Our Hart family legend is that Deamus Hart started Hart’s Landing in 1934 with a 100 foot seine net, a bottle of Jack Daniels whiskey, and a bonfire on the beach at Golden Gate Point. The seine net was used to catch shrimp. The bonfire was used as a light to attract shrimp to the net, and Deamus used the Jack Daniels whiskey to keep himself warm in the cool spring night. The next day he would sell three dozen shrimp for “two bits” (25 cents) to his fishing customers.
Hart’s Landing started at the foot of the old John Ringling Causeway which used to be off Golden Gate Point. If you look close across the bay from the end of our dock you can still see where the old bridge came across. The bait tanks were situated in the shallow waters near the bridge because back then there were no pumps to aerate the water to keep the shrimp alive. Deamus would wade out to the tanks, scoop out the shrimp and fill a customer’s bucket with lively, fresh bait shrimp.
In 1964, after the completion of the “new” John Ringling Causeway, Hart’s Landing was moved to its current location. Today, we sit at the foot of the recently rebuilt John Ringling Causeway and we now enjoy a beautiful view of all of Sarasota Bay.
In 1969 Dennis Hart (Deamus’ son) worked his first shift behind the counter. He was only 13. Deamus passed away in 1973, doing what he loved best, holding the short end of his 100 foot seine net catching bait with his best friend, Harry Sharp. By 1974, Dennis was managing the shop full-time for his mother, Claudia. In 1988 Dennis inherited Hart’s Landing when Claudia passed away.
Dennis has always been an active member of the fishing community. He served many years as a volunteer with the City of Sarasota and the Sarasota County’s artificial reef programs. Today there are many artificial reefs located both in the bay and the Gulf of Mexico that provide habitats for many species of our local fishes and produce large quantities of good eating fish for all kinds of fishermen.
Our joy is our repeat customers. We have tourists that come up to the counter who vacationed here as kids and they love that Hart’s Landing is still here and that they canshare the fishing experience with their kids and grandkids. They love the fact that the lollipop bucket is still here after all these years and that we still pass out lollipops to the kids just like when they were children. With the locals it’s the same way. The kids that spent summers fishing at the bait shop years ago now come up with their kids and grandkids. In an ever-changing Sarasota community, our continuity has been priceless to our customers. The Hart family feels we are providing a service to our loyal patrons and friends, and we are helping to preserve some of Florida’s old fishing traditions.