Fish on land isn't so strange; the grunion have been coming ashore to spawn for a very, very, very long time. Long time.
THERE'S A SEASON... for practically everything on this planet. Including, and this is one of our favorite seasons, the time of year when tiny shimmery fishes squirm onto the sands of the Golden State in order to lay eggs. (If the word "spawn" comes to mind here, you're right on track.) We're talking about the grunion, as you might have guessed. And those industrious, calendar-minding fish are ready to kick off another run of moonlight spawning and the releasing of milt by the males. Intrigued? There probably isn't a human on earth who isn't a bit keen to see what a fish on land looks like. Strike that. We humans are keen, rather, to see finned creatures come ashore to do something as important as the laying and fertilizing of eggs. It isn't merely that the grunion flop onto land, all tourist-like, have a bored look around and leave; they're feverishly creating future grunion, and no less.
GRUNION 2012: The annual grunion runs -- catchy name -- are just about to kick off at various shores from Baja California to about Point Conception near Santa Maria, though the grunion can and do nose their way into Monterey.* The California Department of Fish and Game keep good tabs on those silvery superstars and where they might show, so we'd follow this site (Grunion run numero uno for 2012? March 8, says the department. The final grunion run for this year? Aug. 19. Note that the runs are sporadic and moon-phase-based, meaning they're definitely not happening nightly.)
SAN PEDRO NIGHTS: If you want an informative program with your grunion run, and a guide to talk about the eons-long history of grunion reproduction on our shores, we recommend making for San Pedro, where the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium runs an excellent program on the most gruniony nights of the year. The aquarium's first "Meet the Grunion" night for 2012 is on Saturday, March 10.
*Props to California Fish and Game for laying down the geography of the grunion. We told you; it's a helpful site.