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Buckets of trouble ahead, grunion

June 17, 2007|Margaret Wappler

WATCHING the grunion is a California ritual -- but not without its tensions. From April to the end of July, San Pedro's Cabrillo Beach is overtaken by the spawning season of the silvery, smelt-like grunion fish. Around midnight on the new moon, they wriggle out of the tide, hissing as the females plunge into the sand and groups of males surround each one.

On Monday night, the beach was closed, but that didn't stop the hunters. Squealing kids and their parents grabbed the fish and dropped them into buckets. A few nature lovers lamented the grunion's frying-pan fate and tried to ward off the fishermen with harsh words. Then the police kicked everybody out.

The Cabrillo Marine Aquarium hosts "grunion runs" every new moon through July. Program director Larry Fukuhara has been leading thousands into the water with flashlights for 25 years. "All I know is how the kids react. They get wet, they get cold and they remember it for the rest of their lives."

-- Margaret Wappler

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