Angler Abuse of Rivers & Private Property
good article on angler abuse of rivers, private property, and what restrictions are being implemented. No mention of the increased boat (drift, pontoon, canoe, jet sled, etc..) traffic on small rivers which is another issue to me.
I don't know about you but I am ready to pay for a quality day of river fishing.
The good old days of river fishing are gone and will probably not return. :
Hal, the web connect isn't working; sounds
`like something that should be read. Possible you to access "cut and paste' to the board?
For you here it is. Note the reference to Oregon waters very surprising to a flat lander like me.
Source: Pitts Burgh Gazeete
Keep Out: No Fishing
Access to water becoming a target issue for anglers
Sunday, October 13, 2002
By Deborah Weisberg
Four truckloads of garbage were hauled from the Youghiogheny River last month during Hazelbaker Recreational Services first-ever clean-up. Working the 8-mile Dawson-to-Layton stretch, volunteers recovered 30 tires, six bicycles, an E-Z bake oven, an air conditioner, and enough cans, bottles and bait tins to stuff 50 garbage bags.
"We were amazed," said Hazelbaker's Don Hasch, who provided the canoes and convinced local businesses to donate sandwiches, snacks and work gloves to the 21 volunteers.
Litter is an on-going concern for most anglers since it is the number one reason for landowners' posting property, at least in this part of the state, said Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission regional law enforcement chief Emil Svetahor. "Ask anyone and they'll tell you, they're tired of litter, of people damaging trees, chopping wood, camping out, building fires. And drinking, since alcohol leads to other behaviors."
Litter is most glaring on opening day and on popular streams. Erie is so plagued that waterways conservation officer John Bowser posts plainclothesmen along creeks. Fines are $50 plus $10 for each piece of trash -- and double that when anglers discard steelhead they have harvested.
"Big sections of Elk [Creek] got shut down when anglers trashed the salmon fishery," said Erie guide Karl Weixlmann, a board member of the Erie Steelhead Association. "It goes back 30 years and they've been closed ever since."
So far, about 119 miles of streams on private land in Pennsylvania are being improved by angling and conservation groups, such as Trout Unlimited, working with the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission through its Adopt-A-Stream program, which provides limited funding and other support for enhancement projects. For information, call the commission's Habitat Management office at 814-359-5158 or visit http://www.fish.state.pa.us.
While bad angler behavior is squeezing more fishermen onto shrinking stretches of water, increased development in some parts of the state -- not Southwestern Pennsylvania, but the Poconos and the Southeast -- has also spurred postings. "Lots are smaller in highly populated areas, and people want to protect what little privacy they have," said commission spokesman Dan Tredinnick. "They may not mind a few anglers now and then, but they don't want to see dozens every time they look out their window."
Others turn their streams into pay-for-play ventures, a trend that conservationists such as Trout Unlimited state president Ken Undercoffer expects to continue. Undercoffer's group and the Pennsylvania Sportsmen's Association battled the owners of Paradise Outfitters in Spruce Creek for denying all but their customers access to the Espy Farm section of the Little Juniata. The Department of Environmental Resources ruled that the Little J is navigable water -- meaning the stream itself is open to anyone -- but the case will be decided in court.
"We had the same situation on the Little Lehigh," said Undercoffer, of a case where anglers sued for access. "The Clarion River is probably next." Navigable waters were designated two centuries ago for their capacity to carry commercial cargo. Small streams are another story and can be privately owned.
Most of the state's 83,000 miles of rivers and streams --including the 4,500 that Pennsylvania stocks -- are on private property. As long as less than a quarter of a section is posted, the state will stock trout. But as postings increase, waters are removed from the stocking list, said Tredinnick, although last year's 25 percent cut in stockings was a consequence of the hatchery crisis.
Anglers who fish big water, such as the Allegheny River, must contend with railroad companies who are cracking down on trespassers. "Conrail would pretty much look the other way, but when Norfolk Southern took over, they took an aggressive stand," Tredinnick said. "They've even made it hard for us to move some stocking trucks."
"We went to them with DCNR to discuss options, especially for getting access for anglers, but they wouldn't budge. They told property owners along the Susquehanna to get rid of private boat docks, some of which were in families for generations, and shut off hundreds of informal access points which were the only access points. Of course, they're within their rights to do it."
"We can't be out there 24/7, but we'll cite anyone we find trespassing -- or tearing down no-trespassing signs," said Norfolk Southern spokesman Rudy Husband, of Philadelphia.
Here, while anglers try to get around railroad postings to fish the mouth of Pine Creek, "the barges" in Sharpsburg, and other spots along the rivers, the non-profit Friends of the Riverfront works to find alternatives.
