cusk-eel, grunion, and other fish
new moon cycle, 11:05-12:39, cloudy skies
This was a pleasant night and a nice way to finish off my birthday activities. When we arrived at the beach, 13 people were already there with buckets containing grunion, cusk-eels, and other fish. The local fisherman in the bunch said they arrived at 10pm and saw about 20 grunion thus far. This was their first time out since learning about grunion from the CA Fish and Wildlife schedule. The other groups were a young family and a couple individuals. Somewhat unusual compared to past grunion nights, everyone seemed incredibly respectful of the grunion (e.g., waiting until the female was done laying eggs before collecting her) and curious about what else was on the beach (e.g., Charlie and 3 of his night heron friends, a medium-sized sea turtle making its way parallel to shore, bioluminescence they had witnessed 3 nights before while sardine fishing).
I asked to take a quick picture of one of the small cusk-eels they had in their bucket before they let it go. It's too bad it's such a crappy photo. In any case, I discovered it's very difficult to find online information about the different kinds of eel-like animals. Fishbase.org has a searchable db, but like BugGuide in its early days, it needs more content to truly become a user-friendly site. Can anyone recommend an eel ID site?
At 12:07, we were all starting to pack up when another decent run of 60-80 grunion came up with a big wave. We stayed for the next half hour with another 2 runs at 12:20 and 12:37. I've reported this night as a W-1. It certainly wasn't as exciting as May 26 (W-4), May 25 (W-3), or June 8 (W-2), 2013, but way better than no grunion (W-0) as has happened too many times in past years.
ps 05/18/14 - Thanks to a grunion greeting e-mail exchange with Dr. Guacamole and Dr. Martin and quotes from Bob Lea, the unidentified eel above has been identified as not a true eel, but a cusk-eel. As to species, I can't say for sure. Although, spotted cusk-eel (Chilara taylori) is mentioned quite a bit online for this area. Paperbone (Lamprogrammus niger) and giant (Spectrunculus grandis) are reported for Monterey Bay as well.