Monthly Archives: January 2016

2016 Annual Cortez Fishing Festival Celebrates Community’s Commercial Fishing Heritage

A fishing boat docks along the working waterfront of Cortez

A fishing boat docks along the working waterfront of Cortez village.

If you love seafood and want to savor a taste of Florida’s history, then you don’t want to miss the annual Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival (February 13 & 14, 2016).

Cortez village represents one of the last working waterfronts on Florida’s Gulf coast that is dedicated to commercial fishing. Each year, tough and ingenious Cortezians join together to celebrate and share the history and proud heritage of their community at the Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival. This two-day event allows festival-goers to enjoy live music, clog dancing, boat rides, marine life exhibits, nautical arts & crafts, beautiful waterfront vistas – and of course, plenty of delicious local seafood! Trust me, you do not want to miss out on the mullet hot dog. This year’s Festival marks its 34th anniversary.

Cortez has been a center of commercial fishing since the Spanish colonial era, and prior to that, Native Americans depended upon the region for its abundant marine life. This little village has withstood the test of time, surviving hurricanes, red tides and storms of regulations, habitat degradation and economic upheavals. The annual festival showcases how the pioneering spirit of fishermen past continues today in the industrious locals who carry on the community’s legacy.

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Sheepshead – Where are they all coming from?

SheepsheadCool weather means the convicts are loose and on the move! This annual winter migration of sheepshead to congregate along structure makes for great fishing of these striped and toothy bait stealers. It also leads to the annual questions: Where did they all come from? And, where is that underwater prison that holds them the rest of the year? Before I attempt to answer, first let’s explore a few facts about the life history of sheepshead.

The sheepshead, Archosargus probatocephalus is a member of the porgy and seabream family (Sparidae).  Worldwide Sparidae includes about 120 species. Within Archosargus probatocephalus there are three subspecies.  A subspecies means that there are differences within a species, usually due to geographic isolation, but those differences are not significant enough to identify them as separate species. In these cases scientist add a subspecies name to recognize the differences. For sheepshead, A. p. probatocephalus includes the northern form occurring from Canada south to Cedar Key off the Florida gulf coast (our sheepshead); A. p. oviceps occurs in the Gulf of Mexico from St Marks, Florida to the Campeche Bank, Mexico; and A. p. aries ranges from Belize to Brazil.

Sheepshead live about 11-14 years here, but in areas to our north they can live much longer (20 years Louisiana, 18 years Georgia, and 19-23 years in South Carolina). Sheepshead reach sexual maturity around 2 years of age and there appears to be little difference in age of maturity between sexes. Like many other fish species, sheepshead on the Atlantic coast tend to have faster growth rates than those on the Gulf coast and northern sheepshead have growth rates that exceed those in the southern part of the sheepshead range. Regardless of which coast you are on or which latitude you are at, size is not a good determinate of sheepshead age.

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2016 Mangrove Symposium offered in Charlotte County

DSC_2445The University of Florida/IFAS Extension Charlotte County and Florida Sea Grant are pleased to announce their upcoming program, a 2016 Mangrove Symposium, which will be held on February 23rd, 2016 at the Charlotte County Eastport Environmental Campus, 25550 Harborview Road, Port Charlotte, FL  33980 from 8:30am – 3:30pm.  Symposium speakers will discuss the role and value of mangroves; rules and laws that govern mangrove trimming; and mangrove pruning techniques.  The cost to attend is $20 with lunch included.  4.25 ISA and 4 FNGLA CEUs are being offered for professional mangrove trimmers who attend the symposium.  For more information including our full agenda and instructions for registering, please see our Symposium flyer here.

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