nearby beach to see these silver spawners in amazing action. Check back with the San Pedro aquarium, as March progresses, for more details on the upcoming events.

A fish on land?

It's a weird and wonderful sight, for sure, but some ocean denizens do call upon our local beaches, all to create the next generation in a dazzling, guided-by-the-moon dance.

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