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FEBRUARY 8, 2012



Cortez festival coming soon The theme of this year's festival is “Something’s Fishy in Cortez.” By Cindy Lane Sun Staff Writer |

CORTEZ – Celebrate maritime culture in a working fishing village at the

30th Annual Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival on Feb. 18 and 19 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Family-oriented fun and educational activities include live music, nautical arts and crafts, boat tours of the village, clog dancing, a marine life touch tank, history talks and fresh seafood and land lovers fare. The event, endorsed by ocean explorer Jean-Michel Cousteau, draws more than 20,000 visitors a year to enjoy the picturesque, historic village. Admission is $3, with kids under 12 free. All proceeds go towards enlarging and restoring the FISH (Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage) Preserve,

95 acres of sensitive Sarasota Bay waterfront. The festival is easy to find; head west toward the beaches on Cortez Road, and turn left at the Florida Maritime Museum at Cortez, 4415 119th St. W. Parking will be available east of the village off Cortez Road, a five-minute walk to the festival. Remote parking will be available in the Cortez Commons shopping mall parking lot at the corner of Cortez Road and 59th Street West, and at Coquina Beach Bayside Park. Shuttle buses to Cortez are $2 per round trip. For more information, visit file photo | Sun

A vendor serves food at last year's Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival.

Cortez boat to be raffled The Florida Maritime Museum at Cortez is raffling a 22-foot Catalina sailboat with outboard motor and sails for $5 a ticket. Proceeds will go to the museum’s awardwinning volunteer boatworks program to fund construction of a traditional wooden Florida skipjack. The skipjack will be used in programs including the Turner Maritime Challenge, the museum’s youth program. See the boat and buy a ticket at the museum, 4415 119th St. W. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. The winning ticket will be drawn at the end of the Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival on Feb. 19. For more information, call Ted Adams at 941-708-6120 or email him at The Florida Maritime Museum at Cortez is a cooperative historical project between the Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage (FISH) and the Manatee County Clerk of the Circuit Court Historical Resources Department.




Mike Field, editor and CEO Mike & Maggie Field, publishers Island Sun Plaza, 9801 Gulf Drive P.O. Box 1189 Anna Maria, FL 34216-1189 Phone: (941) 778-3986 e-mail: | |

FEBRUARY 15, 2012

editorial Catch the festival


hen Cortez commercial fisherman Mark Taylor saw the Everglades Seafood Festival more than 30 years ago, he said to himself, “If they can do it, so can we.” And they did. Taylor, former state director of the Organized Fishermen of Florida (OFF), hooked up with John Stevely, Allen Garner, Sheila Mora, Karen Bell and others and created the first Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival. And while you can enjoy fresh local seafood there, don’t call it a seafood festival – it’s all about fishing, and the village that mullet built. Mullet and other marine life depend on healthy waters, and – when they’re young – the shelter of mangroves and seagrass near local shorelines. Dredge and fill development and pollution over the past 30 years has destroyed much of that habitat. To preserve the fishery for future generations, OFF used profits from the festival as seed money for local shoreline restoration, including at Leffis Key in Bradenton Beach, Mote Marine in Sarasota, the Green Bridge in Palmetto and Port Manatee. It also helped establish a gill net license tax to create a fund to offset the effects of dredge and fill development operations in waterways all around the state. After the state banned gill nets, putting many fishermen out of work, OFF disbanded. But the festival mission lives on. Founders established the Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage (FISH) to take over, and many of the original people – all local volunteers – are still involved. Their shining achievement is the FISH Preserve, 95 acres on Sarasota Bay east of Cortez, patiently purchased lot by lot and painstakingly restored tree by tree, undoing years of damage done by people using it as a dumping ground and off-road vehicle course. They have a few more lots and many more trees to go before they’re done, so each festival’s proceeds are crucial to the cause. This year, they raised admission to $3. It’s a price reminiscent of “old Florida,” for the priceless experience of a real working fishing village. Catch it before it’s gone.


