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The Season To Watch Grunions Mate Is Here

Grunion run at a beach (Photo by eric wittman via the Creative Commons on Flickr)
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It's that sexy time of year again where grunions get their spawning on at beaches, and we humans get to watch them in action. The first chance to observe grunion runs starts April 4.

During the spring and summer months, the silvery and slender fish will go through their mating ritual for four consecutive nights when there are full and new moons due to the high tides. The peak months for grunion runs are from late March to early June, though they will continue on through August and even occasionally take place in February and September. The runs can be seen all the way from Point Conception in Santa Barbara County to Point Abreojos in Baja California.

If you're wondering how grunions spawn, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife described how the fish perform their mating ritual on their website—and it sounds like something out of a sea-life romance novel:

As waves break on the beach, grunion swim as far up the slope as possible. The female arches her body and excavates the semi-fluid sand with her tail to create a nest. She twists her body and digs into the sand until she is half buried, with her head sticking up. She then deposits her eggs in the nest. Males curve around the female and release milt. The milt flows down the female's body until it reaches and fertilizes the eggs.
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The first date of the grunion run observation season starts on April 4, and is expected to start at 10:05 p.m. and run until 12:05 a.m. The Department of Fish and Wildlife have released a full schedule of expected grunion runs for this year, which can be seen here. These dates and times refer to viewings at Cabrillo Beach near the Los Angeles Harbor entrance.

Chris Pierce, a marine safety lieutenant for the Seal Beach Lifeguard Department, gave the L.A. Times some tips on viewing the grunion runs. He said lights scare the fish, so stay away from well-lit parts of the beach, and don't shine flashlights at the grunions.

Grunion love is contagious: anyone remember the scene in 1991 film Don't Tell Mom The Babysitter's Dead where Sue Ellen (Christina Applegate) gets to share her first kiss with love interest and Clown Dog worker Bryan (Josh Charles) at the beach and grunions mate at their feet?

(GIF via YouTube)
Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story said the grunion run observation schedule starts this weekend, but it begins on April 4. LAist regrets this error.

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