On Being a Better Steward

Everett Johnson

I'm guessing that all who read this have heard the terms steward and stewardship at one point or another and most likely through the context of how it was used figured out that being a steward brought responsibility.

I think my first recollection of the term came while listening to my father and his cronies from the mill. The guys my dad ran with loved hunting and fishing and they took me with them any time I was out of school. My part in the discussions was to sit in the back seat and listen while Dad drove to hunting or fishing spots. They discussed lots of things, some of which was Steelworker Union related, and I learned that my dad and Tony Kozenski were shop stewards on the night shift. Not everybody got to be a steward; stewards were selected for leadership and the respect they commanded. They represented the workers should they get into a scrape with the boss. My dad and Tony willing assumed that responsibility.

Quite often you will hear people who work in country clubs referred to as stewards. These are usually the folks in charge of food and drink for the member's parties and other functions. They have the responsibility of making sure guests are happy with the club's services.

You might also recall that there used to be stewards and stewardesses on airplanes, now-a-days they're called flight attendants. Occasionally you might hear administrators of finances referred to as stewards but this usage is not all that common anymore. If you look in Webster's New World Dictionary Fourth Edition, the definition they list first is, "A person put in charge of a large estate."

Now we all have some interest in saltwater fishing or we wouldn't be reading this, and we all have at least one other thing in common we are all stewards. Some are probably ready to ask, "How so?" Well it's real simple the way I see it, when you purchase a fishing license that's you signing up, and when you hit the water that's you reporting for work. Just like in Webster's, you are in charge of a large estate. The northern boundary touches Louisiana and it borders Mexico to the south. The estate includes some of the most precious coastal treasures on planet Earth.

Just as we strive to excel in our jobs, we should also strive to be good stewards of the coastal resources that are entrusted to us. A good way to start is by joining a conservation organization such as CCA-Texas. In doing so your voice blends with thousands to become a mighty chorus for the cause.

You should volunteer to perform as much hands-on conservation as you can cram into your schedule. Crab trap cleanups, beach cleanups, seagrass plantings, dune seedings and fundraising for conservation projects are all very worthwhile and noble causes. You might also want to consider putting on some fishing demonstrations for school or church kids. Taking them fishing and giving nature lessons while they reel in a few piggies or hardheads is an awesome contribution to the person they might be influenced to become.

You might want to consider taking an office in your local CCA chapter, or perhaps attending TPWD commissioner's hearings and giving your take on what's important for our bays and fisheries. If you cannot get time off work or afford the travel, writing your legislators and urging that they consider the future viability of our marine resources and eco-systems as they make other important decisions is also a very worthy pursuit.

And finally there's the things we do on the water. I once heard that the truest definition of character meant doing the right thing when nobody was watching. It is so easy to be pious in public, but do you have the moral fortitude to do the right things when you are alone? What I'm talking about is practicing good conservation out there on the water. The limit might be ten trout, but do you really need all ten? Will you go to bed hungry unless you kill everything that gets on your hook? Conservation means wise use, is filleting the wisest use of all ten of those trout, or could you make do on four or five?

Being a better steward of coastal resources is no different than being in charge of a grand estate. When the owner is coming for a visit wouldn't you work hard to make sure everything is in the best shape possible? Remember, buying a license and packing for a fishing trip brings responsibility and we should all try to be the best stewards we can possibly be, even when we're fishing alone!