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Spiny lobster season starts!

October 14, 2009 | 11:28 am

Spiny lobster season in Southern California opened last week, and that means hungry shoppers were lined up at Pearson’s Port this weekend. Located in the harbor at Newport Beach, Pearson’s is a second-generation dream come true for local lovers of seafood. Tommy Pearson is a fisherman who specializes in spot prawns during the summer and spiny lobsters during the winter. He’ll also bring in whatever fish he happens to catch while he’s out on the water tending his traps. His wife, Terese, runs the store, which is really just a shack housing a dozen or so live tanks.

The place can be a little hard to find -- it’s literally in Newport harbor, at the end of a short pier just underneath the Pacific Coast Highway bridge (I rent kayaks right next door). Turn in just before the trailer park and drive down to the water.

Prices this year are the same as last -- $17.99 a pound. And Terese says early fishing has been good, so supplies are plentiful. Spiny lobsters seem to me a bit leaner and more minerally than their Maine cousins (plus they don’t have front claws). My favorite way to fix them is to split them, brush them with herb butter and grill them -- flesh-side down for a couple of minutes, just long enough to firm the meat -- and then turn them over. They’re done when the meat begins to pull away from the shell. Don’t overcook them or they’ll dry out.

If you can’t make it to Newport, you can also find spinys at good local fish markets, including Quality Seafood in Redondo Beach, Los Angeles Fish Co. downtown, Malibu Seafood, Fish King in Glendale and the various Santa Monica Seafood stores. Call first to make sure they’re in stock.

Pearson’s Port, 100 E. Coast Highway, Newport Beach, (949) 675-6771.

-- Russ Parsons

Photo of Terese Pearson by Karen Tapia-Anderson / Los Angeles Times