On the Lookout for the California Grunion Run

The California Grunion (Leuresthes tenuis) is found only in the southern California coast from south Santa Barbara all the way to Baja. If you’ve never seen a grunion run before now is as good a time as any so if you haven’t already, buy some stuff at Eat My Tackle and get some grunion.


The grunion has a slim body, and some people confuse it with the Pacific top smelt which is also found in similar estuaries and inshore. What distinguishes the grunion from the top smelt is their reproductive method. The grunion descends on beaches in large groups under moonlight where the females use their tails to dig in the sand and lay eggs.

The males use their milt to fertilize them and after a few weeks, the eggs will hatch and the baby grunion gets out of the sand and into the water when the tide ebbs. This activity takes place from the months of March to September, as that is when spawning occurs.

Most California grunion is 6 inches long though some reach a length of 7 inches. The grunion is also one of, if not the only fish in the US you can only take with your hands. You don’t need to dig holes in the sand, and even with just a cooler or bucket you’ll be all set. Once you have captured the grunion you just put them in cooler or bucket and you’re good to go.

Rules for Catching Grunion

The honor system is in place here as the state doesn’t impose any limits. However, all anglers are in agreement with the governing agency that you should catch as many as you need and nothing more. If you are over 16 years of age you need a valid California fishing license before you catch any grunion, or any fish in the state for that matter.

Cleaning and Preparation

To clean a grunion you need to do more than just cut the fillet off like you’d do with other fish. The process involves meticulous scaling and gutting, rinsing and patting. You have the option to keep the head on or remove it, that’s up to you.

Where to Catch the Grunion Run

If you’re in it just to catch the grunion run, remember the grunion only choose \certain types of beaches. San Diego County beaches are good choices, but for the best views with lots of fish, go to any beach that is close to a jetty or cliff. Flat beaches are ideal and especially those that don’t have any lights. The fewer the people the better, and among the top destinations are South Mission Beach, which is near a jetty, and Tourmaline Beach as it is under a cliff.

Grunion runs usually take place at night so a Friday or Saturday evening is ideal around midnight or so. Before you go, make sure you’re wearing shorts so your clothing doesn’t get wet, and don’t forget your jacket as it can get cold.

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