Founding Fathers Pictured below: Joe Egnot (left), John Bodner (center), and Matt Hrycyk (right)! These gentlemen where honored at the 2019 Fall Run Banquet!
The following is the text honoring our founding fathers, John Bodner, Matt Hrycyk, & Joe Egnot, which was in the PSA Fall Run Banquet Program.
The Founding Fathers of the Pennsylvania Steelhead Association
A creed was written in 1996 by the Founding Fathers of the Pennsylvania Steelhead Association to protect, preserve, and enhance our world class steelhead fishery. A creed is a set of beliefs or aims which guide someone's actions, and that creed is as viable today as it was back then 20 years ago.
Joe Egnot, Matt Hrycyk, and John Bodner, meshed these beliefs together with actions to create an organization that would follow this creed and their lead.
Together we have protected the fishery by petitioning the PFBC to ban the commercial sale of steelhead eggs for profit. We have preserved our fishery in many ways, one of which is working with landowners to rid their properties of litter, and providing fruit baskets annually to property owners who continue to allow public fishing. Methods of preservation have continued with the PFBC's property acquisition program funded through the re-issue of the Lake Erie Permit, which the PSA originally pushed and petitioned for.
John Bodner suggested this solution after an alarming rate of property postings, and the Erie Access Improvement Grant program was later implemented by the PFBC. It has provided perpetual access, easements, and property purchases that has literally, as Matt Hrycyk has said, “saved our steelhead fishery.” Our founders hoped to “open up Harrisburg's eyes” as Joe Egnot put it, and they succeeded in doing just that!
We have enhanced our fishery through our support and dedication to the 3-C-U Trout Association, with fund raising hot dog sales at the Walnut Creek Access Area where profits have gone directly to 3-C-U, and the recent property clean up at the Rozy Raceway where 30,000 steelhead are currently being raised. The PSA sponsors the annual Coastal Cleanup at the Walnut Creek Access Area, and has recently created an angler trail access on Crooked Creek.
These are just some of our accomplishments over the years, and none of these positive impacts to the steelhead fishery would ever have happened without the vision of our founding fathers. These three individuals give us a historical record of our cold water sport fisheries on the south shore of Lake Erie, and have witnessed it's dramatic changes. At 6 years old, in 1968, John Bodnar caught his first steelhead in Conneaut Creek and is still known to all his friends, as the Fish Man. John met one of our most important organizational leaders, Frank Scicchitano, in 1975, recalling how the recently built marina at the mouth of Walnut Creek turned black with Coho salmon, and in 1976, 5000 of them showed up in front of Trout Run. John has been guiding on local waters for 33 years now, and few anglers are as deeply ingrained into Lake Erie's steelhead fishery as John has been.
Joe Egnot was the PSA's first President, and got the ball rolling through a persistence of message, that things needed to change if we wanted to sustain this fishery into the future. He caught his first steelhead in 1978 and moved to Fairview in 1991, right up the street from the mouth of Trout Run, thus eliminating a 45 minute blast up Interstate 79 from Pittsburgh. This shortened road trip probably eliminated a few speeding tickets. He quickly became known for tying the ubiquitous Sucker Spawn fly pattern, supplying all the local outlets with hundreds of flies, and is certainly responsible for the catching of thousands of steelhead over the years, and the smiles that were then revealed from doing so.
Matt Hyryck lived within the pulse of the steelhead fishery while operating Walnut Creek Bait and Tackle from 1994 to 1996, at the beginning of the Associations formation. He met Joe Egnot on Walnut Creek at the Gun Club on Route 20, where black marabou jigs were the hot ticket of the day. Matt's store became the hub in a line of communication between these three like minded individuals. A collaboration was soon formed, and not only for flies and jigs. He caught his first steelhead in 1983 on Walnut Creek and moved to Erie In 1990.
With the help of the late WCO John Bowser, Bobby Hetz of 3-C-U Trout Association, and the simple beginnings of a grass roots word of mouth campaign, the PSA began having meetings in the back room of the Avonia Tavern with a formed agenda.
Together they have lived through many changes to Pennsylvania's steelhead fishery. During the 70's and early 80's, if you saw two cars pulled over at the Stop Sign Hole on Walnut Creek you thought it was crowded, and that was on a Sunday morning. There was once a time when fishing the upper sections of Pennsylvania's tributaries, where if you encountered another steelheader at a favored pool, you could just go around them and find another one open. They learned the fishery the old fashioned way, by actually fishing and walking the streams, not with data spat out from an internet blog.
Matt still lives within the heartbeat of both our warm and cold water fisheries, and took a position as a Buyer with FishUSA Incorporated. John is still guiding strong after 33 years, he's not ever going to stop doing what he loves, and Joe is getting ready to retire from the PFBC as Walnut Creek's Maintenance Manager. They all agree that the best way to promote and protect the fishery for future generations, is to take a 12 year old boy or girl fishing for steelhead, or if you see one on the stream, offer them help if needed, and pass along a favorite fly or lure.
Their passionate dedication and love for a fish species is why they moved here, and this is why we are all here today, because of them. It's our honor to finally recognize these three men, for the contributions and sacrifices they made for the Pennsylvania Steelhead Association.