IT'S ALL IN THE LANGUAGE: A first-time viewer of a Southern California grunion run, that tide-and-moon-regulated spring-and-summer phenomenon, might grasp at words to describe just what they're seeing. Are the silvery small fish on the beach before them, members of the silversides family all, actually wriggling? Are they shimmying? Flopping? Limboing? Doing a tango that involves a lot of back-and-forth-ing along the sand? It's really up to the beholder, but when the grunion arrive is not: The spawning fishes have chosen their nighttime beach sojourns by a clock everyone knows: The new and full moons. And we indeed say they're on the sand, and, nope, they don't have tiny leg-type appendages, like some ocean dwellers that make for terra firma to lay eggs (they are befinned, let us note). The upshot? Grunion are fishes, through and through, meaning they go for snake-style scurrying and hurry-scurrying flopping to the spot they'll ultimately choose for spawning.
INTRIGUED? Many people are, and seeing this sight is on plenty a Californian's "Don't Let Another Year Pass Before I've Witnessed This" list. Again, it's a warmer weather thing, and it isn't every night. The moon says when, and there are open seasons and closed seasons, indicating when grunion may be caught (caught by hand, we'll add, with a fishing license). Cabrillo Marine Aquarium is an excellent place to witness the phenomenon, but spots up the shoreline, from Baja to the Central Coast, see the grunion. Need to know more? Starting with California Department of Fish and Wildlife is a good bet. Note that the grunion keep a late-night schedule, too, and even if you pay a visit in summer, warmer gear is a smart plan. (The grunion, though, are pretty come as they are.)