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A SPORTSMAN Born and Bred
George Plimpton
December 26, 1988
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December 26, 1988

A Sportsman Born And Bred


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When he is in Kennebunkport the President-elect gets out to the fishing areas in a Cigarette boat called Fidelity, named after the Fidelity Printing Corp., whose stock he sold to purchase her. Fidelity has been modified for fishing. The cockpit has been moved up to the bow, so that a racing boat designed to hold two or three people can now handle six or seven, usually family members. The boat gives him not only the pleasure of driving a powerful machine but also a practical way of getting out to the fishing grounds. "You go fast out to where the fish are," he says, "or you think they are, stop and fish for an hour and then run for the 20 minutes back. If the sea is up a little, and you're cutting through the waves, well, the combination is just heaven for me."

As the years have gone by, Barbara Bush has grown less enthusiastic about "cutting through the waves." Still, she often goes out on the fishing expeditions, sitting up on the padded engine cover Indian-style with a book. The President-elect's favorite nonfamily fishing companion is a retired naval-yard employee named Bob Boilard. They met in the summer of 1982 on Saco Bay, near the Wood Island Lighthouse on the Maine coast.

"I was in my boat fishing for blues with my back to the bay," Boilard remembers. "I heard this voice snap out behind me. I turned around, and there was the Vice-President looking over from his Cigarette boat, with the Secret Service boat beyond and a Coast Guard cutter farther out. It was quite a sight. He called out and asked me what I was catching them on. I said I was using a Rebel popping plug, which has a blunt nose that resists the water with a kind of ploop sound and looks like a blue minnow. He said he was using a Rebel swimming plug—a trolling plug—which has a lip on the front that makes the plug dart around in the water. I told him to turn his boat around and follow me. By the time we'd trolled 150 feet, he had two bluefish on, and I had one. He called me up the next day. " 'Yes sir?' I said.

" 'Any fish out there?'

" 'Of course there are. But they're not in my kitchen!'
"So out we went."

Boilard, as they say in those parts, is his own man (he once turned down a chance to take Paul Newman out for blues, for which his daughters never forgave him), and he certainly does not stand on ceremony. He refers to Bush as Mister Vice or the Vice, as in "the Vice and I are going out to Wood Island Light." When Bush hooks on to something unwanted, like a dogfish, Boilard barks happily at him and suggests that the next time he lets out a line he should spit on it for luck.

When they first fished together, Bush used a light bass-casting rod and eight-pound test line. "Heck," says Boilard, "that buggy whip of his was fit for tapping a horse on the rump and not much else, certainly not for catching bluefish. I told him so. I said, 'Mister Vice, if you're going out for a whale you got to use whale equipment. You're the Vice-President, but I'd sure change that rod, and that line to 14-pound test."

The bluefish they catch—the President-elect now dutifully on 14-pound test—average about 10 pounds, but much larger blues run in those North Atlantic waters. The biggest one Boilard has caught was 23� pounds. "The Vice is raving mad about a 17-pounder he got off Boon Island, 20 miles or so down the coast off Portsmouth, New Hampshire," he says.

Most of the blues Bush and Boilard catch are released. The President-elect is not as fond offish on the table as on the end of a line. Of those kept, Secret Service men get the largest allotment. "They microwave 'em," Boilard says. "Those guys go through the fish like ice cream.

"It's a shame," Boilard goes on, "that the Vice can't spend more time on the water. When he's got a rod in one hand, the steering wheel in the other and everything under control, there's not a happier man anywhere."

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