Showing posts with label fishing presidents. Show all posts
Showing posts with label fishing presidents. Show all posts

Monday, February 21, 2011

Fishing Presidents: Barack Obama

 Eighth in a series about Fishing Presidents. Today, Barack Obama

Happy Presidents Day.

I doubt President Obama will be spending today on the East Gallatin River near Bozeman, Mont., fly-fishing for trout. But he did spend a day in August 2009 on the East Gallatin River fly-fishing for trout, to make good on a campaign promise.

It was during the presidential campaign while in Montana when he promised to come back and do some fly-fishing. In town for a town hall meeting about health care, he arranged a private fly-fishing outing with the Vermillion brothers, as related on

Dan and Pat Vermillion run the Sweetwater Travel and Fly Shop in Livingston, Mont. They became the first to take President Obama and his staff fly-fishing.

Dan guided the president one-on-one while Pat guided Obama staffers Jim Messina and Robert Gibbs. Obama managed to hook six fish but was unable to land any of them. His staffers one-upped the president by each landing a fish.

They spent 2 1/2 hours on the water and fished through intermittent thunderstorms.

"It was incredible to see the president, enjoying the sport to which I have devoted so much of my life," Pat Vermillion said. "I think it is a little optimistic to think that he will feel a connection to our sport after only 2 1/2 hours of fishing.

"However, he sincerely seemed to enjoy himself. The fact that he continued to fish in the rain was testament to that. I hope he does come back to fish with us and take up fly-fishing seriously. He seemed genuinely interested in coming back. I feel that fishing has an amazing ability to connect a person to the outdoors and hopefully to appreciate the need to conserve it." 
Who knows, maybe when Obama decides to hang up his basketball sneakers he'll swap them out for a pair of waders.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Fishing Presidents: George H.W. Bush

The seventh in a series of Fishing Presidents. Today, George H.W. Bush

Patience and persistence are keys to fishing success, and perhaps no fisherman, famous or otherise, offers a better example of this than George Bush.

While taking a three-week vacation in August 1989, Bush went fishing for bluefish nearly every day off Kennebunkport, Maine. His first day produced no fish. He didn't catch any on the second day, either, or the third, fourth and fifth days.

Soon, his inability to hook, let alone catch a bluefish grew into a national story.

Sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth days -- no fish.

Adding insult to injury, someone on the press boat caught an 18-pound bluefish, prompting Bush to reply, "There's no justice here. That's not fair."

On the 10th day, he took Reverend Billy Graham, no doubt hoping for divine intervention. No luck. No fish.

Photo from Bush Presidential Library
The Portland Press Herald began running a daily box score called "Fish Watch" that had a bluefish in the middle of a red circle with a slash through it.

Expert fishermen were quoted in USA Today and other publications on how to catch bluefish.

"It's gotten out of hand," Bush said while standing next to Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney. "When I see it on national television, I know I've got to put an end to this monkey business.

"Between now and when I leave on Monday, I guarantee you -- I positively guarantee you -- that this jinx will be broken."

Bush continued his fishless streak. Fishing outing Nos. 11-17 produced nary a bluefish. He did catch a four-inch pollack but refused to call an end to his streak.

Finally, on the 18th fishing trip, the president hooked and landed a 10-pound bluefish. It was no doubt the most celebrated bluefish in history.

"The jinx is broken," Bush proclaimed. "I saw a bunch of birds and started to reel in, and wham. It's been a long, dry summer, but it all worked out. This is icing on the cake."

Next week: Barack Obama
Herbert Hoover
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Harry S. Truman
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Gerald Ford
Jimmy Carter

Follow Outdoors720 on Twitter at @outdoors720
Subscribe to Outdoors 720 by email

Other interesting posts on Outdoors 720:
UFO blamed for 2,000 dead fish in Colombia
IGFA offers new world-record fishing category: Length
Man gets sentenced to life without ... fishing?

Monday, February 7, 2011

Fishing Presidents: Jimmy Carter and the killer rabbit

The sixth in a series of Fishing Presidents. Today, Jimmy Carter.

Jimmy Carter fishing and fighting a rabbit from a canoe in April 1979.
Photo courtesy of the U.S. government archives.
Jimmy Carter produced what is no doubt the all-time fishing story in presidential history. It is a story about how the presidency got away. And it's all true.