Bridge Street too short for all of its seven bars Thank you Cathy Mitchell for you invitation to “come on down to Bridge Street” (Island Sun, Feb. 8). I’ve spent literally thousands on Bridge Street in my 25 years as a homeowner in Bradenton Beach. I respect and like the merchants and they like me, but I do not like the seven bars that have popped up on our very short street. As far as the “gestures” you put forward for your “drunks,” mine are as follows: • No undergarments, etc., to veterans. I’ve given money to them for years. • I cook home-cooked meals for people every week. • I nurse and physically care for others every day. • I cut hair and give pedicures for those unable to do for themselves. • Clothing and personal items are donated every month. Plus I’ve knitted over 2,000 baby hats for hospitals and lots of scarves for the homeless. Not counting thousands of hours of blood services. Try to top this – and I don’t have to go to

The Anna Maria Island Sun is free. Six copies or more are 25 cents each. Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Mon.-Fri.

bars to do all this. Eileen Suhre Bradenton Beach

Jazz Fest draws huge crowd to benefit AMICCO For the past few years, the Gulf Drive Band has raised money to support the Anna Maria Island Concert Chorus and Orchestra, a wonderful non-profit organization. I would like to express my appreciation to at the very least, some of the people who made the 7th Annual Jazz Fest possible. From AMICCO, Jeanie Pickwick, Nancy Ambrose, Donna Misner and Jim Bennington worked tirelessly to attend to all of the details for such a successful event. Over 250 people came to this years’ performance and we raised more than $2,000 for AMICCO. The Sandbar restaurant pavilion was donated by Ed Chiles. Thanks to Patti McKee, event manager, for making this event run smoothly. The Anna Maria Island Sun newspaper donated a large amount of ad space as well as articles. Thanks to the AMI Sun staff and Tom Vaught in particular, who interviewed

Ted and me at my home. The Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce handled the lion’s share of ticket sales. Thanks to Mary Ann Brockman and all of her staff. We also appreciate the appearance of multi-talented guest artist Koko Ray. Many in the audience had never seen Koko play two saxophones at the same time. Our thanks go out to our loyal supporters, many of whom have attended previous Jazz Fests. We hope that future Gulf Drive Band performances for the benefit of AMICCO will be as successful as this past Jazz Fest. Our last AMICCO benefit performance for this season is on March 27. The Oldies Beach Dance will again be at the Sandbar. Tickets will be available at 941-778-8585 or the AMI Chamber of Commerce, 941-779-9412. Bring your friends and don’t forget to wear your dancin’ shoes. The Gulf Drive Band is available for all types of functions and can be reached at 941-778-0173 or Bil Bowdish Gulf Drive Band Holmes Beach

The Sun Staff Ricardo Fonseca, layout; Pat Copeland, Cindy Lane, Tom Vaught, reporters; Louise Bolger, columnist; Rusty Chinnis, Outdoors editor; Chantelle Lewin, advertising director; Bob Alexander, classified advertising; Elaine Stroili, Jocelyn V. Greene, Ricardo Fonseca, graphics; John Reitz, accounting; Bob Alexander, Keith Isner, distribution.


Contributors Laurie Krosney, Sean Murphy, Jack Fones, Steve Borggren, Tom Breiter, Scott Dell, Ellen Jaffe Jones



FEBRUARY 15, 2012

The village that mullet built Both process stone crab, grouper and other fish, but mullet is the fish that built Cortez. This year’s mullet season, now winding down, was a record-breaker, the peak of a seven-year cycle, some say, or the result of fish swimming south to escape polluted waters from the Gulf oil spill of 2010, others speculate. Boats overflowed, and for a moment, it was almost like the old days.

Despite escalating regulations and encroaching development, Cortezians are keeping their maritime heritage alive.

Good ol’ days

Thomas “Blue” Fulford learned to fish as a boy watching his uncle, Tink Fulford, who was known for being the hardest worker in five counties. He once poled a boat by hand 20 miles around Tarpon Key while everyone else was sleeping, looking for mullet. Fulford misses seeing fishermen walking down to the docks carrying their paper sack lunches (fish and grits for breakfast, fish and grits for dinner, and leftovers for supper, he recalls). He misses the days when fishermen built their own boats, everyone went barefoot, no one locked their doors and none of the yards had fences. “Everybody was kin,” said Fulford, president of the Organized Fishermen of Florida (OFF) for more than 20 years. “It was just heaven on earth.” “I was never hungry, even though it might be fried mullet six days a week” during the Depression, Mary Fulford Green said. “I was provided for as my father was a hard working fisherman. He had his own boat and crew when he was 14 years old.” “A fisherman would walk down to the shore and would pass another fisherman coming in and the only thing they would say to each other is something like ‘oyt’ ” said Mark Taylor, whose grandfather, Alva Taylor, was one of the original settlers from Carteret County. “I said, ‘When I grow up, I’m going to say that,’ and I do.” As a Cortez kid, Taylor shoveled fish, painted boat bottoms and started

Mark Taylor | submitted

Earl “Rusty” Taylor, left, and son, Mark “Little Rusty” Taylor, roping in mackerel on a power roller in the early 1990s.

