The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 13 No. 28 - April 24, 2013


An old-fashioned picnic, Cortez style

Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Cortez celebrated its heritage as a
fishing village on Saturday at the annual picnic. The
Few-Miller dock was jammed with Cortezians enjoying
fresh mullet, cornbread, strawberry shortcake, iced tea
and a table full of desserts on Saturday.

CORTEZ – Cortezians put on the finest kind of picnic Saturday, entertained by fiddle music, a skit by Manatee School for the Arts students and each other.

“It doesn’t get any better than this,” said Blue Fulford, as he enjoyed fresh mullet, the fish that made Cortez famous, at the annual Cortez picnic at the Few-Miller dock in the historic fishing village.

As the soft breeze blew off Sarasota Bay and pelicans crashed around the docks looking for supper, Soupy Davis, wearing his white fishing boots, played down home fiddle music with some friends.

After a prayer, everyone dived into the mullet, cornbread and strawberry shortcake, then went from table to table greeting each other.

In an age where everyone has their heads buried in their phones and laptops, getting together with neighbors, friends and family for a picnic on a dock is real life, according to a skit produced by the students, who performed monologues based on their interviews of Cortezians during the picnic.

They impersonated “Tink” Fulford and other famous Cortezians from the past, pondered the future of commercial fishing and celebrated the day with Cortez natives like Juanda Fulford, who defined the meaning of life, “To live and be happy.”

The annual picnics began in 1991 at the schoolhouse, now the Florida Maritime Museum at Cortez, said Mary Green, whose son Ben Green’s book, “Finest Kind,” was the basis for the skits.

The students also displayed their paintings, fish prints and photographs of Cortez on a net hung in the fish house at A.P. Bell Fish Co.

Name that critter

Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Bob patten | submtted
The sea slug, or Spanish Dancer, has been said
to resemble the skirts of a Spanish dancer

What the heck is it?

That’s what newcomer Bob Patten asked us about this mysterious creature, which he photographed in four feet of water in the Gulf of Mexico off Anna Maria Island.

We guessed a whelk that lost its shell, which was not too far off, according to Florida Sea Grant Extension Agent John Stevely, our friendly neighborhood marine biologist.

The critter, about a foot long, is a mollusk that evolved to lose its shell as it matures.

Called a nudibranch, which means naked gill, it’s also known as a Spanish dancer, due to its obvious resemblance to the skirts of a Spanish folk dancer, a sea hare, due to its obvious resemblance to a rabbit, and a sea slug, due to its obvious resemblance to, well, a slug.

Sounds like the critter namers were drinking from the same punchbowl as the folks who said that manatees resemble mermaids.

In other parts of the world where brilliantly colored fish and reefs and cottages abound, they have colorful fringes, which increase their body surface area, helping them obtain oxygen from the water. Here, they’re more slug-like.

They also have photoreceptors, a highly technical biological science term, which, loosely translated, means little beady eyes.

If you are looking to learn new words, look up sea slugs on Wikipedia, where you will find at least two dozen new words you never knew and will never need again.

You will learn alliterative names to call people you are not fond of, like sap-sucking sea slug, which is a relative of this local species.

And if you start web surfing, you will learn a game, Slug Bug, where you punch someone when you see a VW Beetle, or in the new Anna Maria Island version, when you see a sea slug.

Sea slugs swim, crawl and float, so now you have something new to watch out for in the water besides sharks, barracudas and stingrays.

They are carnivorous, and sometimes cannibalistic.

As to our editor’s question, “Can you eat it?” (we really need a McDonald’s on Anna Maria Island), Stevely recommends against it, saying they secrete mucous for protection.

They also sometimes squirt ink, which would not hurt editors, as they already have ink in their veins, and are sometimes known to harbor thoughts like, “Get to work, you slugs!”

Sounds like the perfect mascot for the newsroom.

AMISUN ~ The Island's Award-Winning Newspaper