In April of 1979, Carter was fishing from a skiff on his farm pond in Plains, Ga., when an enraged rabbit started swimming at him. Carter was alone in the skiff, so Secret Service couldn't help. He was on his own to fight off the angry critter.

The above photo, released by the government archives many years later, shows Carter with a fishing rod in his left hand and a paddle in his right. It looks like he's splashing the water with the paddle to ward off the rabbit, which can be seen retreating off to the right.

The Killer Rabbit
Upon returning to the White House, Carter told the story of the rapid rabbit. His staff didn't believe him. A swimming, attacking rabbit? Yeah, right. For proof, he produced the above photo taken by a White House photographer, and even had the rabbit enlarged (at right). 

As it turned out, Carter would have been better off keeping this fish story to himself.

Sometime before the 1980 Democratic Convention, Jody Powell, Carter's press secretary, inexplicably leaked the story to the Associated Press and all the media started asking questions.

"It was a fairly robust-looking rabbit who was swimming, apparently with no difficulty," Carter told reporters, adding that had the animal gotten into the skiff it would have been "an unpleasant situation for me and the rabbit."

Carter told Sam Donaldson of ABC News, "Rabbits swim and that one was swimming without any difficulty at all. I can certify to that."

The story became front-page news. Headlines about Carter fighting a "Banzai Bunny" or "Killer Rabbit" ran rampant. Carter was the butt of many jokes on Capital Hill. Carter's popularity was already waning. Many thought this incident destroyed whatever chance he had left for reelection because of the negative publicity about the killer rabbit.

Truth be told, Carter is quite the fisherman. He is probably a close second to Herbert Hoover for his love of being outdoors and fishing. He's even written about it in a book like Hoover did.

Only Hoover doesn't have a fish story that includes a killer rabbit.

Next week: George Bush Jr. and Sr.
Herbert Hoover
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Harry S. Truman
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Gerald Ford

Follow Outdoors720 on Twitter at @outdoors720
Subscribe to Outdoors 720 by email

Other interesting posts on Outdoors 720:
Man gets sentenced to life ... without fishing
IGFA offers new world-record fishing category: Length
Fishing from a Cliff: Did he have enough line to reach the water?

Monday, January 31, 2011

Fishing Presidents: Gerald Ford

Fifth in a series of Fishing Presidents. Today, Gerald Ford
Taking a snooze while deep-sea fishing
during a vacation in the Bahamas.
Photo courtesy of Ford Library 

To be fair, the photo at the right is of Gerald Ford while on vacation in April 1966 when he was a Congressman, not the president. Also, Ford didn't take fishing quite as seriously as Herbert Hoover did.

Why should he? Fishing wasn't Ford's favorite hobby. That'd be golf, which he did about as well as he fished.

While researching my book "Celebrity Fish Talk," I managed to squeeze by two Secret Service agents to corral Ford on the driving range before he teed off at the Bob Hope Desert Classic one year. I asked him if he had a fishing story.

He said he wasn't into fishing, that he was always more into team sports. Then he walked off to the first tee to play an individual sport.

There was no documentation about Ford catching any fish on that April day in 1966. He definitely caught a nap, though.

Next week: Jimmy Carter

Monday, January 24, 2011

Fishing Presidents: Dwight D. Eisenhower

Dwight Eisenhower fly-fishing. Photo courtesy of UCLA Library

Fourth in a series of Fishing Presidents. Today, Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Fishing was among President Dwight D. Eisenhower's favorite hobbies. Seems he fished about as often as he played golf, the sport many associate with Ike. Still, there are numerous accounts of Eisenhower fishing, golfing, painting and, interestingly, cooking while he was in office.

For relaxation, fishing is hard to beat. Yet for Eisenhower, even a day on the water wasn't always a total escape from the harsh realities of life. Just ask former national spin-casting champion Neal Taylor, who once shared with me a story about he and Ike fishing on a river in 1960.

"I was scared to death," Taylor had recalled. "But five minutes after I met the man, I felt like I knew him forever. It was an incredible experience for me."

As they fished, Eisenhower suddenly stopped and waded over to the bank of the river and sat down. His elbow rested on his knee, his head in his hand. Taylor thought he was ill.