By Cindy Lane Sun Staff Writer |

Second of three parts CORTEZ – The wind is screaming, the Gulf of Mexico is frosted with whitecaps, and it’s so cold the pelicans aren’t even bothering to trail the bouncing mullet boat just offshore. But there they are, a couple of guys in yellow oilers and white boots, with leathery skin and hands tough as nails, making a living the old, hard way. Cortez commercial fishermen are determined to follow in the wake of their great-great-great grandfathers, who settled Hunter’s Point from Carteret County, N.C., in the 1800s. There are easier ways to make a living. Commercial fishing is the third deadliest job in America after firefighters and loggers. Boat-battering storms and fish-killing pollution and red tide make it harder. Regulations have made it almost impossible. Stop nets and gill nets are banned and longlines are heavily regulated. It takes a team of lawyers to interpret the constantly changing rules on closed seasons and fishing quotas and catch On the cover: Fishermen unload their catch at the Cortez docks in this undated photo.

shares. Some fisheries, like bay scallops, are closed completely. Yet, Cortez fishermen are keeping the last two of the village’s original five fish houses in business.

Staying afloat

At the A.P. Bell Fish Co., a fisherman tosses mullet fat with roe onto the conveyor belt from the dock, where the Bell fleet is moored, a dozen boats all with the name Belle in them, mostly named after women in the family of founder Aaron Parks Bell. In the parking lot, stone crabbers are building their traps. Chainsaw Charlie carves a totem pole while his dog, Lilly, rests in the shade of the Fishermen’s Memorial, which honors Cortez veterans lost during wartime and Cortez commercial fishermen lost at sea – three of them, Michael “Bugsy” Moran, Dale “Murph” Murphy and Frank “Billy” Tyne Jr., were immortalized in the film, “The Perfect Storm.” Cortez is just the way Bell’s office manager, Karen Bell, likes it, full of characters who leave crab traps piled in their back yards and nets hanging like sheer laundry on a clothesline. The Bell fish house has survived because it has adapted to changes in the fishing industry, Bell said, by catering to Asian tastes for roe and adding

A brief history of Cortez U.S. Post Office renames Hunter’s Point Cortez

Spaniards discover the area, ship dried fish to Cuba, the Bahamas 1400s

Late 1800s Fulford, Guthrie and Jones families settle Hunter’s Point from Carteret County, N.C.


Cindy Lane | Sun

Blue Fulford makes a cast net at the 2006 Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival.

Hurricane strikes, destroying most of Cortez waterfront and half-built bridge to Anna Maria Island

Cortez village incorporated; Cortez Rural Graded School opens

Early 1900s 1912

Nate Fulford installs four-horsepower engine on a skipjack, the beginning of the end of sailboat and poling fishing

offshore boats to its inshore fleet when deepwater grouper became popular with diners. At the other end of the village’s waterfront, Cortez Bait and Seafood is staying afloat specializing in bait fish.



Cortez rum runners smuggle Cuban rum and Bimini whiskey during Prohibition



Fish houses built; 65 men Fish houses built; 65 men and women enlist to and women enlist to serve in World War II serve in World War II 1940s

Mullet disappear for eight years; during the Great Depression, Cortezians share ham bones with neighbors to flavor soup and beans rather than take government handouts


Late 1940s

Catastrophic red tide kills fish

FEBRUARY 15, 2012



cortez: The village that mullet built Some fishermen turned to cast nets to catch mullet, others started shrimping, trapping blue crabs and stone crabs or longlining grouper. Some became dock builders or dredge operators. Some went inland to work. Taylor joined the county parks staff, raking Anna Maria Island’s beaches.

Deja vu

Mark Taylor | submitted

Roe mullet in a gill net at New Pass in the 1980s, before gill nets were banned in 1995. FROM PAGE 12

earning half shares, or wages, as a teenage crew member.. There was nothing like pulling against a net full of fish, and you could never get enough of it. “You might fish night and day seven days a week, and what do you talk about when you’re not fishing? Fishing,” said Taylor, whose treasures a photo showing him with a gill net full of mullet. It’s not something the current generation will ever know.

