D’Arcy Egan, Cleveland Plain Dealer Outdoors Writer…

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D’Arcy Egan, Cleveland Plain Dealer Outdoors Writer Retires after 38 years

Below are words from D’Arcy Egan with regard to his retirement from the Cleveland Plain Dealer in October. We’ll miss him as for years and years he has provided thoughtful insights on the outdoors scene around Ohio and in particular Lake Erie.

CLEVELAND, Ohio – It is difficult to walk away from the most enjoyable, hands-on writing job in town.

After 38 years as the outdoors guy for The Plain Dealer, it’s time to retire, although my byline might pop up from time to time. What I’ll take with me are memories of so many adventures and a legion of interesting outdoors folks who were incredibly passionate about their sports.

Their tales and our experiences over the decades have taken me to the nooks and crannies of Ohio and some of the most beautiful places on earth. It has been everything a kid who loved to prowl the Cleveland breakwalls and farm ponds to catch a few fish could every hope to experience.

There are scribes covering the major sports that have never strapped on a helmet or tried a dunk, slap shot or drag bunt. In almost four decades as an outdoors reporter, though, there have been ample opportunities to cast a fly for steelhead trout, set the hook on a walleye, haul in a mess of yellow perch or fool a lunker largemouth bass.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time in the woods and fields, tagging a few deer and wild turkeys. Sunrise in the duck marsh is a special time. Hunting with my bird dogs Dezzie and Bluebell are days well spent, and they’re far from over.

Those adventures have always been in the quest of an informative, entertaining feature. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it after more than 40 years as a sportswriter for The Plain Dealer.

The outdoor sports I’ve written about for so long are excitingly diverse. My readers range from pint-sized kids to senior citizens. You’re never too young or too old to enjoy fishing, hunting and the great outdoors.

It is gratifying to know I’m leaving the beats far more vibrant than when I arrived in early 1978. The fishing, hunting and outdoors scenes have blossomed over the years. I’ve had the chance to not only chronicle the growth, but to fight the battles to enhance the wealth of opportunities.

It might surprise younger outdoors folks that when I arrived, Lake Erie was considered dead. Walleye were generally caught there from June through August and rarely east of the Bass Islands. The mediocre yellow perch fishing was best in spring and fall.

There were no steelhead trout to catch from the Northeast Ohio rivers and streams, only a misguided run of chinook salmon stocked in a vain attempt to copy Michigan’s success.

Over the years, we managed to ban destructive Ohio commercial gill nets from Lake Erie and establish quotas on sport and commercial catches of walleye and yellow perch. Lake Erie smallmouth bass are now protected with a closed spawning season and a length limit.

Ohio’s state hatcheries have kept inland lake and river anglers happy with ample stockings of walleye, saugeye, catfish, rainbow trout and muskies. Despite a lack of big reservoirs, Ohio lures anglers from afar to experience its world-class fishing.

In the 1970s, with a deer population of about 20,000 bucks and does, if a hunter spotted a wary white-tailed deer in northern Ohio it was big news. Thirty years later, the statewide harvest had soared to a quarter-million deer.

Wild turkeys had disappeared from the Buckeye woodlots a century ago. A trapping program in the early 1970s targeting wild birds in other states to be released in the tall forests of southern Ohio worked wonders. Soon turkeys were roaming all of Ohio. Changes in farming made ring-necked pheasants and bobwhite quail very scarce, but Ohioans would vote to allow the mourning dove to become the new game bird of the Buckeye State.

The harvest of a wild Canada goose was once something special around the state. A breeding program at Mosquito Creek developed new flocks at giant Canada geese. This year there are more than 600,000 of the big geese living in Ohio. While a nuisance for some, they have become an early-season bonus for waterfowl hunters.

There is also a bit of sadness, leaving so many challenges yet to be met.

At the top of the list is a beloved Lake Erie. Phosphorus pollution and invasive species threaten our precious freshwater jewel. An all-out assault is needed on every level to stop protect our waters.

Ohio outdoorsmen are losing public and private hunting lands at a perilous clip. White-tailed deer, wild turkeys, squirrels and rabbits abound, but there are fewer places each year to hunt them.

Our state parks and natural areas have never been adequately supported by the legislature. The parks have long suffered from a lack of maintenance, funding and employees to manage them.

Covering the great outdoors has been a great ride, an avocation rather than an assignment.

I wish I had a buck for every sportsman who has told me over the years that checking out the fishing report around the kitchen table on Friday morning was a family tradition. That’s wistful thinking, though. I’m sure I would have spent it all on fishing lures or shotgun shells.

 Lake Erie Walleye
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