Fisheries Director's Blog

Welcome to the new blog from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Fisheries Service, which was created to offer a new forum for sharing information and perspective on fisheries management with our stakeholders.

Tom O'ConnellA Life-long Passion for Fishing

August 11, 2014 by Tom O'Connell

My father and grandfather introduced me to fishing, hunting, camping, hiking and many other outdoor activities at an early age. If I was not in school or playing sports, I could always be found in the woods or on the water. My passion for the outdoors would eventually lead me to my career, and to my wife of 20 years, Tammy, who shares these interests.

This summer marks my 21st year with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Fisheries Service. For the past six years I have had the privilege and pleasure of serving as Director, a job that I dreamed of as a child and one I never take for granted.

Maryland's fish and aquatic life are remarkable. Long before any of us were born, our forefathers recognized the need to safeguard these treasures, creating the agency and the role in which I now serve. In this role, my responsibility is to manage our diverse fishery resources for their sustainable use today… and tomorrow. 

I take this responsibility seriously: 426,000 sports anglers (16 years of age and older), 5,500 commercial fishermen, 500 charter boat and fishing guides, hundreds of dependent businesses and all those who enjoy the bounty of Maryland waters share a social, economic and cultural interest in sustaining these resources. Passing on the tradition and culture of Maryland’s diverse sport and commercial fishing opportunities drives my commitment.

Some of my family's fondest memories are those spent enjoying our fisheries. The picture of our oldest daughter proudly catching her first yellow perch that hangs in our home; the commitment and focus of our youngest daughter as she learned the art of fly-tying at the kitchen table and then caught her first panfish on one of those self-tied flies; the expression on our middle daughter's face as she watched her first hickory shad leaping and jumping as she reeled it in; our son, who after catching his first fish through the ice on Deep Creek Lake, proceeded to ask me daily to take him fishing at our neighbor's pond.

These shared moments are as vivid today as when they happened. Of course, our family also enjoys eating locally caught seafood, observing hard-working watermen as we travel around the State, and hearing about the rich history of Maryland's commercial fishing industry that our neighbor, a commercial fisherman, shares with our family.

This history, culture and excitement gives me the inspiration and motivation to excel in my job – one that I am doubly blessed to hold, as it allows me to spend my working hours with people that share my enthusiasm for managing and enjoying our fisheries.

Like most things, such passion brings hard work and tough choices. Management decisions are made even more challenging because of the number and diversity of stakeholders we serve. Yet I believe that despite often competing values and perspectives this diversity has untapped strength on which we can capitalize.

We have much in common. Like me, you have similar stories of the personal journeys that helped instill your passion for these resources. Like me, you enjoy sharing your experiences (and the tales of them) with family and friends. And like me, you want to continue to see Marylanders benefit from our exciting fishery resources.

So, it is my personal goal – and the reason we created this new blog -- to bring together our diverse stakeholders, and leverage our shared interest in and commitment to Maryland fisheries. For only together can we address the issues that threaten our ability to achieve our collective goal: ensuring current and future generations of anglers are able to enjoy the same – preferably better -- fisheries resources that we have enjoyed in our lifetimes.

Editor's Note: This new blog from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Fisheries Service was created to offer a new forum for sharing information and perspective on fisheries management with our stakeholders. Your feedback is encouraged. Next time: The decision making process.