"Ike, what's wrong?" Taylor asked.

Eisenhower shook his head, looked up at Taylor and said, "Neal, there's not a day that goes by that I don't think about the men that lost their lives in Normandy."

Eisenhower, of course, was the supreme commander of the Allied Forces in Europe and responsible for planning and supervising the invasion of France and Germany in World War II.

Eisenhower and Nixon probably reliving
that fly-casting lesson Ike gave Nixon
On a lighter note, Eisenhower once tried to teach his vice-presidential running mate Richard Nixon how to cast with a fly rod.

Nixon's first cast hooked a tree limb. Nixon's second cast hooked a tree limb. Nixon's third cast hooked a tree limb. Nixon's fourth cast hooked Eisenhower's shirt, at which point the lesson ended.

Wrote Nixon in his book, "In the Arena": "I could see that he was disappointed because he loved fishing and could not understand why others did not like it as well as he did."

Nixon also wrote, "Fishing just isn't my bag."

Next week: Gerald Ford
Herbert Hoover
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Harry S. Truman

Follow Outdoors720 on Twitter at @outdoors720
Subscribe to Outdoors 720 by email

Other interesting posts on Outdoors 720:
Surfing 'Jaws' at night; Aussie Mark Visser does it first
Fishing from a Cliff: Did he have enough line to reach the water?
Fisherman catches world-record yellowfin tuna

Monday, January 17, 2011

Fishing Presidents: Harry S. Truman

Third in a series of Fishing Presidents. Today, Harry S. Truman.

Surprisingly, WikiLeaks has not yet released classified documents showing that President Harry S. Truman partook of offshore gambling while on vacation in Key West, Fla., in November 1946.

That's right, President Truman gambled, and there was cheating involved.

Photo courtesy of the Truman Library
Today, in an Internet exclusive, we will reveal the facts behind this never-before-told story about when President Truman was on vacation and gambled on the outcome of a fishing trip. The classified documents* of the president's vacation were compiled by Chief Yeoman Charles J. Langello, U.S.N.

As the story goes, two groups of dignitaries boarded separate fishing boats. As Clark Clifford, the president's special council, was boarding the Sandy and the president and his entourage were boarding the Dolphin, Clifford offered a wager for the biggest fish and biggest catch. President Truman accepted the bet.

They then proceeded to an area four miles off the island of Dry Tortugas and began fishing.

From Langello's report:
 It can be revealed here that preceding the President’s fishing try on this trip, some members of the DOLPHIN’S crew had already caught some fish, and it was planned to weigh these fish in with the competing catch.
Notwithstanding this collusion, however, the President made the first catch, a large grouper, weighing about six pounds. The President also made the second catch, a three-pound yellow tail. Thereafter he caught two more yellowtails for a total weight of about fifteen pounds of fish. Admiral Styer caught a grunt fish; General Graham a two-pound yellow tail; Captain Foskett a grouper and two yellow tails; Admiral Leahy could only confess he was a bad fisherman on this trip.
While the President and his group were fishing, an occasional cheer went up from the SANDY, about 200 yards off our starboard beam, every time one of Mr. Clifford’s group caught a fish. It appeared that they were having better luck, though we in the DOLPHIN were hoping that the cheers were only sounded to impress us – and rightfully so, because they were having better luck – as we ruefully found out later.
As the two groups headed back to Key West on another boat, President Truman made it known that he and his team had lost the bet. The log continued:
One of the fish Truman caught that day in 1946.
When it was learned that Mr. Clifford's group caught the larger weight of fish, the President confessed to Mr. Clifford that even weighing in the fish already on board the DOLPHIN when he started fishing, his group had failed to beat Mr. Clifford's group. Had it not, however, the President jokingly remarked he might not have confessed the perfidy [that is, the act of deliberate betrayal].
The bet was $5 for the biggest fish, $15 for the biggest catch. That would amount to about $55 and $165 in today's dollars.

Some 64 years later, we remain unsure about whether President Truman ever paid off the wager. We're expecting WikiLeaks to release that information soon.

*OK, maybe it wasn't "classified" in a top-secret way -- it was from the logs filed at the Truman Library --  but this is believed to be the first published account of Truman's Gambling-gate on the Internet.