In some cases, even a small stretch of posted land can have an impact. One landowner fenced just a few hundred feet on an upper part of Elk Creek, shutting down one of the most productive steelhead holes in Erie. "The total amount of posting wasn't a big deal," said Tredinnick, "but the loss that posting represented was."
By contrast, an angler bought land near Walnut's heavily pressured Manchester Hole several years ago but leaves the west side of the stream open to fishermen.
"I think a lot of people don't even know they're fishing on private property," said Weixlmann. "I'm not an elistist. I'm not one of these people who says, 'Let's kick out all the bait fishermen.' But the landowners definitely have a point."
His association and others make improvements to private property for landowners who allow fishing, through the state's popular Adopt A Stream program. Trout Unlimited received $8,000 toward a $50,000 improvement of Pine Creek, in Allegheny County. Weixlmann's group has planted blue spruce trees for property owners who've found theirs chopped down, and has built fences that four-wheelers have torn up along Elk Creek. "We've talked to people and we've picked up litter," said Weixlmann. "The state moved in the right direction when it bought both sides of Twenty Mile with gill net funds. But it needs to do more."
The state's most significant land acquisiton in recent years was $2.1 million for 2 miles along Spring Creek -- the highest density major wild trout stream in Pennsylvania. But there's no money for future purchases, said Tredinnick, and the state's Conservation Aquisition Partnership (CAP) has netted just $20,000 from private donors in the past 10 years.
"We're a bit player in property ownership," said Tredinnick. "We have 32,000 acres and the game commission has, like, a million. But they have access problems, too."
Cooperative agreements with municipalities allow the state to offer services -- such as patrols by waterways conservation officers --i n exchange for stream corridor easements. "Paying landowners would set a bad precedent," Tredinnick said. "And we can't afford to pay everyone." There are few deals like the $1-a-year easement lease the boat commission has with THETA Land Company, which bought 30 miles of special regulation streams -- including one featured on a state trout stamp -- in Lackawanna and Luzerne counties.
"We're trying to work out something similar in Cambria County right now," said Tredinnick.
Weixlmann, whose interest is Erie, suggests that an Erie stamp be issued to generate funds for improved access there. Undercoffer proposes a statewide conservation stamp.
Neither would fly with the legislature, said Tredinnick, any more than a surcharge on licenses -- a tack that some states, such as Oregon, have taken with success.
Half of Oregon's land is posted and there are 6,000 miles of stocked streams. Two dollars on each $18 Oregon fishing licence pays for easements, construction of outhouses, repair of stream-side fences and driveways, and litter collection. A citizens board decides where the money will be spent.
"Litter is the obvious problem, but the access issue is more complicated," Undercoffer said. "[Trout Unlimited] supports equal access to all fishermen. We don't have tackle preferences. We just have preferences about what fishermen leave behind."
Last year, when the state floated a proposal to open fly fishing only waters to artificials on a dozen or so streams, property owners threatened to put up no trespassing signs, effectively killing the idea.
Not so much an issue are the 4,000 lakes and ponds in the state since many of the most popular, such as the Raystown, Lake Arthur and the Kinzua Reservoir, are either on state parklands or are managed by the US Army Corps of Engineers.
But if anglers have any recourse in preserving remaining access, it pivots on preserving relationships, said Tredinnick.
"Knock on a door sometime and ask permission to fish or thank the property owner for letting you use his land," he said. "And don't litter."
To the littering and property distruction problems mentioned in this article, there is the problem of a fisherman who has spent the last 30 or more years living in a large city that did not have trout or steelhead fishing nearby. Upon beingable to retire and make a handsome profit on the house he has owned for 20 or more years, he moves north to trout or steelhead country, buys a piece of river front property, posts it, then starts harassins fishermen who gain access to these prime runs and holes through boating, or walking through adjacent property unposted timber lands.
He does this because he wants "private water" and even claims he owns the riverbed! What was the fishemen's sin, nothing more than he wants it to himself and resents others being able to access it.
Don't laugh, I have seen this happen here in Washington and have been the recipient of threats to call the shreiff and have me arrested for trespasing because I was standing in the river or on the gravel bar below the usually high water mark, whjich is the legal definition of where you can be legally on a navigable stream in WAshinton State. It is a most unpleasant experience; however, it has not stopped me from fishing in these places. It has stopped most from doing so though because it is such a pain to deal with nearly every time you go there.
I have even seen this locally here on the Skagit after a very well- known steelheader bought a peice of property where access was granted by the prior owner and the neighbors for years. He purchased the property, posted his section, got his neighbors to let him post their adjacent property, and in effect turned a rather nice run into private water.
