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All About Food: Younger Pearsons keeping it fresh

September 01, 2010|By Elle Harrow and Terry Markowitz
  • Fresh harpooned Swordfish, below, and weighty peice of Albacore are just a few of the local fresh seafood delicacies available at Pearson's Port in Newport Beach.
Fresh harpooned Swordfish, below, and weighty peice… (DON LEACH, Daily…)

On Coast Highway, tucked under the bridge that goes over the Back Bay is a little piece of Orange County history: a shack, floating on pontoons, where the Pearson family has been selling fish and seafood since 1970.

It was then that Huntington Beach resident and lifelong fisherman Roy Pearson, expecting to be downsized in the aerospace industry, quit his job in order to pursue his passion and started a fishing business to support his wife, Vi, and six children. On his first day out, he caught one lobster and brought it back to the parking lot, where Vi promptly sold it. This distribution of roles continued throughout the life of the business. Roy built a small structure at the end of the parking lot, and Pearson's Port was born in February 1971. The business thrived with a customer base that included the large new Vietnamese immigrant community who sought out the quality and freshness of the product.

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Ten years ago, after Roy died, his son Tom and daughter-in-law Terese bought the business, continuing the tradition with Tom fishing and Terese managing. Their two daughters, 13-year-old Carley and 16-year-old Haley, have worked part time since they were youngsters to help their parents. Vi continued to work there for another two years before retiring.

Following the sign on Coast Highway, we drove down to the water in the shadow of the bridge to the weathered shack that is Pearson's Port. We were warmly greeted by Carley and Terese, who proudly showed us their wares. Bins of live crabs and spot prawns line the walls, while a small section of glistening fresh fish rested on beds of ice. The catch of the day included wahoo, white seabass, halibut and yellowtail. Their fish is exclusively seasonal, and right now, besides what we've listed, so are harpooned swordfish, tuna and dorado. Crab is available all year round, but the gorgeous live spot prawns are only around from April to August, when their place is taken by spiny lobster.

Different from his father, Tom is a rod and reel fisherman and a trapper. The effusive and loquacious Terese says about her husband, "Water defines him. When he's not fishing, he surfs and dives." The women in the family, however, all get seasick and prefer to stay on land. Tom and Terese grew up in Huntington Beach as neighbors, and, as a little girl, she started hanging out at the shack with Vi. Her parents would drop her off there before going out on their own boat. Terese was always happier on shore.

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