Catch the Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival

Catch the Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival
This handmade kayak will be raffled at the Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival this weekend. - FISH | Submitted

CORTEZ – Besides enjoying fresh seafood, live music and everything else that the 38th Annual Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival will offer this weekend, you could win a handmade kayak.

The kayak, paddle and two wooden oars were donated in an unfinished condition in 2010, but the volunteers at the FISH Boatworks, particularly Joe Egolf, Bill Curto and Charlie Bailey, finished the watercraft and presented it to the Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage (FISH) to raise money at the festival, the weekend of Feb. 15-16 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. along 119th Street West in Cortez.

If you go


Who: Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage (FISH)

What: The 38th Annual Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival

When: The weekend of Feb. 15-16 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. both days

Where: Enter at the Florida Maritime Museum, 4415 119th St. W., Cortez or the FISH Preserve one block east on Cortez Road

Why: Support the FISH Preserve

Cost: $5 for adults, kids 12 and under free

Raffle tickets, available at the festival, are $5 each or 5 for $20. The drawing will be held Sunday, Feb. 16 between 4 -5 p.m. The winner need not be present to win.

The festival is famous for serving fresh seafood in one of Florida’s last working commercial fishing villages. Listen to live local music, browse nautical and environmental art, and learn about the fishing industry at the Cortez Bait and Seafood docks. Kids’ activities include pony rides and a bounce house.

Road work will not impact festival


The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) will suspend construction activities on Cortez Road during the Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival on Saturday, Feb. 15 and Sunday, Feb. 16. Road work on and along Cortez Road from 123rd Street West to 86th Street West and on and along 119th Street West is expected to resume Tuesday, Feb. 18, according to the FDOT RoadWatch Advisory issued last week.

This year for the first time, the festival will present NOAA’s Voices from the Fisheries, part of the federal agency’s Vanishing Culture Project. The interactive display will include recordings from Cortez fishermen and musicians talking about a way of life fading from the Florida landscape.

Cortez has been a fishing village for more than 1,000 years, beginning with Native Americans, Spanish fishermen who established fishing ranchos, and, in the 1880s, settlers from Carteret County, N.C.

The village survived a devastating hurricane in 1921, a severe red tide in 1947 and increasing regulations limiting commercial fishing, including a constitutional amendment to ban gill nets passed by Florida voters in 1994, which put much of Cortez out of work and severely impacts the industry to this day.

Proceeds from the $5 admission (kids 12 and under are free) go to restoring the 100-acre FISH Preserve, as they have for nearly four decades. FISH is clearing the land of invasive, non-native vegetation like Brazilian peppers and Australian pines, and is planting mangroves and other native plants, creating hiking and kayak trails and building footbridges with help from local Boy Scout troops.

Music schedule


Saturday, Feb. 15

10-11 a.m. – Shanty Singers

11:30-1 p.m. – Doug Demming

1-1:30 p.m. – Awards and introductions

2-4 p.m. – Eric Von Band

4:30-6 p.m.- Jason Haram


Sunday, Feb. 16

10:30-noon – Soupy Davis and his Band

12.30-2 p.m. – Koko Ray Show

2:30-4 p.m. – Karen and Jimmy Band

4:30-6 p.m. – Ted Stevens & the Doo Shots

1-5 p.m. – Eric Von on the Bratton store porch

Bordered by Sarasota Bay to the south, Cortez Road to the north, mobile homes to the east and the fishing village of Cortez to the west, the restored mangrove wetland habitat was once an unofficial trash dump, with old tires, large appliances and even boats that FISH has removed.

Catch the Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival
Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival T-shirts. – Cindy Lane | Sun





Festivalgoers who park at the FISH Preserve parking area will get a glimpse of the habitat restoration in progress.

The Boy Scouts will offer on-site parking for $5 at the preserve, located one block east of the village off Cortez Road. A park-and-ride shuttle is available on an MCAT shuttle bus for $3 round trip from two locations, G.T. Bray Park, 5502 33rd Ave. Drive W., Bradenton (turn east off 59th Street onto 33rd Avenue Drive) or at Coquina Beach in Bradenton Beach on Anna Maria Island. The shuttles will pick up and drop off festival passengers from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday. Discounts are available to anyone at least 60 years old, active duty and military veterans and students with a valid ID. As always, anyone 80 years and older ride the MCAT for free.

On Saturday only, a free park-and-ride shuttle will be available from the Cortez Baptist Church, 4411 100th St. W. on Cortez Road, about 1.5 miles east of the festival.