Local Spiny Lobster Season Opens Today!

spiny lobster
Flickr user baxterclaus
*Florida stunt lobster — not actually Aliso Creek

Shellfish lovers: the commercial season for spiny lobsters
opens today! Recreational divers and sport fishermen got a head start, literally grabbing
bugs by hand from our local waters since last Saturday.  Those of us less
inclined to make like Steve Irwin and dive for our own catch can buy
them from some of our waterfront fish markets until the season ends on
March 16, 2011.

There's a few differences between Pacific spiny lobsters and North Atlantic
lobsters. They have no claws, but bigger tails. The meat can be a
little firmer, but also sweeter in flavor, depending on who you ask. As
with any shellfish, the key is to not overcook the meat. The myth that
bigger lobsters are tougher than smaller ones is a lie to cover up poor
cooking technique.

Prices will fluctuate during the first few weeks until the market
settles on a fair price. In past years,they've sold at $25 / pound or
so, with the smallest legal lobsters weighing in around 1 1/4 pounds. As
a reference point, Maine lobsters were selling for $7.99 / pound at
Irvine's 99 Ranch Market this weekend.

What's that? You just want to be the judge and not the executioner?
Some fish markets will also cook your lobsters for you. Seafood this
fresh should be enjoyed simply – steamed, boiled, grilled, perhaps even
raw as sashimi. The following waterfront fish markets will sell you
truly local lobsters that were caught just hours before, and a few will
also cook them for you.

In Dana Point Harbor, Jon's Fish Market will sell you live
lobsters to take home for $23.95 a pound, and boil or grill them for you to eat on site.
General Manager Megan Fitzgerald says that their lobstermen work the
waters from San Clemente to Laguna Beach.

Jon's Fish Market 34665 Golden Lantern St Dana Point, CA; (949) 496-2807

Set back on a side street off of Coast Highway, Pearson's Port Fish Market
sits on a floating dock on Newport's Back Bay.  They do not cook
seafood on site. Chuck Pearson says that their spiny lobsters are caught in waters around Newport and Laguna Beach, and the price, today anyway, is $19.99 a pound.

Pearson's Port 100 E Coast Hwy, Newport Beach; (949) 675-6771

Skunked on a rainy day at the Dory Fleet

I only saw only one fisherman working this rainy morning at Newport Beach Dory Fleet
fish market. It's a co-operative of independent fishermen based at the
Newport Beach Pier, and each boat specializes in different catches. Ara
Kara of Live Fish Company shrugged at today's poor weather and water
conditions as he prepared their sablefish rigs for this weekend. He expects the two boat owners in the co-op who specialize in crabs and lobsters to be selling
later in the week.

The fishermen return with their early morning catch between 6 a.m.
and 9 a.m., and sell directly to the public until it's gone (read: show up early). They do
not cook anything on site. Weekends are the best days because the
entire fleet should be working. Sometimes, like today, they don't go
fishing at all. But if you wanted a sure thing, you'd be buying frozen
jumbo prawns raised on a farm in the Philippines and not wild, local sea

Newport Beach Dory Fleet 2111 W. Oceanfront, Newport Beach; www.doryfleet.com

In Long Beach, Berth 55 Fish Market will sell you live bugs, and
serve them steamed or grilled. Their fishermen didn't bring back any
lobsters today either, but they plan on selling starting tomorrow. No prices quoted at the time this was written.

Berth 55 Fish Market 555 Pico Avenue, Long Beach, (562) 435- 8366; www.berth55fishmarket.com

That's a list of waterfront fish markets in Orange County confirmed
to sell local lobsters, and there might be others as you move inland. In
past years, I've seen spiny lobsters for sale in Little Saigon live
seafood markets (such as T&K Food Warehouse)
but I haven't been able to verify any that intend to carry them this year.
If you spot any clawless spiny lobsters, let's hear about it in the
comments section!

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