Thursday, June 02, 2005

Answer to the Question of What the West Coast has that the East Coast Doesn't, Besides the Sunshine Where the Girls All Get So Tan: Grunion

Anadromous fish are fish that spend most of their lives in the sea but swim up rivers to spawn. We’ve got a number of them in Long Island Sound and its tributaries – shad, alewives, blueback herring, sturgeon. But what’s the name for a fish that swims in from the sea to spawn on the beach?

I have no idea, but there’s a fish in southern California that does exactly that. It’s called a grunion, Leuresthes tenuis, and it’s running now.

… grunion come out of the water completely to lay their eggs in the wet sand of the beach. As if this behavior were not strange enough, grunion make these excursions only on particular nights, and with such regularity that the time of their arrival on the beach can be predicted a year in advance.

Jon Christensen, whose blog is called The Uneasy Chair, wrote about it today and also wrote an earlier post looking back to grunion fishing (grunion collecting?) when he was a kid:

Swarms of silvery fingerling fish riding the waves all the way up the beach. The female drilling into the sand with her tail to lay her eggs. The males curving round her head depositing their sperm. With the next wave all wriggling free and riding back into the ocean.

When they weren't picked up in our buckets, that is, and run up the beach to a waiting hot frying pan. And eaten on the spot. Then staying up late watching the fire and the adults passing round a bottle and talking and laughing.

Sounds pretty good. I'm an incompetent fisherman, so it sounds like grunion are about my speed. I hope people out there are still catching and eating them.


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