But Not Tired of Fishing!
The final episode…
I popped out of bed this morning and took that long walk down the hallway into my office here at Chateau Floor, turned on my laptop and stared at a blank screen, knowing it is my last column to write as retirement has arrived. It’s all about the ticking of the clock and it’s time to hum the tune of former NFL Monday Night Football broadcaster Don Meredith who sang “turn out the lights… the party’s over,” when the outcome of the game was imminent. Ready to hum?
Well, my involvement on the sport fishing scene is about to become history as I retire from 14 years at the Northwest Marine Trade Association (producers of the Seattle Boat Show) effective October 1. From the beginning, my assignment has been to promote sport fishing, following a 30-year Public Affairs career at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. While many consider my professional career as a dream job, and some say it isn’t really a job, regardless, forty years is enough. I’m done, baby!
As a young boy, sport fishing was in my blood. Growing up on the lower Hood Canal, I would sneak into private boathouses at first light with my fishing rod in hand and attempt to catch pile perch schooling under the dock with pieces of oyster, clam and mussels while most of the world was still asleep. Sometimes, when I got hungry, I ate the bait! Sicko little kid.
And during those early years, my dad took me out occasionally on a Westport charter boat during the summer to catch Chinook and coho salmon that fed my appetite to eat, sleep, and go fishing. The seeds of my lifelong passion sprouted. Yeah, a little sicko fishing junkie for sure.
With a degree in journalism from Western Washington University in my back pocket in 1977, it was salmon fishing legend Frank Haw, then director of our Department of Fisheries, who hired me for an open position in the public affairs office, which changed my life forever. Imagine having a job where your recreation is your profession and your profession is your recreation. After 44 years, I remain passionate about salmon and all sport fishing species, including shrimp and crab.
As written in THE REEL NEWS before, Frank is the ultimate optimist, consistently focused on the “can dos” of life while blazing a path to prioritize sport fishing opportunities at the Department based on the cost/benefits funded by taxpayer dollars. This fish management policy direction established a healthy sport fishing industry for businesses and Washington anglers. Today, Frank continues to be my mentor as well as my saint who I will forever revere. Thank you, Frank Haw, for giving me a chance to follow the path you blazed and contribute to your leadership and agenda.
For the last 14 years, my assignment at the Northwest Marine Trade Association (NMTA) has been to represent over 700 member businesses belonging to the association in fish management decisions and to promote sport fishing and the Northwest Salmon Derby Series. I’m checking the box on my self-evaluation form as “mission accomplished.” That’s a good boy!
During my tenure at the NMTA, I have had the privilege to report to NMTA President George Harris who is, and has become, one of the brightest lights in the sport fishing industry. George, like Frank, knows where Ponce de Leon’s fountain of youth and knowledge exists. He drinks it like Kool-aid. As a result, he understands the dynamics and importance of our industry to Washington’s economy and practices tirelessly what he preaches, 24/7.
When I first met George, it was his annual task to manage and produce the Seattle Boat Show, “the Biggest Boat Show on the West Coast.” He is and was an accomplished sailor, owner of a big sleek sailboat, yet he loved to fish. Attempting to feed his passion to fish for salmon, he installed a downrigger on his sailboat. Bad mojo, George. A downrigger on a sailboat is like trying to make a cow fly.
Within two years of working with George, he sold his sailboat and bought a 24-foot Sea Sport and rigged it for serious salmon fishing. If Schick Shadel alcohol treatment hospital in Seattle had a program to treat “fishingitis,” George would qualify. Like I said, he drinks the salmon fishing Kool-aid by the semi-load. I can relate.
You’ll always find Tony and his fishing buddy Clyde McBrayer fishing the banks in the eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca in March and April. Adios amigo!
With that introduction, I am turning over the helm of my responsibilities at NMTA to George, who now sets a fresh course to work with other sport fishing leaders, with a goal of establishing viable and meaningful sport fishing opportunities for Washington anglers. Trust me when I say, you are in good hands.
In preparing to write this column, my mind wandered through the 40-plus years of memories from my career, triggering a desire to thank so many people who influenced my path and direction. You know who you are. While a thank you is incredibly insufficient, your friendship and support of my attempted contribution to make fishing opportunities better for Washington anglers, I say thank you.
To all my fellow salmon anglers who love this sport as much as I do, I say never, ever, give up the fight to maintain and improve our right to exist. Find a way to support our representatives, lawmakers, and leaders on the frontline as their efforts are critical to our future.
So it’s time to say farewell and goodbye to Tony, as I prepare to launch my boat into the fishing trips of my future. It’s been an incredible ride and I have been one of the luckiest dudes alive. Long live sport fishing in Washington. See you on the water…