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ISLAMORADA (CBSMiami/FKNB) – As the nation honors the legacy of President George H.W. Bush, longtime residents of the Florida Keys remember his sportfishing trips to the island chain before, during and after his presidency.
The 41st president’s affection for catch-and-release fishing of Keys species such as bonefish, tarpon and permit was so significant, he lent his name to an annual tournament staged in Islamorada.
The George Bush/Cheeca Lodge Bonefish Tournament was held every year from 1994 through 2003. Notable participants included former treasury secretary Nicholas Brady, Norman Schwarzkopf Jr. and Olympic skier Andy Mill, who won the fly-fishing division in 2000.
Each year, the tournament served as a fundraiser for various causes including Florida Everglades conservation and the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum.
Several tournaments were especially significant. In 1995, the president and his grandson, Jeb Bush, Jr., each caught and released a permit. In 2002, Bush caught and released an 11-pound bonefish. In late November 2000, the president fished in the tournament, but his mind seemed focused squarely on the presidential election that year.
His son, George W. Bush, was the Republican nominee and the world anxiously awaited a Florida voter recount that featured new phrases such as “hanging chads,” tiny bit of papers punched, but still partially attached to a voting ballot. George W. Bush was eventually declared the winner over Democratic incumbent Vice President Al Gore.
Voters in Florida back then used a punch-type mechanical voting apparatus to cast their votes, but the “hanging chads” sometimes were read wrong.
Florida’s elections offices discontinued the use of the punchcard machines after the 2000 election.
The Florida Keys News Bureau contributed to this report.