When I was a young boy growing up in the Seattle area, my family would often come to Southern California to visit in the summer. Naturally, I would want to go to Disneyland, but there were also friends and relatives to visit. My first experience actually living here was as a freshman in college. I remember during that time someone talking about the grunion run. I thought it was just an upperclassman joke to get stupid freshman running around on the beach in the middle of night!

Turns out it isn’t. Last year I took my kids to the Cabrillo Aquarium for the excellent program they put on to watch the run. That’s one great way to enjoy the grunion run. The Daily Breeze details some other ways to have fun during the run.

grunion_closeupHundreds of people lined up under the dim light of the full moon along a stretch of Cabrillo Beach in San Pedro on a recent Saturday night.

The large crowd was almost eerily quiet as gentle low waves crashed on the beach a little after 10 p.m.

Although most had flashlights, they were using the moonlight to try to spot the subtle glimmering reflection of the squirming little fish that make an appearance there year after year.

Just before 10:30 p.m., a handful of flopping fish were visible at one end of the beach. But under the direction of marine experts, the crowd kept its cool and kept the flashlights off so they wouldn’t scare off the grunion, small sardine-size silvery fish that come ashore at night after high tide to lay eggs.

The mating ritual is known as the grunion run and it drew roughly 600 people to the beach March 7 for the first run of the year.

“Tonight was a very good turnout for the beginning of the season,” said Matt Christopherson, program assistant at the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, which hosted the run as part of its annual grunion program.

Photos: Pearls of Profundity (top); Aquaviews (above)