The day the music died

“I was 45 when the net ban hit, in my prime. I had just hung a $10,000 net that had never been used,” said Taylor, former state director of OFF, which fought the gill

net ban. I had a wholesale seafood trucking business, a purse seine boat and a gill net boat, and it just stopped cold. Suddenly, it was illegal.” The battle between commercial net fishermen, who relied on fishing for their livelihoods, and recreational hook and line fishermen, who fished for fun, played itself out in the media. OFF fought the ban in 1994, saying that recreational fishermen, among them, fisheries regulators, skewed estimates of fish stock to make it look like commercial fishermen were overfishing. But voters, outraged at widely publicized photographs of dead dolphins and sea turtles supposedly killed by walls of gill nets, passed a state Constitutional amend-

ment banning the nets. “The net ban cut out a way of fishing and whether that was for the good or the bad, I’m not sure,” said Arnold “Soupy” Davis, still considered by natives as a newcomer to Cortez, having arrived in 1950. “But I totally disagree with how it was done. Having people believe in the ‘walls of death,’ that was an overexaggeration.” “It was a brutal social conflict, hostile and dividing,” said J.B. Crawford, an author and Cortez commercial fisherman. “But the most bitter aspect was that commercial net fishermen mainly targeted mullet. The mullet is a vegetarian and does not bite a baited hook. The net ban protected fish not caught by hook and line, not targeted by sports fishermen.”

A brief history of Cortez Stop nets banned; red tide strikes again 1953


Organized Fishermen of Florida (OFF) founded to fight proposed commercial fishing ban 1967

Monofilament nets invented, replacing cotton nets; kicker boats with outboard motors replace inboard motors, allowing fishermen into shallower waters; fish houses build commercial freezers, making shipments to Asia possible


New fisheries develop – grouper, baitfish, mullet roe


Bay scallops nearly disappear from Sarasota Bay; bales of marijuana, or “square grouper,” smuggled through Cortez

Gill nets banned 1994


Fight over state Constitutional amendment to ban gill nets

Another ban in 1953 had put a stop to stop nets, which were placed at bayous and partially enclosed waters to trap nearly all the fish behind the nets as the tide went out. The method created a large amount of bycatch, or trash fish, which many fishermen saw as ecologically unsound and a waste of natural resources, Crawford said, adding that the issue pitted stop netters against seine net, gill net, and trammel net fishermen. In 2010, déjà vu happened all over again. Longline fishing gear was all but banned due to bycatch, with only eight longline permits issued in Manatee County, according to Glen “Rabbit” Brooks, president of the Gulf Fisherman’s Association, who fishes under some of the permits. It started with one fisherman snagging a loggerhead sea turtle on a longline and ended with a limit of 62 longline permits for the entire Gulf of Mexico. While some commercial fishermen say they love sea turtles and others say they love them for dinner, most agree that fishermen are environmentalists by necessity – they must conserve fish or they risk their future livelihoods and those of their children. That future may be doubtful.

Forecast: partly cloudy

In recent years, the fierce independence of many fishermen has kept them at odds with each other, making them unable to fight united opposition, Fulford said, adding that in the old days, people pulled together like a crew on a net. “It’s not cohesive like it used to be,” he said. The most recent example is another new regulation launched in 2010, the individual fishing quota (IFQ) for commercially caught grouper, which has both fans and


100th anniversary of village incorporaShinedown’s hit music tion, 100th anniversary of Cortez video, “Second Chance,” schoolhouse, 30th anniversary of filmed at Cortez docks Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival 2003


“Out of Time,” movie starring Denzel Washington, filmed at Cortez docks



Longlines heavily regulated; individual fishing quotas (IFQs) implemented



FEBRUARY 15, 2012

Local author inspired by Cortez By Cindy Lane Sun Staff Writer |

CORTEZ – The mythical fishing village of DeSoto in author J.B. Crawford’s new young adult book, “Nathan and the Stone Crabs,” is not Cortez, he insists. Never mind that Cortez probably should have been named DeSoto, since Spanish explorer Hernando DeSoto landed nearby and Spanish explorer Hernando Cortez did not. Never mind that the tale of a teenager and his grandfather paints portraits of Cortez waterways, including the Kitchen in Sarasota Bay, as accurately as a navigational chart, or that Karenia Brevis bears a close resemblance to a village fish house manager.

