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Florida Maritime Museum
Entry 2 of 5
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Warm waters rich with sea life support today's commercial fishing industry of Cortez. In the commercial fishing industry, fishermen catch seafood to sell in markets - as food or bait. Here common catches include mullet and stone crabs. For each fishery, different tools are needed bring the catch of the day to the shore for your enjoyment.

  • Cortez fishermen load their skiffs with mullet in the 1950s.
  • Photo of Taylor Skiff used in Cortez
  • Oyster Tongs
  • Wooden Stone Crab Traps

Mullet, in Cortez and the rest of the southeast, has been historically a prized catch. The fishermen, who founded Cortez in the 1880s, came here in search of this jumping fish. Cortezians enjoyed eating the fish smoked, which continues to be a local favorite.

Other types of seafood caught in Cortez include grouper, stone crabs, and shellfish.

"Stone crabs are particularly popular with fisherman in Cortez and throughout the state as Florida is the only place you can commercially harvest them. Stone crabbers use a variety of methods to catch and harvest these crabs including stone crab traps, dip nets, or a landing net.
In Manatee County, it is believed that the first stone crab trapper was Jack Moore, who began harvesting in the late 1920s. Moore lived in Cortez and would sell his harvested stone crab claws at the retail markets in Manatee County.
To harvest Stone crabs, instead of taking the entire crab as other fisheries do, the trappers take only one of the claws (typically the larger one) and release the crab back into the water where the claw is regenerated. Due to this, the crab is able to defend itself and another claw can be harvested the following year. "

For each type of seafood, commercial fishermen use different specialized tools. In Cortez, fishermen use skiffs to navigate Sarasota Bay. Skiffs, like the one you see in the photos above, were shallow, flat-bottomed open boats with sharp bow and a square stern. This design allows them to move with ease through shallow waters of Sarasota Bay.

Lucas, Alexis. Feeling Crabby, Florida Maritime Museum - Manatee History Matters. November 1st 2017. Accessed May 14th 2020.

Nash, Amara. Net Fishing in Old Cortez, Florida Maritime Museum - Manatee History Matters. November 20th 2014. Accessed May 14th 2020.

Green, Ben . Finest Kind - A Celebration of a Florida Fishing Village. Edition 2. Cocoa, FL. The Florida Historical Society Press, 2007.

Image Sources(Click to expand)

Photo courtesy of Manatee County Public Libraries.

Florida Maritime Museum

Florida Maritime Museum Collection

Florida Maritime Museum Collection