Fishing buds laud ‘conservation president’
By JOE HOLLEY
April 20, 2010, 10:31PM
From left, Robert Rich Jr., a writer and fisherman; Andy Mill, a tarpon angler; Paul Dixon of the Anglers Club of New York; and Johnny Morris, founder of Bass Pro Shops, share fishing stories as a photograph of former President, George H. W. Bush, is displayed with a tarpon.
Now that he’s 85 and his days in the stream are behind him, several of the president’s old fishing buddies decided to come to him Tuesday night. In a program at the George Bush Presidential Library at Texas A&M University, they helped him relive a few of their many fishing adventures.
In brief remarks to an audience of about 500 at the library auditorium — old anglers, Boy Scouts and the general public — Bush himself, a self-described “fishing fanatic,” recalled hooking a chipmunk while fishing at Kennebunkport, but more often than not, said his friend Robert Rich Jr., founder of Rich Foods, the former president knew what he was doing. He was unfailingly modest, though, Rich recalled. After a day of fishing, he’d occasionally report that he was up against “Saddam Hussein fish — they always close their mouths when I come around.”
His father taught him to fish and he kept it up through his presidency and until just a few years ago.
“It means a lot,” he recalled in a film clip made while he was still president. “I like to get away and I like to be totally isolated — no telephones, no TVs.”
“The Secret Service — he used to drive ’em crazy,” said Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris. “If there was a hurricane coming, it was a good sign. He’d go fishing.”
Perhaps Bush’s favorite game fish was the tarpon, creatures that weigh up to 300 pounds. Andy Mill, a former Olympic alpine skier and a Bush fishing buddy for more than 20 years, recalled the former president tangling with a 6-foot-long, 135-pound tarpon off the Florida Keys in 2008. Bush landed the fish after a 45-minute struggle.
“This tarpon was a huge thrill,” Bush said in a film clip.
Morris lauded his longtime fishing buddy as the man who had more to do with bringing back the striped bass than anybody.
“He’s our conservation president,” Morris said. “People would be amazed about this, but President Bush established more national wildlife refuges than any other president, including President [Theodore] Roosevelt. He established 56 new wildlife refuges in America. President Bush restored and protected 3 million acres of wetlands during his tenure. …”