Fly Fishing in the Florida Keys, especially Islamorada is rich and packed with history. Ever since Joe Brooks put the Purple Isle on the map for light tackle fisherman, there have been people that have impacted and helped shape Islamorada and the flats fishing guide community as we know it today. Billy Knowles is one of those people. There is arguably no other person living as connected or important to the history of flats fishing in Islamorada.
In the mid 1800’s, Billy’s family came over from the Bahamas and homesteaded half of Islamorada. The land was nothing but pineapple farms and exportation of this fruit became their main source of income. From a very early age, Billy gravitated to fishing and began mating on an offshore boat in the summers off of North Carolina. He fished for giant Bluefin Tunas in the northeast as well as targeting them off of Bimini. Billy soon become a full time back country guide in Islamorada chasing all of the inshore fish from dark to dark.
Knowles has been credited with discovering famous Tarpon fishing spots, helped create the Poor Boys Tarpon Fishing Tournament, and has been a father figure for many of the younger guides. He has won the Fall All Tackle Bonefish Tournament 5 times, the Spring All Tackle Bonefish Tournament 2 times, The Don Hawley Tarpon Tournament, and the Poor Boys Tarpon Tournament a staggering 11 times. It was only appropriate that in 2019 he was inducted into the IGFA Legendary Captains and Crew Hall of Fame.
What other living person has fished with Ernest Hemingway, President Herbert Hoover, President George H.W. Bush, and Ted Williams? I believe the “legend” word often gets thrown around a little too much but Billy is a true keys legend. Thank you for coming on Billy!