Gearing up! A Coastal Community Celebrates the Return of the Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival

Gearing up for the 40th Annual Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival

Every February for the past four decades, people have gathered in one of Florida’s last true fishing villages to celebrate the cultural history of the region and honor the men and women who supply us with fresh local seafood. Due to COVID, the 2021 Festival was cancelled, but the Florida Institute of Saltwater Heritage (F.I.S.H.) and the village of Cortez are thrilled to report they are GEARING UP to welcome the public back to the shores of Sarasota Bay for the 40th Annual Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival on February 19 & 20, 2022.

Cortez was settled in the 1800s by families – some of whose namesake still live in the village today – who were lured by the bountiful marine resources in our region. Gearing up is a familiar task in this working waterfront, which continues to provide high quality seafood regardless of challenges presented by red tide, pollution, development, regulation, foreign competition – and even a global pandemic. This small but mighty fishing village was built on mullet, and has diversified over the years to remain a top producer of Florida seafood. If you are eating wild caught Florida seafood, there is a very strong chance that it crossed the docks of Cortez. This hard working community is on the National Register of Historic Places and is one of the most authentic Florida fishing communities left in our state.

The Festival is a party with a purpose.

The persistence and determination of Cortezians is evident in this annual Festival, which has been going for 40 years strong. The event is organized entirely by a fleet of dedicated volunteers and led by the Florida Institute of Saltwater Heritage (F.I.S.H.), a non-profit organization whose mission is to preserve and promote Florida’s traditional maritime cultures and the environment upon which they depend. True to their word, every penny that the Festival earns is put right back into the community and supports the restoration and conservation of the FISH Preserve. This 95+ acre parcel of coastal habitat borders the east end of Cortez Village and is the last stretch of undeveloped waterfront property left on North Sarasota Bay.

Get a taste of the REAL Florida.

Come on out February 19 & 20 to celebrate a real working waterfront community dedicated to preserving their fishing way of life. Soak in the sunshine along Sarasota Bay while you boogie to live local music, peruse aisles of original artwork and nautical crafts, sip cold beverages and sample some really tasty seafood. Check out the Florida Maritime Museum and the Cortez Cultural Center, which are steeped in history of the region. Buy a raffle ticket to be entered to win one of the beautiful, refurbished custom boats lovingly restored by the F.I.S.H Boatworks. Get up close and personal with local marine life and feed your science side during “Dock Talks,” educational spiels put on by University of Florida & Florida Sea Grant (the touch tanks and the Dock Talks are located on the loading docks at Killer Bait, right next to a portion of the local fishing fleet.)

So grab your sunglasses and your appetite, and come on out to celebrate on the shores of Sarasota Bay during the 40th Annual Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival.

2022 Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival Details:

This party with a purpose has something for everyone. Admission is only $5 and kids under 12 are free.

When: February 19 & 20, 10am-6pm
Where: 4415 119th St. W., Cortez, FL 34215.
Admission $5.00, kids under 12 free.
More Info: Gearing Up: 2022 Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival or



Posted: February 1, 2022

Category: Coasts & Marine, Events, Natural Resources, Recreation, Water, Wildlife
Tags: Cultural Heritage, Festivals, Fisheries, Florida Sea Grant, Manatee County Extension

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