An Institution Takes Flight

Well, Vic, you’re much too kind.

And besides, you don’t look anything like a swan.

But a swan song it is, a seemingly most improbable event for the institution called Waterfront View.

Your monthly Florida Sportsman column tickled and informed readers for three-plus decades, well before many were spawned.

What a career you’ve had. What a person you are.

In an acknowledgement about Vic in one of Sportsman’s books, I suggested that if we were to select one person who represented the best combination of outdoor writing and actual ability on the waters and in the woods, it would have to be Vic Dunaway.

He could do it all, with a smile and without a trace of bravado.

Humor was, and is, his tool to interpret this too-often stressful and tightly wired place.

Even after many years with him, I would get caught thinking he was about to get very serious about a point, only to have him defuse any tensions with a provoker of not a debate but a laugh.

I won’t forget the day when the first Marine Fisheries Commission decided to have an informal sitdown with Vic and me about how commercial and recreational fishing interests could exist happily ever after. Several of the commissioners were large-scale commercials or their allies receiving study grants.

“Well, I should report at the outset, something about Gene Raffield (Florida’s biggest gillnetter),” Vic announced with apparent seriousness. A strained silence fell on the room, and Vic continued:

“I believe that Gene and I are related and his cousin was married to my second cousin.”

The mood of things tempered instantly and there ensued no angry name-calling, though it was clear that die-hard competitors were involved.

Vic did go on that day to explain a fundamental policy requirement when managing fish:

First, the very most protection you can give a species is to not allow a single take.

The next level is to allow a small catch, equally divided among all citizens. Then, and only then, if there is a surplus beyond what’s needed to sustain a desired population, let a larger number of the fish be taken by certain interests, while monitoring the stocks.

It’s a straight-forward summary of good management that’s now standard in fresh water but it still not understood by most saltwater leaders, beholden as they are for generations to exploiters for the market.

And yet, I think we’re moving, slowly, toward those golden principles. Thanks to folks like Vic.

As I said, Vic, you’re a mite too kind, but I won’t fight it. I feel the same lack of words to describe our thousands of days we thought would never end.

Karl Wickstrom