The last few days fishing here in Surfside has been nothing short of awesome. Halibut, Yellowfin Croaker, Spotfin Croaker, Barred Surf Perch, and a variety of skates, rays, and sharks made up the fare for the week. In the past week we have been blessed by an abundance of forage that has brought more than the normal number of game fish to feed on the shore.
Double and triple hookups were the name of the game as Phil, Art Soriano, Scott Buchert, Phil Jr, Bleu Cotton, and others had a few fantastic days of surf fishing. The size of the fish may not have been what is expected on a tuna trip but with the 6 to 10 lb outfits we were using it was hard to tell the difference in the fun category. The fish were biting the iron with gusto and everybody had a ball.
The entire week has been awesome. The mornings have been just absolutely perfect weather and the afternoons absolutely perfect fishing. A large school of small finfish hanging just offshore has marked the entire week. Helen of Troy may have launched a thousand ships that that was really small potatoes compared to the fleet of grebes that have been hanging out over the top of this school of forage all week long. If the defenders of Troy had seen a fleet this size they would have immediately sued for peace.
Each afternoon the activity would increase dramatically and squadrons of terns would fly into the zone and begin their strafing and dive bombing runs, first a few hundred yards offshore, then gradually moving to inside of the breakers in the early evening. We spent a lot of time glassing this activity and talked about what this forage consisted of. There had been many reports of an abundance of pinhead anchovies in the area but we noted that the new moon this week had a predicted grunion run associated with it.
It’s been many years since I have seen a live grunion. I don’t think that’s an indicator of the health of grunion as running around the beach in the middle of the night isn’t exactly what middle age and beyond folks typically tend to do even when they are a dyed-in-the-wool fishing nutcase. Also it seems probable that a few decades of the warm water regime we went through until recently might have made the sight of grunion on the beaches a bit rarer.
I think the last time I seriously hunted grunion for calico bass bait was about 40 years ago. I did spend a cold and fruitless night on the beach back this March waiting for these elusive rascals. At any rate, with all the interesting activity this week I figured I should go give it another shot.
I got to the beach about 45 minutes after the predicted start of the run. Not bad because the prime time is actually one hour past the start. I had no flashlight with me so the first thing I noticed was the sound of the grunion flopping around on the beach. I pulled out my iphone and started taking pictures and each time the flash went off I could see the beach was covered with these little fish. I probably took a hundred pictures of them and got a few pictures to come out. I think I got about 75 shots of my finger in front of the lens. It’s beyond me how the engineers over at Apple decided to put the lens in upper corner of the iphone right where you tend to hold it instead of in the center of the phone like any typical camera.
Yep, its forage that makes for healthy populations of larger fish and its forage that makes for great fishing opportunities. Whether the forage is anchovies, sardines, squid, pacific mackerel, or pacific bonito they play a critical role in the biological systems that support great fisheries.
The taking of grunion is closed in April and May for the purpose of giving these critters a chance to reproduce. Grunion were originally regulated in 1927 to provide them an opportunity to spawn. The closure then was for 3 months, April thru June. However, in 1947 it was shortened to the current two months of April and May.
Last night was good medicine for me. I walked off the beach a bit past midnight grinning ear to ear thinking that all is well with the world. It’s really nice to get an occasional glance at that.
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