Skip to content

Net Fishing in Old Cortez: A Local Favorite

The water in Old Cortez is a beautiful shade of turquoise, and it's no wonder that this spot has been a favorite among locals for generations.

Net fishing has been a longtime favorite pastime in the small town of Old Cortez. Fishing from the shoreline or a boat, you can catch plenty of fish to feed your family or even sell.

Any skill level can enjoy net fishing in Old Cortez. All you need to bring is your net, and there are nets for beginners too. Here's what you need to know about this quaint town and the local favorite net fishing activity. Read on to discover more.

A Brief History of Net Fishing in Old Cortez

Net fishing has been a part of Cortez's history for many years. Fishing with nets dates back to the 1800s, and it's still one of the most popular ways to fish today. Net fishing has been a significant industry in Old Cortez for the past 200 years. The first mention of net fishing in Old Cortez is from 1807 and was also mentioned by other visitors during this period.

Early fisherman in Cortez took their fishing boats into the shallow waters of Sarasota Bay and used huge meshes to catch some jumping fish. The fishing nets were made from linen or cotton, making them vulnerable to rot. However, the fishermen treated their large nets with calcium hydroxide (lime) and dried them to extend their usefulness.

Treating these huge nets wasn’t an easy task. So the Cortezians built structures that could accommodate the drying fishing nets. There were two types of these “net spread structures,” and the typical one was made with a set of parallel wooden slats erected on heavy stakes over the water. The other type was a piece of large spinning equipment that supported a Ferris wheel’s shape and function.

Different Types of Nets Used in Old Cortez

The early anglers also used different types of fishing nets depending on the preferred fishing method. They typically used gill nets or seine nets. The first gill nets were made from cotton twine, then covered with tarred rope to prevent rotting or getting waterlogged. Gillnetting became very popular because the net could be used in shallow waters without fear of being caught up on rocks or other solid objects. Gill nets are still used today, but not as much as before since modern anglers have better technology for their work.

The seine net is a fishing net that has been used for centuries by fishermen worldwide. It consists of a long fabric (silk) which forms a large bag with one end open and the other end closed off. The word "seine" comes from an old French word meaning "to enclose." This net was historically used to catch fish like salmon and herring in the rivers and streams near Old Cortez.

About the Net Camps and Net Spreads in Old Cortez

In the 1900s, small structures and net spreads dotted the Cortez coastline, but the face of net fishing in Old Cortez evolved over time. The ice machine was developed while fishers started installing motors on their fishing boats. In the 1960s, a synthetic material (monofilament nylon) was introduced to replace the old nets that required liming and drying. So the net spreads were no longer a necessity in the Cortez net fishing industry.

The Cortez coastline remained dotted with net spreads and other edifices until a powerful hurricane demolished some of them in 1995. The only net camp that still stands was initially built by old Cortez fishermen Curt Jones and Joe Capo. However, the structure was reconstructed by the Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage after significant storm damage.

A fisherman cast a net at lake in the morning time

About the Cortez Town

Old Cortez is a small town in Florida you can walk across in 20 minutes. The history of Old Town Cortez goes back to 1880 when civil war veterans founded it, along with particular families who wanted to get out of the hustle and bustle of city life. Today, you can still feel that same sense of peace walking down its quaint streets or enjoying one of its annual festivals, such as the Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival.

The town's population of this great town is approximately 4,337. Several historic buildings, including net camps, churches, schools, commercial buildings, and homes, are valuable pieces of the Cortez community culture. The community is still alive with artisans who sell their goods at festivals and historical re-enactments hosted by local groups and celebrations throughout the summer months.


Most people who have never been to Old Cortez, Florida, may not know that the town is home to one of the best places for net fishing in the state. This charming little village offers up a bounty of fish every year, and you can enjoy spending your time here with family or friends. Whether you’re an experienced angler or need some pointers on how to get started, there’s something here for everyone!

Find The Right Mortgage

For more than 20 years, Phil have been helping customers achieve their home purchase and refinance goals by providing them with invaluable resources and support.

Schedule a FREE Consultation
Phil Ganz

Subscribe to Get Your First Time Homebuyer Checklist

Sign up for the weekly newsletter to stay up to date on the latest real estate market trends, loan news, and so much more!