Next week: Dwight D. Eisenhower
Herbert Hoover
Franklin D. Roosevelt

Follow Outdoors720 on Twitter at @outdoors720
Subscribe to Outdoors 720 by email

Other interesting posts on Outdoors 720:
Frog hitches a ride on a snake in Australian floods
Fishing from a Cliff: Did he have enough line to reach the water?
Skateboarding in South Africa

Monday, January 10, 2011

Fishing Presidents: Franklin D. Roosevelt

A very pleased Franklin Roosevelt puffing a cigarette
as his companion tries to figure out how the reel works.
They are fishing for tarpon in the Gulf of Mexico in 1937.
Photo courtesy of Bettmann/Corbis via the 

Second in a series of Fishing Presidents. Today, Franklin D. Roosevelt

Franklin D. Roosevelt was busy pulling the U.S. out of a depression, leading the country during World War II, creating Social Security and getting elected for three terms as president, among other things. But one day during his presidency, he shoved aside the problems of the world for something of utmost importance, and he shared it during a press conference:
Roosevelt seated by another man (take our
word, it's him) as his sailfish is hoisted up.
He caught the fish during a trip to the
Photo courtesy of Library of Congress

The story of how he caught a sailfish without hooking it.

On August 27, 1938, the fishing president addressed the media about a fishing trip to Cocos Island where he landed a 100-pound sailfish -- yes, without a hook.

"We were out fishing, trolling for sailfish," he recalled. "One of them took my line, which was out about 200 feet beyond the boat with a hook and feather on the end.

"He jumped in the air and, apparently, while he was on the end, another sailfish came along and got his beak all snarled up in the line. The fish that got caught on the hook got away, but the fish that got caught on his nose was hauled in."

FDR told the press that there were 11 witnesses on the boat and someone with "a moving picture camera," plus two other still cameramen.

A moving picture camera. Don't you just love it? Wonder if the fishing president would have used Twitter to tell the world of his accomplishment had he done it today. 

Next week: Harry S. Truman.
Herbert Hoover

Follow Outdoors 720 on Twitter at @outdoors720
Subscribe to Outdoors 720 by email

Other interesting posts on Outdoors 720:
Actor Michael Keaton goes overboard while fishing
WikiLeaks: 'Whale Wars' and Sea Shepherd face new battle
Maui shark-attack rescue caught on video

Monday, January 3, 2011

Fishing Presidents: Herbert Hoover

The Declaration of Independence tells us that “all men were created equal.” President Herbert Hoover, perhaps our country’s most dedicated fisherman, once said “All men are equal before fish."

What does it all mean? It means that U.S. presidents are like you and me when they are fishing. Just average Joe and Josephine with a fishing rod in their hands.

The only difference? You’re not going to be honored by Outdoors 720 on Mondays leading up to Presidents Day 2011, like a few past presidents. First off, Herbert Hoover:

 Herbert Hoover fly-fishing at Brown's Camp, Calif., in August 1928.
Photo courtesy of the Hoover Library.
Herbert Hoover was a dedicated fisherman, no doubt. He even wrote a book about fishing: "Fishing for Fun -- And to Wash Your Soul." He wasn't the first fishing president nor the last, but he probably produced more fishing sayings than any other president.

Such as:

“Fishing is much more than fish. It is the great occasion when we may return to the fine simplicity of our forefathers.”

“Next to prayer, fishing is the most personal relationship of man.”

“Fishing is the chance to wash one’s soul with pure air. It brings meekness and inspiration, reduces our egoism, soothes our troubles and shames our wickedness. It is discipline in the equality of men -- for all men are equal before fish.”

“Lots of people committed crimes during the year who would not have done so if they had been fishing. The increase of crime is among those deprived of the regenerations that impregnate the mind and character of the fisherman.”

“There are only two occasions when Americans respect privacy, especially in Presidents. Those are prayer and fishing.”

So, yes, Hoover took his fishing seriously. And did you catch his solution for crime? Put a fishing rod in the hands of a criminal and today’s society would be so much better off.

Touche, Herbert.

Next week: President Franklin D. Roosevelt

Follow Outdoors720 on Twitter at @outdoors720