After a 1994 state law banned a type of nets that had been used in Florida fishing, many locals had to reinvent themselves. Among them was Kathe Fannon, whose family had been Cortez fishermen for four generations. Fannon decided to begin offering boat tours of local waters. With her cocker spaniel assistant, Skipper, perched by her side, Fannon, now 56, regales her passengers with tales of local history, sea adventures and marine ecology, taking people just about anywhere they want to go. “As long as it’s legal and moral and won’t land me in hell or jail, I’ll do it,” she says.

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Image: Robert Castro

9:15 a.m. “That’s our ride to work every morning. I live in Cortez Village and it’s really nice. I can see Star Fish Co., where I dock my boat, from my house.”

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Image: Robert Castro

9:46 a.m. “My first dog, Pup-Pup, taught Skipper how to spot dolphins, manatees, stingrays, even schools of fish. He’ll run to the bow and start whining. My passengers lose their minds.”  

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10:03 a.m. “We go looking for dolphins and manatees. We go sandbar-hopping. We snorkel. We do family fishing off the boat. People ask where we’re going, but I don’t know until I pull away from that dock.” 

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11:14 a.m. “We get overboard and pick up conchs and crabs, all kinds of cool stuff. It amazes me how many grown people have never seen a live starfish or a seahorse.”  

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12:26 p.m. “I make the pies for Star Fish. The owner, Karen Bell, needed help, so I started making them for her back in 1997. Normally I don’t do it until midnight or 1 a.m., but I had some free time today.”

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3:43 p.m. “A friend built my library out of a cedar tree. People use it and drop off books, too. I couldn’t believe how much grouper fishermen read. They’re out there for 12 days. What else are they going to do?”

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Image: Robert Castro

7:06 p.m. “My husband Mike [at right] builds all my boats. When you’re from Cortez, you might not be able to spell ‘boat,’ but these Cortez boys, they can flat build you a boat.”

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Image: Robert Castro

9:46 p.m. “My husband is a bay shrimper and he shrimps seven nights a week. He crawls into bed and I crawl out. I keep his shrimp book for him.”

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1:16 a.m. “For a long time, I couldn’t sleep. I’d wake up 15, 20 times. But my niece gave me these essential oils and said, ‘Put these on your feet.’ I sleep all night long now.”

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Star Fish Company Market and Restaurant

$ Seafood 12306 46th Avenue West

At the exalted waterfront dive that is Star Fish Company, the food is served in white plastic containers the size of shoe boxes, unassuming packages that conceal the greatness within.