Museum of the Islands

Preserving the past for the future on Pine Island, Florida

History of Fish Huts

Recently I was asked if I knew the history of the fish hut at the entrance to Safety Harbor.  Safety Harbor is on North Captiva Island.  This particular building was one of the Punta Gorda Fish Company’s ice huts.  In the early 1900s there were two type of fish shacks built in the waters around Pine Island.  There were ice huts, where fishermen would drop off their catch to be stored until the run boats from the fish company could pick up the fish.  And there were fish cabins, where fishermen could live for extended periods of time while out on the water.  This would save them from having to row or sail back and forth to their home each day.  These huts and cabins did not have electricity, plumbing, TV and dare I say, no internet.  But they offered a place to sleep each night and a shelter from storms.  Water was collected from rain gutters mounted on the buildings for drinking and cleaning.

Fishermen would take their fresh caught fish daily to one of the ice houses built around Pine Island.  The caretaker would haul the fish up into the building in a large bucket so the fish could be weighed. The fisherman was given a receipt for the catch that they could redeem at the fish company’s office at a later time for payment for the fish.

The Punta Gorda Fish Company operated delivery or “run boats”.  Very early in the morning the run boats were loaded with 300 pound blocks of ice for the ice huts, and groceries and personal items for the fishermen staying in the fish cabins.  After making their deliveries they collected the previous day’s catch from the ice huts.  The fish were shoveled through floor chutes from the ice huts into the ice holds of the run boats, and the run boats returned to the company where the fresh fish was processed for shipment to northern markets.

During World War II the fishermen were deemed so important to our country’s national interest they were exempt from serving in the military.

The builder of the ice hut at the entrance to Safety Harbor was J.L. Rose.  It was built in 1924.  And the building has the address of “N Shore Of Entrance To Safety Harbor North Captiva Island, Florida 33064”.  This structure was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places on April 20, 1989.

The Punta Gorda Fish Company continued to operate until 1977.

Fish Huts in Trouble
Historic Fishing Shacks of Bygone Days-Fort Myers News Press Article
Florida Fish Houses on the Mend After Hurricanes-Chicago Tribune Article
Fish Huts Added to the National Register of Historic Places
Fish Hut Images
Original Fish Hut

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