Fish and Boat executive director John Arway retiring

Posted on: August 1, 2018 | Bob Frye | Comments

John Arway with a smallmouth bass.

After 38 years, the last eight-plus as executive director, John Arway is retiring from the Fish and Boat Commission.
Photo: PA Fish and boat

He’s calling it quits.

John Arway, executive director of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, is retiring effective Nov. 2. He announced that in a letter to agency commissioners and staff on Tuesday.

“Retired friends have told me that you will know when the time has come to retire. I now understand,” Arway wrote.

“I feel truly blessed to have been able to serve by your sides while we worked to protect, conserve and enhance our Commonwealth’s aquatic resources and provide Commonwealth anglers and boaters with first class fishing and boating opportunities.”

Rumors of Arway’s departure circulated recently, especially in light of recent events.

Little less than a month ago, Fish and Boat Commissioners cancelled plans to close several hatcheries, a move that would have meant stocking fewer adult trout in 2019, among other things. That was based on a promise by state lawmakers to raise – or try to raise — fishing license fees for the first time since 2004.

That would generate revenue the commission says it needs.

Lawmakers haven’t acted yet, though, despite years of lobbying by the commission. Arway and lawmakers often engaged in pitched battles as a result. Some lawmakers even tried to pass legislation forcing him out.

Arway said there’s no truth to suggestions that he swapped his retirement for a fee increase, though. He and at least some of his board members outright rejected such a hinted-at proposal, in fact.

Beyond that, though, two weeks ago he was noncommittal about his long-term future.

No one can predict the future, even their own, he said.

“But I’ve gotten us this far. I’d like to see us get across the finish line,” Arway said then, referencing a fee hike.

That seems unlikely now.

Lawmakers said they will likely address fishing license prices in 2019. But Arway will be gone by then.

One group called that a sad development.

PennFuture – a group that works on clean energy, public health and clean environment issues – said Arway was a strong advocate for the state’s resources. His departure might make some lawmakers happy.

But it will neither solve the funding problems at the commission nor address critical needs related to conservation, PennFuture said.

“At the end of the day, those responsible for protecting these assets need the resources to do their jobs. The problem is not going away with Arway’s departure. This is an issue that is now being queued up for his successor, but it’s not an issue that is going away,” said PennFuture president Jacquelyn Bonomo.

When he joined the commission 38 years ago – interviewing first for a spot as a semi-skilled laborer – Arway never expected to wind up as its leader, he wrote. And he didn’t realize some of the political realities of the job when he first took it, he added.

But he believes he knows which direction the agency should take now.

“The plan for the future should include the defense of agency independence, living within our means and not spending more than we earn. This simple formula will insure continued agency success far into the future,” he wrote.

As for his own future, Arway said he plans to spend a lot of his time at his camp in Allegheny National Forest, fishing, hunting and spending time with his grandchildren.

“To fulfill a life’s dream and begin a new journey spending time with family and friends, I am truly grateful,” he wrote.

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Bob Frye is the editor. Reach him at 412-838-5148 or See other stories, blogs, videos and more at

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