The jibes are in good fun, and the story is a good primer in the nuts and bolts of commercial fishing; it’s educational, but by the time the reader realizes it, the story has taken hold. Villagers will recognize aspects of several local residents in the vivid characters in Crawford’s novel, the first in a young adult series he plans on different aspects of fishing. With nine grandchildren, Crawford, a Cortez resident, has eight more to go to feature each of the kids in adventures in bait fishing, shrimping and more. A retired high school English teacher, Harvard doctor, Army Reserve colonel and commercial fishing captain, Crawford is partly the grandfather and partly the deckhand in the

book, teaching young Nathan how to build, bait, set and clear stone crab traps on a summer visit. The teen at first resents having to leave urban Los Angeles for his mother’s backwoods birthplace, but leaves as much a native as his grandfather after adventures at sea teach him about life, death and love. True village tales abound, like the story of women who waded with washtubs tied around their waists, using glass-bottomed boxes to find scallops and scooping them into the washtubs with wire scoops tied to broom handles. Tales accepted as true are retold, like the favorite story that during the Great Depression, no one in the village accepted any government handouts.

Crawford gets political, too, with rants against both the 1994 net ban and the practice of stop netting, which “verged on criminal abuse of public re-

Church-turned-hall may be church again A small congregation has asked to use the former Cortez Church of God, now Fishermen’s Hall, as a church on Sundays. Sun Staff Writer |

Separate accounts

In other business, Manatee Coun-

cortez: Fish and foes FROM PAGE 13

By Cindy Lane

CORTEZ – The former Church of God may not be finished being a church after all. Rev. Kenneth Gill, former pastor of Longboat Island Chapel, asked the Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage (FISH) last week to consider renting the newly-named Fishermen’s Hall, formerly the Church of God, 4511 124th St. W., on Sundays for meetings of his 40-member, non-denominational congregation. Gill resigned last month from the chapel after its board placed him on administrative leave and scheduled a vote of the congregation on whether to retain him. In addition to a lease payment for one year, Gill offered to help FISH with labor as the not-for-profit preservation group works to finish the restoration of the one-room building as a community center and event venue. The FISH facilities committee agreed to consider the issue. The board also accepted a $1,000 grant from the garden club for landscaping around the hall.

sources.” He tells a tale of stop netters dynamiting the sleeping porch of a fisherman who spoke out against the practice, missing the lucky guy, who was in the outhouse at the time. And he perpetuates local customs, like tossing loose change toward the Longboat channel marker to ensure a safe trip home. From environmental lessons to stories about Prohibition rum runners to hands-on best fishing practices, the book that’s not about Cortez is a rich treasury of local lore that begs for the next in the series. The book is available at and Barnes and Noble, and as an e-book on Kindle. It also will be available at the Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival on Feb 18 and 19.

Mark Taylor | submitted

Fishermen's Hall in Cortez, formerly the Church of God. ty Clerk of Circuit Court Chips Shore, a FISH board member, told the board that the discovery of $6,000 in a box at the Florida Maritime Museum at Cortez has led to the realization that state rules are not being followed regarding separation of funds between the museum and FISH. The two organizations must have separate bank accounts under Florida Communities Trust requirements, he said.

The Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival will be required to lease the museum grounds for $100 for its festival on Feb. 18 and 19, he said, adding that he will donate the money this year. FISH will continue to keep the profits to expand and enlarge the FISH Preserve. The board voted to establish a subcommittee to work on redefining and improving the relationship between the museum and FISH.

foes in the fishing community. Patterned after a red snapper IFQ, and the precursor to planned IFQs for more species, the plan gives fishermen flexibility to fish when weather and market conditions are favorable, eliminating “derby” fishing, or having to fish in any conditions just to beat the catch limit quota for a particular fishery, according to Brooks. “I’m strictly against the way fisheries management is going now,” Davis said. “Catch shares benefit a few large fishermen at the expense of the majority of small fishermen. A handful are producing the majority of the commercial catch. A lot of boats are tied up down there now that aren’t going out.” Davis bemoans the trend toward more regulations. “Fishing is almost an assembly line now. It’s taking away all the stuff that we got in it for. We got in it because it was one of the last things you could be independent in and you didn’t have a lot of controls,” said Davis, who, at 85, “can’t fish as hard as I used to, but I can still fish.” “Now they tell you when you can go, where you can go, how much you can catch, and what hooks you can use,” he said. “You’re nothing but a human robot.” Next week: Is the future just a memory?

A Century of Cortez supporting material  

Community History #25