MORRO BAY, Calif. — Morro Bay is a charming coastal destination on CA Highway 1 that honors its nautical heritage and multi-generational fishing community, a big part of the city’s economy. The well-received Morro Bay Maritime Museum recently opened after 20 years of fundraising, and Morro Bay celebrates the fishing community each October with the 35-year-old Annual Harbor Festival. This time of year, it’s all about the crab. The main crab species caught off of California’s coast is Dungeness and the waters off of Morro bay offer enough crab to keep crabbing families busy throughout the season.
There are eight families in Morro Bay that depend on Dungeness crab to feed their family. One is the French family. They’ve been crabbing out of Morro Bay for three generations now. It all started with Al French, one of the pioneers for catching Rock crab in Morro Bay, which started in the 1950’s.
Today, Al’s sons, Jeff and John continue the family business. Under their dad’s watchful eye they learned the ropes while they fished their way through college. After graduating from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo and University of California, Santa Barbara respectively, the brothers became commercial fishermen in Morro Bay. Jeff’s son Lorrin crabbed his way through an architecture degree, and is currently working as a deck hand in the family business. Both Lorrin and his cousin Ryan are in line to take over the business when that time comes.
Jeff’s wife Lori French helps with the business too, participating with a watchful eye as the director of the Pacific Coast Federated Fishermen’s Association, a statewide commercial fishing organization. While holding down the family avocado orchard, another commodity Morro Bay is known for, Lori writes about commercial fishing family life for the National Fishermen Magazine.
“Crabbers make the majority of their income between the opening of crab season on November 15 until the Chinese New Year in January,” says Lori French. “Crabbing is physically demanding and in the beginning of the season sleep is a luxury. Still, in our family, my husband always finds his way home for Christmas Eve, even if it means both he and Lorrin spend Christmas Day asleep.”
Fresh Crab on the Menu in Morro Bay
Visitors will find plenty of great places to eat and drink featuring local ocean-to-table cuisine like crab.
Wash down these healthy delicacies with a chilled glass of local craft beer, a locally sourced Paso Robles or Edna Valley wine or a steaming cup of coffee or tea. For more information on visiting Morro Bay, go to www.morrobay.org.