Latin name

Leuresthes tenuis

Other names

Smelt, little smelt, grunion, lease smelt.


The California grunt has an elongated body and a compressed head. The mouth is small, and the scales are fine, smooth, and hard. The coloration is bluish-green above and silvery below. A bright silvery band with a blue tint and purple border runs along the entire length of the body.


The California grunts occur from Magdalena Bay, Baja California, to San Francisco. Its main habitat is between Point Abreohos, Baja California, and Point Conception, California. A similar species, the bay grouse (L. sardina), is found only in the Gulf of California.


California grunion are nonmigratory and are most often found in schools a short distance from shore in water 15 to 40 feet deep.


The maximum known size of a grunt is 71⁄2 inches. Life expectancy is usually 3 years, with some individuals surviving up to 4 years.

Life history and Behavior

The most rapid growth occurs during the first year, at the end of which they reach a length of 5 inches and become capable of spawning. The spawning behavior is one of the most unusual of all marine fish. The females, accompanied by one to eight males, swim ashore with an incoming wave, burrow into the sand up to their pectoral fins, and lay eggs. The males wrap themselves around the females and fertilize the eggs. With the next wave, the fish return to the sea. Thus, the spawning process takes place in the short interval between waves.

Food and feeding habits

They feed on small crustaceans and fish eggs.


Most females spawn four to eight times a year, and thousands of fish may be on the beach at the same time. Spawning occurs from early March through September, and then only during the 3-4 nights after the full moon, during the 1-4 hours immediately after the tide.

Phylum Chordata
Class Actinopterygii
Squad Atheriniformes
Family Atherinopsidae
Genus Leuresthes
Species L. tenuis
Conservation status No information
Habitat Pelagic
Life span, years 4
Maximum body weight, kg No information
Maximum length, cm 19
Sailing speed, m/s No information
Threat to people Edible
Way of eating No information

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Grunion, California

Tags: Grunion, California