John Arway has decided to row the boat to shore as executive director of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission. After 38 years with the agency, John is retiring Nov. 2.
Since making the announcement, John has lamented that he hasnâ€™t been able to get a license fee increase across the goal line. That he failed to achieve a â€śsustainable future for the agency and its programs.â€ť Here is where I disagree with my friend.
What follows are thoughts of an outdoor writer who has called on John under the crunch of deadlines, sought background on smallmouth bass and the tainted Susquehanna River, and as a new Fish and Boat commissioner who leaned on his expertise as the agencyâ€™s fish boss.
As a media member, Iâ€™ve always respected Johnâ€™s candidness and his diligence to return phone calls. I suspect some of those calls were made with a fishing rod in his other hand.
With Johnâ€™s guidance, the commission collaborated on efforts to have the river declared to be impaired so efforts to clean it up can be jumpstarted.
Having John as executive director weighed into my decision to join the board of commissioners. John exudes, for me at least, confidence and credibility at the helm. His presence made it easier to get on board, to be willing to join the pulling of oars.
For me, John has contributed to a â€śsustainable future for the agencyâ€ť with his legacy.
The strength of Johnâ€™s leadership and financial stubbornness will carry the commission into the next phase that includes a successor. Under John, the commission has stood firm in that it will not spend more than it earns. An uncommon budget philosophy.
John will be missed. This wonâ€™t be the last time you see his name in this place.
I plan to help select the next executive director who will continue to cast confidence and credibility in the process of making tough decisions, and representing the critters, anglers and boaters it serves.
John Arwayâ€™s career as ED may have docked, but heâ€™ll still be out there â€śenjoying the bounties provided by Pennâ€™s waters and woods,â€ť he says. â€śIâ€™ll be the one sitting by the campfire surrounded by an army of grandkids roasting marshmallows and identifying constellations in the night sky.â€ť
Battle scars as badges of honor occupy special places in the hearts of special people and among those in awe of them.
Such marks of victory at the highest level serve as inspirational, permanent reminders that heroes face down breast and other cancers, and hostile enemies on the battlefield. For them, we can never extend enough respect and human pride for having the privilege of experiencing such spirit.
At the next level, we carry scars and carved bodies after battles with stones on our childhood driveways, flying objects that somehow found our faces, and stupid human tricks on playing fields.
As for lesser battle scars, I went to Lake Ontario for a king salmon contusion.
I was all-in for a fishing trip that would hopefully lead to internal bleeding. I cannot say that Don and Jerry agreed to the same deal.
The â€śinjuryâ€ť is the black-and-blue mark about the size of a silver dollar, earned when the butt-end of a deep-sea fishing rod grinds and breaks capillaries below the skin. For me, it erupts just above left hip bone.
Most black-and-blues surface from sudden and intense poke.
The king salmon contusion is earned by the prolonged pressure of good fights. Itâ€™s a badge of victory. An after-action patch from putting fish fillets into the cooler.
On a day out of Albion, N.Y., after northwest winds pushed warmer water into the lake and fish became harder to find, a good king came to the lure in the first hour. Itâ€™s always nice to put a fish in the box early in the day.
On the second day, it was spiraling steelhead that applied the pressure.
The full grandeur of the king/steelhead contusion developed as I wrote this.
It pales in comparison to the battle scars of real heroes, but I enjoyed the aching patch that came with being a sore winner with Lake Ontario king salmon.
Labor Day is also $1 dollar fishing day in Pennsylvania.
The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission is offering a $1 fishing license for adult residents and nonresidents for Sept. 3.
â€śThis is a great opportunity for lapsed anglers to renew their interest in the sport, and for first-timers to give fishing a try,â€ť Steve Kralik says. He is director of the commissionâ€™s Bureau of Outreach, Education and Marketing.
The license, good for Labor Day only, provides an easy and affordable way for everyone to enjoy a special day with family and friends while fishing on the stateâ€™s waters.