The three presidents who enjoyed fishing the most were probably Grover Cleveland, Herbert Hoover and Jimmy Carter. Cleveland and Hoover wrote books— Cleveland’s “Fishing and Shooting Sketches” (1906) and Hoover’s “Fishing for Fun— and to Wash Your Soul” (1963)—extolling the virtues and healthful benefits of fishing.
(This is according to the White House Historical Association. Several others also fished, including Teddy Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, and both Bushes. The elder President Bush told the media that "Bassmaster" was his favorite publication. Check out this piece about him, "A Kinder, Gentler Angler," at Bassmaster.com)
During his presidency, Cleveland fished in the Adirondacks of upstate New York and later used a summer home south of Boston near Cape Cod.
Shielded from the prying eyes of press and public by woods, fields and water, Cleveland had the privacy he wanted to enjoy family life and practice his favorite sport.
His friend Richard Watson Gilder noted: “His fishing … excursions, while entered upon with appetite, were also considered by him a duty; for it was only on these little vacations that he was able to obtain … exercise, and release from mental strain.”
Cleveland was so serious about fishing that he once snapped at a friend whose mind appeared to be wandering from the task at hand: “If you want to catch fish, attend strictly to business!”
Hoover developed a devotion to fishing during his boyhood in Iowa, fishing for catfish or sunfish on the small Wapsinonoc River in his hometown of West Branch.
As president he liked few things better than casting for trout at his presidential retreat on the Rapidan River in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains, some 100 miles from Washington.
Rapidan Camp lay 2,550 feet above sea level and provided a refreshing difference to the humidity-laden air of Washington. Just three days after the 1930 Virginia fishing season opened Hoover hurried from the White House to his Rapidan retreat and was attired in hoop boots in the Rapidan River fishing by 6 in the evening. He caught some fish and the camp cook broiled them for a dinner enjoyed by guests including the White House Physician Dr. Joel T. Boone, and Commerce secretary Robert Lamont, Attorney General William Mitchell and Interior secretary Ray Lyman Wilbur.
As president, Carter fished in Alaska and at the Four Lazy F Ranch near Jackson, Wyoming.
He also loved to go to Spruce Creek, a tributary of the Little Juniata River in Pennsylvania, to fly-fish. Spruce Creek was easily accessible from the presidential retreat at Camp David in Maryland’s Catoctin Mountains. Carter fished at Spruce Creek for the first time in May 1979 and returned there often, forming a close friendship with Wayne Harpster, who owned the farm through which three miles of Spruce Creek flows.
Carter described a typical experience in his diary in 1980: “[June 13] [sons] Chip, Jack and I went by Camp David, picked up our fishing gear, and took off for Spruce Creek. We fished until 10:00 at night, just knocking off briefly for supper. . . [June 14] We were on the creek at 5:15 in the morning and fished until about 4:00 in the afternoon.”
Carter once told a press conference: “I have a rare opportunity to go fishing — to get out in the woods and swamps and in the fields and on the streams by myself. I really believe that it’s not only good for me but for the country to be able to do that on occasion. I wish I could do it more, but I don’t intend to ignore any opportunity to take advantage of a fishing trip when my own work permits it. And I hope the press will understand and the people will understand that I, like the average American, need some recreation, at times.”
Excerpt from the White House Historical Assocation article "The President's Catch of the Day."