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Bill Poole dies at 87; 'monster pioneer' of sportfishing

The legendary captain and boat builder in San Diego helped construct top vessels still operating as part of the world's most sophisticated sportfishing fleet.

October 22, 2009|Pete Thomas
  • San Diego Sportfishing Council
San Diego Sportfishing Council (krxxonc20091022171422 )

Bill Poole, a legendary captain and leading pioneer of sportfishing in and beyond San Diego, has died after a struggle with lung cancer. He was 87.

Poole died Wednesday at his San Diego home with his family by his side, said Betty Stein, his longtime secretary.

Poole, who started with a barge he purchased after World War II, became a boat builder who constructed or had a hand in the construction of many top vessels still operating.

They include the Royal Polaris, Royal Star, American Angler and Spirit of Adventure. Many of them are long-range vessels that help make up the world's most sophisticated sportfishing fleet.

Poole's own spirit of adventure drove him to build boats that could be at sea for days and access remote areas off Mexico, where tuna, wahoo and other subtropical species teemed.

His passengers included the rich and famous, but the personable captain admired how fishing treated everyone equally. "It doesn't matter how much money you make, how many cars you drive or how expensive your car is," he once said. "When you step onto a boat to fish, the fish don't give a damn."

Poole also owned or was part-owner of sportfishing landings, marinas and other real estate in San Diego. His wife, Ingrid, said her husband had three passions: "Fishing, hunting and an entrepreneurial challenge."

Poole's hunting exploits were legendary: He once spent 57 days in pursuit of a trophy-size bighorn sheep in Wyoming.

"He was a sheep nut and a 10-foot bear nut, and an elephant nut," said Ingrid Poole, who accompanied her husband on many hunting expeditions.

In the sportfishing industry, Poole was known as a throwback character who made loans based on trust and sealed deals with handshakes rather than contracts.

"What you saw is what you got; he was a man of his word," said Bob Fletcher, a friend of Poole's and a former commercial and sportfishing boat captain.

"We lost one of the monster pioneers of sportfishing; nobody else had that kind of impact on our industry," Fletcher said.

Paul Morris, general manager of Fisherman's Landing, which was co-owned by Poole and Frank LoPreste, worked with Poole for 42 years.

"He was like a father to me," Morris said. "He was one of those guys who would talk to the employees like they were one of the guys. He treated them like they were part of the group."

In addition to his wife, Poole is survived by their six children: daughters Sandra Schafer, Sherri Thomas and Billie Zambroski; and sons Randy, Eric and Stine.

A memorial service will be held Nov. 25 in San Diego.

pete.thomas@latimes.com

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