John Arway

August 29, 1952-

John Arway was born in McKeesport, PA on 29 August 1952. He graduated from Norwin High School in North Huntington, PA in 1970, from the University of Pittsburgh with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Biology in 1974, and from the Tennessee Technological University with a Master of Science Degree in Aquatic Biology in 1984.

John’s lifetime love for nature and fishing began in his childhood when staying at his aunt Ann’s and uncle Nick’s cottage on Cranberry Glade Lake in Somerset County.  John caught his first bluegill at the age of five and continues to be an avid bluegill and panfish angler. Throughout each year, John, his grandchildren, and fishing buddies catch hundreds of panfish on PA lakes and enjoy frequent “fish fries.”  However, John considers himself a generalist angler and happily fishes for any species with any gear!

John dedicated his entire professional career to carrying out the mission of the PA Fish and Boat Commission. He began as a semi-skilled laborer soon after graduate school in 1980 during the era of Ralph W. Abele, the long-time Executive Director of the Commission. In 1981, he was promoted to a fisheries biologist position and in 1987 was selected as chief of the Environmental Services Division which he served for 20 years. As the Division Chief, he was a staunch advocate for waterway conservation and environmental protection. He was instrumental in expanding the Commission’s environmental review and pollution response programs.  He testified as an expert witness in over 100 cases before civil, criminal, and administrative courts. His testimony resulted in millions of dollars for the Commission coming from agency fines and penalties and the recovery of monetary damages to aquatic natural resources and lost recreational fishing and boating services. Funds were often dedicated to recovering aquatic resources in waters that were damaged.  He published numerous technical papers and made many presentations on water pollution, fish habitat protection and enhancement at local, state, and national conferences and meetings. He served on executive boards, technical and advisory committees of several fisheries organizations such as the American Fisheries Society, Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and the American Sportfishing Association.

In 2010, John was appointed as Executive Director of the Commission and served in that capacity until his retirement from Commonwealth service in 2018. As Executive Director, John steadfastly promoted a “Resource First” and “Protect, Conserve, and Enhance” fisheries conservation approach in leading the agency and in advising the Board of Commissioners. In his “Straight Talk” articles in the Commission’s “PA Angler and Boater Magazine”, John emphasized his commitment to conservation fisheries science and to the Commission “living within its means” by “not spending more than it earned” to maintain a sound funding base. John’s tagline on his email signature still reads “Do your duty and fear no one— R.W. Abele”.

Among his proudest leadership accomplishments as Executive Director of the Commission are:

  • Setting the stage for legislation that delegates the authority to the Commission to set fishing and boating fees;
  • Bringing attention to the water quality and fish disease problems of the middle Susquehanna River and implementing catch and release regulations for smallmouth bass which eventually lead to the Department of Environmental Protection declaring the river as impaired;
  • Running the agency as a government business;
  • Repurposing the Union City Fish Hatchery to a mussel hatchery to save agency jobs;
  • Creating the Unassessed Waters Program and enlisting the support of colleges and universities to assist with surveying wild trout streams so they could be identified, listed, and protected;
  • Authored the Foreword and a Chapter on Sportfishing in “Fishes of PA” textbook;
  • Consolidating staff into a new Centre Regional Office;
  • Commemorating the 150th Anniversary of the PFBC in the book “To Protect, Conserve and Enhance, Resource First — The History of the Pennsylvania Fish            and Boat Commission”;
  • Authored an article titled “The Politics of Science or the Science of Politics” in COMMONWEALTH, Volume 19, Issue 1 (2017). © 2017 The Pennsylvania Political   Science Association. ISSN 2469-7672 (online).;
  • Creating the Mentored Youth Trout Day and a Voluntary Youth Fishing License to encourage more children to get involved in fishing;
  • Increased agency funding from the Motor-Boat Fuel Fund and the Marcellus Shale Impact Fee;
  • Making the West Branch of the Susquehanna River fishable again;
  • Reintroduced the fishing button as an alternative license display.

Since his retirement from the Commission John has been enjoying: 

  • Showing his grandchildren how to enjoy and conserve the lands and waters of the Commonwealth;
  • Hunting and fishing in North and South America;
  • Actively serving on the Board of the PA Fly Fishing Association and on the National Aquatic Invasive Species Commission;
  • Advocating for fisheries protection, conservation, and enhancement;
  • Expanding his cabin along Tionesta Creek in Forest County;
  • Communicating and socializing with friends and family at every opportunity;
  • Practicing to become a gourmet fish and game cook;
  • Reading about the history of conservation leadership: 
  • Successfully working to establish a Fly-Fishing Camp in 2024 as part of the Wilderness Leadership Academy for teenagers;
  • Giving fisheries talks at conservation organization events; and
  • Receiving the “Order of the Hat” Award from the Flyfisher’s Club of Harrisburg.