Seriously, how to you grab a grunion? No, really …

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Women in the 1940s go after some grunion in a photograph from a UCLA dissoration on grunion spawning by Boyd Walker in 1949 (linked here).

We took a detour in our recent search for answers (linked here), but it’s worth offering up some of the real info that some of the experts gave us from their professional experience.

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From Dr. Karen Martin, the Pepperdine biology professor (linked here) and creator of Grunion.org:

== On the best time of year to go out: “With all forms of fishing, there are no guarantees. Plus, now you have the very late time in the season going against you. Mark your calendar for next April and May, closed season when the grunion are protected from capture — the best time to see a strong run.”

== On what attracts the grunion to the shore, if not a flashlight: “They are not attracted to lights so neither flashlights nor candles will bring them in. In fact, shining a light out into the water will startle them away.”

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== On whether global warming has anything to do with where they are migrating these days: “Their habitat range has traditionally been from about the middle of Baja Calif. to Point Conception, more or less. We have seen a few small populations appear north of there over the last few years so global warming could shift the habitat range northward. Global warming won’t expand the actual range because as it shifts at the top end, the lower limit will probably also shift north.

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“This makes sense when you consider that the whole point of spawning on the beach — well, maybe not the only point from the fish’s point of view — is to leave the embryos developing in the eggs in the sand above the water line, where it is warmer and better oxygenated than in the ocean. The eggs will overheat if there is a warmer climate. Also, there is much less sandy beach coastline north of Point Conception than south of it, with less habitat for spawning to occur. So in answer to your actual question, they should be in L.A.for the foreseeable future. Farther north, the runs may continue later in the season than farther south in the range.”

== On any other obvious things we should know: “One, don’t try to catch the first fish you see, let the run get started so you don’t frighten the fish away. Consider them watchable wildlife, aware of the surroundings. Two, if you do want to catch, be kind. Many grunion are trampled and mangled in haste. Consider releasing the fish so it can return next year. Everyone over age 15 needs a fishing license to take the fish. And three: Whether or not the fish show, enjoy the outing and the opportunity to see the beach in an out-of-ordinary way.

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From Charina Layman, the public programs manager at the Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla (above, left, during an interview with a local San Diego TV station):

== Are southfacing beaches any better than others? “I think it’s more about the quiet beaches. Grunion will run wherever. I found them in Mission Bay once. Somehow, they just found themselves where there were some nice wave-swept beaches.”

== About the time of the year: “The peak season really is from April through June, so we’re really at the end here. You’re not going to find as many now.”

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== The best way to wrangle them: “Catching them is easy, but one of the most important things is you can only use your hands. No buckets or traps. Actually, if you’re used to holding slimy things, they’re easy to grab. And it’s really thrilling when you do see them. The whole beach sparkles. It’s so wonderful. It just takes a little luck and a lot of patience.”

More resources:
== The Scripps Institute for Oceanography grunion program
== The Cabrillo Museum in San Pedro
== The DFG site for 2011 grunion runs
== The DFG site for license info
== The Pepperdine Grunion Greeters project.

Photo, left, by Bill Hootkins

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