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La Niña brings glut of anchovies to Bay Area waters, SF streets

La Niña brings glut of anchovies to Bay Area waters
La Niña brings glut of anchovies to Bay Area waters 02:30

By Lauren Toms

SAN FRANCISCO -- An abundance of anchovies are taking over the coastline as their population blooms. Some have been found a way from the water and on city streets in San Francisco.

Fish are quite literally falling from the sky in Outer Sunset. That's because coastal sea birds have more anchovies than they know what to do with.

Birds appear to be scooping up the extra fish and dropping them inland, causing it to rain anchovies.

"Never ever have I heard of something like this," San Francisco resident Stephanie Ernst Scott told KPIX 5. "It normally rains water, not fish!"

Reports of anchovies falling from the sky in San Francisco have been popping up on social media. Ernst Scott at Gus Discount Tackle says at least ten of her customers have experienced it.

"This customer comes in with a small baggie with anchovies and he says to me the following, 'Stef, it's raining anchovies on my lawn,'" she explained. "My attitude is, 'I'm real happy for you!' I thought he was coming from the bar. I thought he was drunk and he wasn't."  

Scott has been working at Gus' nearly her entire life. Her father opened the store in the Outer Sunset 62 years ago. In all that time, she's never seen anything like this. 

"What would go through your head?" she asked. "I mean, it's raining anchovies! I don't think so. And I was wrong and it is."

But there is an explanation. 

According to Bill Keener with the Marine Mammal Center, colder waters from a La Niña year are optimal breeding grounds for anchovies. 

"It's been building up this way for a few years and that is really good for anchovies," he told KPIX 5. "It creates the condition for their food, the plant plankton, so we have lots of anchovies spawning off our coast." 

Further north off the Marin County coast, anchovies were seen washing up on the shores of Bolinas Lagoon in the thousands. National park officials say it's due to a different phenomenon causing a mass die-off event from fish exhausting oxygen in the lagoon.

But Scott says while the excess anchovies is unbelievable, she wishes something else was falling from the sky

"It would be better if it was $100 dollar bills to help people go to Safeway!" she laughed.

Keener says this anchovy boom is bringing rare marine wildlife to the Bay Area coast. He recommends visiting Pacifica or another coastal area to see dolphins and whales feeding on the excess anchovies before they head north.

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