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Billy Joe Curtis


1925 - 2016 Obituary Condolences
Billy Joe Curtis Obituary
Capt. Billy Joe Curtis, 91. of Miami, FL passed away with his daughter Nancy by his side on October 24, 2016 at Hospice House in Lecanto, FL.
Born March 25, 1925 to Calvin and Bonnie Curtis in Chelsea, OK.
He is predeceased by his parents, brother Gerald Curtis, sisters Gertrude "Trudy" Underman, and Cally Konkel. Also his first wife Elizabeth Umstead, daughter Bonnie Alyce Curtis(aka Sauni Velez), grandson Lukas Samuel Hammond.
He is survived by his daughters, Nancy Curtis Bacon(George), Gael Routenberg, Carol Lynn Curtis, grandchildren Jahnne Velez, John Velez-Machado, Alexandra DeBourcy, Jesse Hammond, and great-grandchildren Evonna, Debon, Xuly, Albus "Manny."
After losing his right eye in an accident at age 4, he was raised by his Aunt Alma Nellsch Kidd Howard in Drumright, OK. during the Depression.
Capt. Bill Curtis was a renowned professional flats fishing guide in Miami, FL.
He served in WWII in the Army as a aviator and photographer. In the early 1950's Bill was a successful advertising photographer, who spent a lot of time working in the marine industry. He had always been a fisherman. One day he discovered bonefish on the flats of Biscayne Bay and it changed his life. A few years later he became a full time flats fishing guide, one of the first on Biscayne Bay. He guided many famous people including Ted Williams, and 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 the disastrous development and devastation of South Bay.
He is known for designing flats boats with Bob Hewes, and his yellow Hewes Bonefisher, the"Grasshopper" was a fixture in Biscayne Bay to the point where local anglers now refer to the oceanside of Old Rhoads Key as "Curtis Point". He was the first to configure a poling platform at the stern of his skif which he could stand on to spot fish and pole his Hewes boat. Everyone made fun of his "fish cleaning table". Poling platforms are now standard equipment on every flats boat. In 1968 he filmed several television shows with Curt Gowdy and Joe Brookes, which basically put South Florida flats fishing on the map. Everyone wanted to catch a bonefish with Capt. Bill. Around 2000 he was one of the founding members of the Bonefish and Tarpon Trust.
After Hurricane Andrew, Bill became a fixture at Bass Pro Shops fly-fishing Dept. in Dania and then later in Miami.
He was always willing to share his knowledge of fishing, fly-fishing, tying flies(of which there are several that he created), and mentoring future fishing guides. He held several fishing records over the years.
There were few fishing celebrities that didn't fish with Bill over the years, and some even after his retirement in 2005. In 2012 he was inducted as a Legendary Captain in the International Game Fish Association. He was and always will be the Master Guide of Biscayne Bay.
For those who would like to honor his memory donations can be made to the Bonefish and Tarpon Trust or www.bonefishtarpontrust.org, or donate at 135 San Lorenzo Ave Suite 860, Coral Gables, FL 33146. A service of remembrance by boat and the spreading of his ashes at "Curtis" Point will be announced at a later time by his family and close friends.
Arrangements are under the direction of Strickland Funeral Home and Crematory, Crystal River.
Published in Citrus County Chronicle on Oct. 28, 2016
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