The crew was filming a show with Bush’s father at the pond at Bush’s Crawford ranch.

CRAWFORD, Texas (AP) – President Bush skipped a scheduled morning of fishing Saturday to deal with the Iraq crisis, but his catch the day before was something to brag about.

“He took the biggest one of the day,” a bass nearly four pounds, said Roland Martin, host of the Outdoor Life Network program, “Fishing with Roland Martin.”

The president and Martin released several big fish they caught Friday but kept the smaller ones for eating.

Bush had planned to spend Saturday with his father, the former president, and Martin and his crew fishing on the pond at Bush’s Crawford ranch.

Instead, by happenstance Martin, the president and a Secret Service agent trolled for bass Friday afternoon.

They rode in Martin’s 21-foot boat, powered by a 250-horsepower engine, but in the small ranch pond, they used the boat’s outboard trolling engine, Martin said in an interview with The Associated Press.

“The president was very relaxed,” Martin said.

The unexpected Friday footage came as the crew was filming at the pond and Bush “came motoring down” in his pickup to chat, Martin said. They discussed the next day’s scheduled shoot.

At about 5:30 p.m., Bush looked at his watch and said he had time to “make a couple casts, so we jumped into the boat real quick.”

Iraq didn’t come up. “He didn’t really talk about politics at all,” Martin said. “He was just relieved to have a minute to fish.”

The TV host said Bush is “a very accomplished fisherman. He handled the tackle really well and caught three fish,” Martin said. “He complains he doesn’t fish there enough; so he misses that a lot.”

They floated on the pond for about 1½ hours. White House aides told Martin that “things were kind of calmed down” in Iraq and that prospects were good for another session Saturday.

Then Saturday proved a perfect example of what happens when the president’s job gets in the way of his hobby, Martin said.

Martin and his crew returned to the ranch at about 6:30 a.m., and Bush was already in conferences in the ranch house.

As Martin and his crew cleaned the boat for another excursion on the pond, Bush’s entourage pulled up.

“He said, “Hey, Roland, sorry it didn’t work out. I had things to do,”‘ Martin recalled. “He really wanted to finish, but he had all his things to do.”

Martin believed that events in Iraq had forced Bush to cancel the Saturday shoot. “He alluded to it. He said, “I’ve been busy, all these crises,”‘ Martin recalled.

Militants on Saturday threatened to kill and mutilate Thomas Hamill, an American civilian captured in an ambush of a convoy west of Baghdad.

Still, Bush apparently went bicycling on Saturday. A half-dozen bikes cruised down a dirt path on the ranch, trailed by a security detail of open carts and cars; such a motorcade shadows the president when he jogs there.

Bush has been bicycling more since a painful right knee late last year forced him to cut back on his usual jogging. The Secret Service recently refurbished its fleet of mountain bikes positioned at the ranch.

Martin said he was disappointed he had lost the fishing time with Bush Saturday, because Bush’s father had planned to join them.

The fishing commentator said he has long known the family and previously fished with the first President Bush.

But he said he was mystified as to how the face time with the current president had come about.

Officials at the Outdoor Life Network said the White House had approached them.

Bush has been courting the millions of voters who fish and hunt.

The White House would not release details of the session Friday or Saturday events. Nor did the White House mention that Martin’s crew had filmed on the ranch Wednesday.

Bush had walked to the pond that day, “dropped a line and caught a nice crappie, about a pound and a half, and let (Bush’s Scottish terrier) Barney sniff at it a little bit,” Martin said.

The administration is sensitive to charges Bush is loafing at a time of chaos and bloodshed in Iraq. He is spending a week at the ranch, with no public appearances between Tuesday and Sunday.

The White House released a photo of Bush meeting with his national security team Saturday.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Bush had spoken with Gen. John Abizaid, head of U.S. Central Command, and Paul Bremer, the U.S. administrator in Iraq.

The White House took photos of Bush fishing with the Outdoor Life Network crew, but did not release them publicly.

The Outdoor Life Network will air the program in August, Martin said.


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