Cortez fisherman — who gardens as a hobby — breaks state record with giant pumpkin

The sound of birds at the Cortez Fishing Village lets you know Tim Canniff has finished his day of fishing. When he’s not on the water, you can find the commercial fisherman in his backyard garden.

"This is kind of a spring hobby when the fishing is slow," Canniff told FOX 13. "Put a little time in the garden, get it started."

For the last 25 years, Canniff has worked against the Florida elements, growing pumpkins.

"It’s year to year really. The last couple of years I only had hundred-pound fruit, so you just never know if it will take off or not," he said.

Not just any pumpkins, but giant pumpkins. Call it extreme gardening.

Canniff said the seed’s genetics help.

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"Last year, the guy that grew this seed that I used to grow the pumpkin, he grew a 977-pound fruit himself," he said.

He planted the seed on January 11. About 50 days later, the first pumpkin developed and showed up on the main vine.

Canniff pollinated it by hand, and it continued to grow bigger and bigger.

"It’s nice to get an earlier pollination on the fruit and that kind of keeps it going," he explained. "The cold weather can slow things down. I try to get things started before it really heats up in May or June."

Canniff knew his pumpkin was a contender. He loaded it up by forklift to weigh it.

"I was kind of worried, sweating it out if it would break a thousand or not," he said.

On the same scales used to weigh his fish hauls, Canniff broke the official state record by more than 400 pounds for his pumpkin.

"At the end, it was 1,039," he said.

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Now, the giant pumpkin is drawing crowds.

"No one has ever seen anything like it," said Adam Sears the general manager at Swordfish Grill and Tiki Bar.

The pumpkin is on display at the restaurant, located along 119th Street West in Cortez.

"We’ve had people waiting in line to take pictures with this thing," said Sears.

The oldest, active fishing village in the state is now known for its prized pumpkin – all 1,039 pounds of it.

"It’s going to be tough to beat," Canniff said. "I guess we will shoot for 1,500. A new benchmark, half-ton, maybe three-quarters of a ton."

The pumpkin will remain on display through the weekend at Swordfish Grill and Tiki Bar.