For A Silvery Calif. Fish, A Special Moonlit Night The grunion run happens only in the spring and summer months. Late at night, under the full and new moons, thousands of tiny, silvery fish swim to shore for a very peculiar mating ritual.

For A Silvery Calif. Fish, A Special Moonlit Night

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And, finally this hour, to the beaches of Southern California for our series, Summer Nights. When the moon is new or full and the tide is high, thousands of locals line the shores to watch small, silvery fish as they have sex on the beach. The fish are grunion and the event is the Grunion Run. The audience marvels at the mating ritual and then there's a free-for-all. Grab all the slimy little fish you can.

NPR's Amy Walters sent us this post card from San Pedro.

AMY WALTERS, BYLINE: So, it's Friday night. I've had a long week of work, as I'm sure a lot of you guys have, and no better in Southern California to let off a little steam than to head to the beach, which is where I've arrived to see the world famous Grunion Run.

There are people everywhere, big bonfires.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN 1: Later this evening about 10, 10:30, we'll all be going out to the beach together.

LARRY FUKUHARA: I'm Larry Fukuhara and I'm the program director here at the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN 1: On certain nights, (unintelligible) sandy California beaches are the scene of a spectacular display.

FUKUHARA: The grunions are basically spawning tonight. The females will come out and what they're going to be doing is burrow backwards into the sand about two to three inches. The male or males will wrap around and what they'll do is fertilize the eggs.

WALTERS: A romantic evening.

FUKUHARA: Oh, yes, yes. I'm glad you're here.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN 1: Now, kids, please ask your parents what fertilization means. OK? Do that on the drive home. They'll love it.

FUKUHARA: Then, afterwards, we're going to go out to the beach with the rest of the people and, hopefully, see grunion.

WALTERS: What do you think? Are our odds good tonight?

FUKUHARA: Always good. We're always positive. Heck, yeah. Yeah. We're going to see grunion.

ANTHONY: Fish, 10, 20, 30, 100.

WALTERS: What's your name?

ANTHONY: Anthony (unintelligible).

WALTERS: And I heard that you are 10 years old. Is that right?

ANTHONY: Nine (unintelligible).

WALTERS: OK. So should we go see if there's going to be fish out there?



UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN 1: OK, folks, so what we're going to do is we're watching (unintelligible) wave recede, as it goes out, it leaves shiny, shimmery, wet sand and what you want to do is look for anything wiggling in that wet sand area. We're starting to get a couple reports that there's a couple fish here and there. Looks like we have a couple over to our left.

WALTERS: How long do we have to wait? Do you guys see any?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN 2: Yeah. They were silver and they were wiggling.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN 1: Sometimes, if you look in the waves, you can see them. As the wave curls up, you can see them in the waves.

WALTERS: What are you going to do with them once you catch them?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN 2: You bring them home and fry them and eat them. You can't have them like pets. If you have dogs, your dogs are going to eat them.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN 2: Or we could fry them right there in the fire.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN 2: Yeah. Or maybe in our house when we get there.



WALTERS: I do think the most self-respecting grunion might be scared away by this tremendous Friday night crowd.


WALTERS: Rest assured, that was not a grunion attack. That was merely a small wave. Did you get one?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN 2: I got two. When it first came in, I got one and then, right here, I got one.

WALTERS: Are you going to name it?


WALTERS: (Unintelligible).

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN 2: Oh, mine fell.

WALTERS: Oh, (unintelligible) flipping around. (Unintelligible).


LISA CANE: I have a four-year-old, a eight-year-old, 10-year-old and a 12-year-old.

WALTERS: Tell me your name.

CANE: Lisa Cane(ph). You know, we're in with the nature and learning and having fun.

WALTERS: So there's still some campfires burning. Still lots of folks in the water, but I've had a long week and it's Friday night and I'm headed home. How many s'mores did you eat?


BLOCK: That's NPR's Amy Walters enjoying the Grunion Run at the Cabrillo Aquarium in San Pedro, California.

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