Richard Novotny

Richard Novotny

Richard N. Novotny Sr., former executive director of the Maryland Saltwater Sportfishing Association who also lobbied on behalf of state recreational fishermen, died Sunday of kidney failure at Ivy Hall Geriatric & Rehabilitation Center in Middle River.

The longtime Essex resident was 67.

"He was highly regarded, and when Rich was in a leadership role, he helped form a strong relationship between [the Department of Natural Resources] and the Maryland Saltwater Sportfishing Association. And that happened because of him," said Tom O'Connell, state Department of Natural Resources Fisheries Service director.

"He was highly regarded by the legislature and the secretary of DNR, and we will surely miss him in this community," said Mr. O'Connell.

"He would let us know his concerns and was always willing to work with us in difficult situations," he said. "He worked with us to balance the needs of fishermen, research and the fishery, and find solutions."

Born in Baltimore and raised in Dundalk, Mr. Novotny was a 1966 graduate of Dundalk High School.

For 27 years, until retiring in 1995, he owned and operated a 7-Eleven franchise on Trappe Road.

Mr. Novotny's father, Henry, introduced him to fishing at a young age, which changed his life and turned him into not only a knowledgeable Chesapeake Bay fisherman, but also an advocate for the bay and a voice for its sport fishermen.

In 1974 he acquired a Coast Guard license to carry paying passengers aboard his boat, Oh Thank Heaven, and four years later earned his professional fishing guide license.

For the first two decades, Mr. Novotny, who was considered an expert on fishing for rockfish and bluefish, based his charter boat operation during the spring season at Kentmoor Marina on Kent Island.

He later moved his operation to Rod & Reel Dock in Chesapeake City, and during part of the summer and fall sailed out of his home port in Middle River.

In addition to his charter work, Mr. Novotny was a founding member of the Maryland Saltwater Sportfishing Association and served as its executive director from 1989 until stepping down in 2009. He was also president of its Essex-Middle River chapter.

Mr. Novotny, who served in Annapolis as a full-time lobbyist representing the state's recreational fisherman, also served on many DNR advisory boards dealing with Maryland fisheries.

He traveled the East Coast attending meetings of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Striped Bass Management Board as an expert witness on the Maryland striped bass fishery.

"Rich's death is the passing of an era," said Howard J. King, former DNR Fisheries Service director and a longtime friend.

"He was a perfectly honest guy who always spoke his mind, which was an advantage in the long run. What you saw is what you got," said Mr. King. "And he expected legislators to be honest, and he made sure they knew he wasn't pulling the wool over their eyes.

"He always expected you to be straight with him as he was with you. And if you lost his trust, well, that was it. You didn't get a second chance," he said.

Mr. King spent many long hours on the bay fishing with his friend.

"I always considered him a mentor. He made a science out of fishing," he said.

In addition to his work with MSSA, during which he also wrote and edited Tidelines, its newsletter, Mr. Novotny conducted hundreds of seminars through the years on fishing for rockfish and bluefish.

He wrote a weekly fishing report for the Capital Gazette website and feature articles for Angler magazine.

Mr. Novotny was a weekly guest commentator on a boating show that was broadcast from WNAV radio in Annapolis.

He was the author of "Catchin' Chesapeake Rockfish," an illustrated book published in 2004.

When he wasn't on the Chesapeake Bay, attending DNR meetings or lobbying, Mr. Novotny was an avid Ravens fan. He also was a member and had been commodore of the Golden Anchor Yacht Club in Essex.

"But what he really enjoyed was fishing, boating and the Chesapeake Bay," said his daughter, Laura McCormick of Essex.

Mr. Novotny was a communicant of Our Lady of Hope Roman Catholic Church, 1727 Lynch Road, Dundalk, where a Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 10 a.m. Friday.

In addition to his daughter, Mr. Novotny is survived by his wife of 48 years, the former Mildred F. Jones; two sons, Richard N. Novotny Jr. of Dagsboro, Del., and Glenn Michael Novotny of Frederick; a brother, Ronald Novotny of Safety Harbor, Fla.; two sisters, Jeanette Hash of Abingdon and Cynthia Novotny of Pembroke Pines, Fla.; and five granddaughters.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com