Captain Bill Curtis, Master Guide of Biscayne Bay | Bonefish & Tarpon Trust
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Captain Bill Curtis, Master Guide of Biscayne Bay

It was with great sadness we received news Tuesday that Captain Bill Curtis had passed away. A fishing legend and founding board member of BTT, Captain Bill was a renowned flats guide who pioneered catching bonefish on fly in Biscayne Bay. BTT and the sport of fly-fishing owe much to his ingenuity and to his passion for the flats fisheries he helped protect. The photo is courtesy of author and photographer Pat Ford, longtime friend and fishing partner of Captain Curtis.


Captain Bill Curtis by Pat Ford

In the early 50’s Bill was a successful advertising photographer who spent a lot of his time working with the marine industry. He had always been a fisherman. Then one day he discovered bonefish on the flats in Biscayne Bay and it changed his life. A few years later he became a full time flats fishing guide.  His stories of the numbers of bonefish, tarpon and permit in Biscayne Bay in the late ‘50s are the dreams anglers have today. In 1960 he took Interior Secretary Stuart Udall and Commerce Secretary Luther Hodges fishing in the Bay and those trips led to the formation of Biscayne National Park and the halt to what would have been disastrous development and devastation of South Bay.

Bill designed flats boats and his yellow Hewes, “Grasshopper”, was a fixture in the Bay to the point where local anglers now refer to the oceanside of Old Rhodes Key as “Curtis Point”. He was the first to configure a platform at the stern of his skiff which he could stand on to spot fish and pole his Hewes.  Everyone initially thought it was a fish cleaning table. Poling platforms now standard equipment on every flats skiff. In 1968 he filmed several television shows with Curt Gowdy and Joe Brooks, which basically put South Florida flats fishing on the map. Everyone who saw those shows suddenly wanted to catch a bonefish with Captain Bill. Around 2000 Bill decided that since there was a Trout Unlimited foundation, there should be a Bonefish & Tarpon Unlimited foundation, so he helped incorporate “Bonefish & Tarpon Unlimited,” which has since morphed into the prestigious “Bonefish & Tarpon Trust.”  There were few fishing celebrities that didn’t fish with Bill over the years and even after his retirement in 2005, he was and always will be considered the Master Guide of Biscayne Bay.