Cortez, on Sarasota Bay in Manatee County, is one of the last remaining fishing villages on Florida's Gulf coast. Originally known as Hunter's Point, the village is located on the northern edge of Sarasota Bay adjacent to Anna Maria Island. Founded by settlers from North Carolina in the 1880s, the community was renamed after the explorer Hernando Cortes. Cortez is one of Florida's only traditional fishing villages that have been able to retain its cultural integrity.
Bottarga is Striped Gray Mullet roe which has been salt-cured and sun-dried. Worldwide it has many names, such as Bottarga (Italy), Poutargue (France), Karasumi (Japan and Taiwan), and Avgotaraho (Greece), among others. The tradition of making Bottarga dates back to ancient times. Egyptian murals dating from the 10th century BC depict fisherman executing the lengthy process in which Bottarga was, and still is made. The striped Gray Mullets' golden roes are carefully harvested intact and sprinkled with salt. They are then pressed and dried to give them a solid, flat shape. Considered a delicacy throughout the world, it is sometimes referred to as the Mediterranean caviar.
The waters surrounding Cortez fishing village, on the central gulf coast of Florida, is known to have some of the largest, finest quality gray mullet roe in the world. For decades, striped Gray Mullet roe from the Gulf of Mexico has been exported to Europe and Asia to be processed. We are proud to be the first in the United States to produce this rare delicacy for international consumption. It is here that we at the Anna Maria Fish Company produce Bottarga in the same hand made way as has been done for thousands of years. Our fish are specifically caught for us. The fishermen use hand-thrown cast nets and the mullet are brought to our dock within a few hours. Here the golden roe is immediately hand-harvested, salted, pressed and set to dry, to ensure optimum freshness and quality. We are confident that with the pristine waters of the bays and inlets surrounding Cortez Village we are able to produce the finest striped Gray Mullet bottarga in the world.
1880 -- Cortez is permanently settled, as Hunters Point, by fishermen from North Carolina.
1890 -- More are recruited from North Carolina.
1895 -- U.S. Post office comes to Hunter's Point, and the name is changed to Cortez.
1912 -- Cortez incorporates with a population of 110.
1913 -- Cortez has a record breaking catch of 200,000 pounds of mullet.
1921 -- Hurricane destroys everything except Burton's Store and the Albion Inn.
1940s -- Wholesale fish houses began to appear, some that are still standing today.
1947 -- The first red tide hits the Gulf and millions of fish are killed.
1950s -- Developmental years for the area due to many people from the North moving in, sea bottom is dredged for canals and marine habitat is destroyed for housing developments.
1953 -- Florida legislature bans "stop netting."
1960s -- Monofilament line and "kicker" boats are introduced as industry improvements.
1970 -- Packaging improvements and large freezer operations allowed Cortez fishermen to begin exporting.
1980s -- Bait fishing begins to take hold.
1995 -- A gear restriction amendment was passed adversely affecting the seafood industry.
2007 -- Seth Cripe starts Cortez Bottarga - specializing in salt -cured striped gray Mullet roe from Florida.
2011 -- Anna Maria Fish Company is founded.