By Ed Killer, Outdoors Columnist for USA Today Network
Over the course of a life spanning more than a century, Curt Whiticar earned quite the reputation. Chief among them, according to his son, John, was a knack for being very good at many things — many of which are not necessarily easy to be very good at.
Whiticar, patriarch of the Stuart family best known for building a line of classic sport fishing boats with roots extending back to the 1920s, died March 7 as a result of prolonged congestive heart failure and kidney issues. He was 106. “Through his life, he touched so many people’s lives,” remembered John Whiticar, 67, of Jensen Beach. “He was one for getting things done. And he was so proficient at whatever he would set about to accomplish.”
A FISHERMAN’S SON
George Curtis Whiticar, was born Feb. 13, 1911 to Capt. Add Whiticar, a commercial fisherman and budding charter boat captain who fished out of Fortescue, New Jersey. He was the oldest of three brothers — Andrew Johnson Whiticar, born in 1914, and Jack Hogate Whiticar, born in 1916 — who followed in their father’s footsteps in careers in fishing. They took paying customers to Atlantic Ocean fishing adventures through the St. Lucie Inlet. But when customers were thin and the price of fish was good, they fished commercially and sold their catch at market where most fish caught in the area were shipped north.
Curt Whiticar’s dad first came to Stuart to scout the bluefish and Spanish mackerel commercial fishery in 1917. They were seasonal fishing residents each winter until 1926 when the family settled int Stuart full time.
Longtime Stuart News editor and columnist Ernie Lyons once wrote about a fishing trip with Curt Whiticar. They had gone commercial fishing on the Howdee on Labor Day 1941.
“Curtis Whiticar is one of the ace charter captains of Martin County,” Lyons wrote. According to the column, Whiticar had slowed the Howdee as it passed a houseboat so as not to rock the boat, as a measure of courtesy. Later, Whiticar would steer Lyons and the Howdee to a small red buoy he had used to mark a reef offshore where the two men handlined 30 and 35-pound amberjacks into the boat until Lyons was worn out. A bad storm finally chased them back into the inlet.
A GOOD SEA BOAT
Curt Whiticar built his first boat in 1921 and by the late 1930s, had begun to make a name for the family with his craftsmanship. By the 1950s, his boats were in demand by anglers who wished for good sea boats built to handle the sometime choppy Treasure Coast waters offshore.
They were known to have a sharp entry bow and steep deadrise, which made them perfect for slicing into a 4-to-5 foot high wave. More than 60 Whiticar boats have been built since Whiticar assembled his first.
Capt. V.J. Bell of Stuart, skipper of Unbelievable currently fishing in Isla Mujeres, Mexico, ran the Bone Shaker, a 40-foot Whiticar, for Stuart’s Joe Lehner for more than 10 years.
“It was a great headsea boat which was Whiticar Boats’ claim to fame,” said Bell. “It had a sharp entry, and ran really well into a sea or a chop. And once we got to where we were going, it was a fish-raising machine. It had a clean wash, small propellers. It was a very strong boat, too, overbuilt, if anything. It was as strong as it needed to be, and then some.”
Bell was one of many Stuart area captains to come to the area from small bayside towns on the Delmarva Peninsula. Many of them came here as mates working for Capt. Ray Parker, who owned a red-hulled Whiticar named Hobo. They stayed for the great sailfishing — a catch and release sport fishery pioneered by Whiticar and his family. They were among the first in the area to promote conservation of sailfish in an effort to preserve good quality charter fishing here. The Whiticars were part of a group of people who founded the Stuart Sailfish Club.
Whiticar retired from the boat building business in 1986 when he was 75.
Whiticar received a number of awards and recognition for his service and reputation as a craftsman and leader in conservation. Last month, he was inducted into the International Game Fish Association’s Captain and Crew Hall of Fame.
There will be a celebration of Whiticar’s life April 9 at Indian Riverside Park in Jensen Beach. In lieu of flowers, the family asks to make contributions in his name to the Stuart Sailfish Club, the Stuart Heritage Museum or Treasure Coast Hospice.