He was rather mean and nasty to several of us who asked him for permission to fish including threatening us with the sheriff. Took me and a very good friend by surprise when he came out to tell us that we couldn't park and fish there like we had just one week before because he owned it now and he doesn't allow anyone to fish. He has even harrassed folks who accessed the run by boat because the were wading and casting to "his water".
Well I can see both sides of that issue. Doesn't Washington have the "navigable" waters act where private ownership of the adjoining land ends at the high water mark of the river ? If that is the case then he does not have ownership of the river along his property. Some states do not have this. This was discussed earlier this year if you put navigable into the search tool it will bring up those previous threads.
I empathize with you. A new owner just bought a large prime area of my favorite steelhead river, has posted all of the river bank but anglers can still walk into and out of it as long as they stay in the river only getting out when the water is to deep to walk around the deep spot, then must get back into the water. In Michigan the land owners do not own the river only up to the high water mark.
Good luck, I guess I would find a new area to fish since I would not want to have worry about confrontations with the owner each time out there.
What does he say to drift boaters, the same I suppose.
Yes, it is my understanding that the navigable waters act applies in Washington state "to navigable waters". Smaller bodies, creeks and such, may well have property rights to midstream.
Likewise, if one is fishing legally then such an owner harassing you is in fact breaking the law. It is unlawful to harass an otherwise legal fisher while fishing. RCW 77.15.210 (1a)(1b).
Yes, the law in Washington State states that navigable rivers have the property owner's rights end at the normal high water mark. Which means, as you said, that fisherman, or anyone else, can use the river by boating or wading/walking up to the normal high water mark and be perfiectly legal.
These folks I spoke about ay nothing to boaters unless they park on the gravel bar and fish through on foot, which is how I prefer to fish my boat is just transportation. Then they or their spouses come out and start the harassment. In fact, one particularly obnoxious landowner on the Sol Duc will come out on to the gravel bar and start shooting his shotgun all the while telling you that he wished he could shoot the 'tresspassers and not get arrsted for attempted or aggrevated murder'. Sure makes fishing there less than enjoyable.
A good friend of mine in Port Angeles and I don't allow him to run us off; but it is not a fun experience having him blasting the shotgun next to you including over your head. We reported this to the Clallum County Sheriff's Office multiple times and got the same response, namely why don't you guys just go somewhere else and let him be. Afterall, there is a lot more river to fish. Don't you love law enforcement when they don't want to do what is right and have a talk with landowners doing this crap.
You are correct about smaller rivers, streams, creeks, they are not considered navigable waters and the property owner can own the whole stream bed from bank to bank or to the 1/2 way accross point if someone else owns theother bank.
Yes, the landowners harassing fishermen are breaking the law; however, I have found that Sherriff's and Sheriff's Deputies to have no interest in telling the landowners this. Instead, both here in Skagit County and over in Clallum County the Sheriff's Office listened to me and then told me that I would probably be better off just fishing somewhere else to avoid trouble. Seems like they don't want to risk angering a landowner.
Consider the following:
Go fishing there with some friends (witnesses). After being met with this type of harrassment by the property owner find a hungry, young attorney and file a civil suit.
RCW 77.15.212 [- in a nutshell allows the damaged party, should they prevail, reasonable attorney's fees and up to treble (triple) damages.]
RCW 77.15.070 - Civil forfeiture of property used for violation of this Chapter. [his shotgun among other things]
RCW 9A.84.030 [which clearly states any activity which "intentionally disrupts any lawful assembly or meetings of persons without lawful authority" is a violation of law, i.e., harrassment.]
Possibly a letter from your attorney will "inspire" the local authorities to enforce the law. Laws the state legislature felt important enough to codify.
By no means am I giving you legal advice, rather, I hope to inform you of options available to you should you deem it necessary.
Clearly your discussion brings this question into play: If the County Sheriff and local enforcement refuse to enforce state law, is there not a recourse through state Attorney General, State Police or otherwise to force the issue?
A young overzealous attorney sounds like the right kind of skunk to throw into the tent.
During difficult situations in my youth I probably would have continue to fish these types of waters, but now the aggravation and risks do not appear worth it for me.
I just want a peaceful day fly fishing on the river in some solitude with even a low percentage chance of catching a fish. The aggravation of confronting these types of situations just does not seem worth it to me personally.
I guess I have become a wimp as I age. I remember when I use to chase after the drivers that cut me off or flipped me off, but the risks and aggravation are just not worth it. You never know who is packing heat or another weapon these days and who is unbalanced emotionally that will use it against you.
Just check the Washington DC area now. We have employees that are afraid to leave their homes until they are caught.
Please be careful in these types of situations.
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