The first Spanish fishermen sailed their smacks into Charlotte Harbor in the 17th century marking the beginnings of a commercial fishing industry. The Cuban fishermen controlled the business for over 200 years until the United States took possession of Florida in 1821 and began laying claim to its territorial waters.
In 1886, the railroad arrived at Trabue (Punta Gorda) and an ice factory was built, and by the 1890s Punta Gorda had one of the largest commercial fishing industries in Florida. The businesses first operated from the “Long Dock.” In 1897, the industry was relocated to the Railroad Dock at the foot of King Street (now U.S. 41 North) and remained there until it moved to the Maud Street Dock in 1928.
Fish shacks, built on stilts over the water, served as ice houses as well as bunkhouses. They were serviced by “run boats” carrying fish, ice, and fishermen back and forth. At its height, the industry caught and processed thousands of tons of fish annually.
Gradually as the commercial fishing industry spread throughout Florida, Punta Gorda’s role in it declined. The last of the Punta Gorda fishing businesses - the Punta Gorda Fish Company - ceased operation in 1977 when the city revoked its lease on the municipal dock at Maud Street to make way for the development of Fishermen’s Village.