June 9, 2014
The state recreational Gulf red snapper fishing season is underway. Pensacola has a long history of red snapper fishing. Commercial fishermen began traveling to Pensacola to fish for them in the 1840s. The industry was interrupted by the Civil War, then picked up in 1865.
Nicole Bucchino is public archaeology coordinator for the Florida Public Archaeology Network, Northwest Region. Bucchino wrote her thesis on the history of the fishing industry in Pensacola and designed a new exhibit on the subject at FPAN’s Destination Archaeology Resource Center in downtown Pensacola.
“Around the turn of the century, snapper fishing is one of a few main industries in Pensacola,” Bucchino said. “We also, of course, had the lumber industry, but also brick making was very huge. We have the Navy yard around the same time, which also brought a lot of jobs to the waterfront. But along the Pensacola waterfront, snapper fishing was huge.”
In 1872, the first fish house was constructed in Pensacola. Fishermen brought the fish here to be processed, packaged and then shipped either by rail or boat up the east coast. Red snapper became the focus of the commercial fishing industry, as the fish were abundant and easy to catch. Bucchino says overfishing began in the late nineteenth century.
“You have some folks who were fishing from Pensacola who noticed this, and there were a couple of articles about it, so they saw these things were happening and not really understanding why, in that time period, so they eventually just abandoned it and went to Mexico,” Bucchino said.