If you’ve enjoyed the Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival in the past, you’re going to enjoy it again this year.

“Everything is pretty much the same,” festival official John Stevely said. “We don’t mess with success. We have a good recipe and we just try to fine-tune it every year.”

The 36th annual festival is set for Saturday and Sunday in Cortez Fishing Village.

The fine-tuning this year consisted of ramping up the quality the festival’s popular “dock talks.” The dock talks are short, informational presentations about this area’s marine life and history. They’re continuous and usually only a few minutes long. Festival-goers take a quick break from the music, food and more frivolous festival activities to learn a little something about their food and the history of Manatee County’s fishing community.

“The festival has an educational purpose too,” Stevely said.

We don’t mess with success. We have a good recipe and we just try to fine-tune it every year.

John Stevely

This year’s speakers are are heavyweights in the marine biology community, Stevely said. They include Dr. Angels Collins, an expert on reef fish and grouper, and Dr. Theresa Bert, an expert on crabs and shrimps.

“She can answer all your questions about stone crabs,” Stevely said. He adds the most common questions people ask at the dock talks concern the sex life of marine animals.

Stevely, a retired marine biologist, is on the board of directors of the Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage (FISH) Preserve. The Cortez Commercial Fishing festival is the biggest fundraiser of the year for FISH, and this is an especially important year for FISH to be raising funds.

“Last year we acquired the last parcel of land for the preserve,” he said. “So we have an extra bill to pay.”

The preserve includes

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