Fishermen/Landowner rights on rivers and streams

Discussion in 'LOCAL TENNESSEE TALK' started by Matt Smith, Feb 7, 2006.

  1. Matt Smith

    Matt Smith New Member

    Messages:
    119
    State:
    Tennessee
    A test case is cast on Wolf
    By Tom Charlier
    Contact
    February 6, 2006

    MOSCOW, Tenn. -- It was supposed to have been a relaxing fishing trip on the Wolf River, but all Bob Alkema came away with was one little crappie and one trophy-sized headache.

    Returning to the public boat ramp from which they'd launched last spring, Alkema and his son found a state wildlife officer and private landowner waiting for them. They received a citation for fishing without permission on the owner's property.

    Alkema says he was stunned.

    "When you're on the water, nobody owns the water," the Collierville resident said.

    Turns out, that isn't necessarily so.

    In a property-rights battle that could have statewide implications, a former Memphis businessman has been prosecuting boaters who fish in a swath of Wolf River backwater within his property lines.

    Following a series of citations last spring, three more cases go to court this week.

    The issue is attracting wide attention because it centers on a chronically flooded area adjacent to the Ghost River State Natural Area and Wolf River Wildlife Management Area -- two scenic and bountiful sites popular among Memphis-area canoeists and other outdoor enthusiasts. It is accessible by public boat ramps both upstream and downstream.

    "This is a much broader issue than just one little spot on the Wolf River," said W. David Smith, secretary-treasurer of the Fayette County Rod & Gun Club, whose members have been among those ticketed.

    Statewide groups have taken notice, as well.

    "We have great concern that in a public waterway, a private landowner can restrict access to a public resource, such as a fishery," said Mike Butler, executive director of the Tennessee Wildlife Federation.

    The landowner prosecuting the trespassers is Bobby Pidgeon, former president of the Coca-Cola Bottling Co. operation in Memphis that his family owned for generations.

    Property records show he and his trust own seven tracts in the area totaling nearly 1,900 acres and appraised at $3.93 million.

    Along a stretch of the Wolf between Moscow and LaGrange, Tenn., less than 50 miles east of Memphis, Pidgeon has posted his property line with blue paint on trees and orange signs reading "Posted and Patrolled."

    Pidgeon's property line extends to the river's original north bank. But in the years since the tract was laid out, sediment pouring in from tributaries has clogged the Wolf, transforming it into a broad swamp reminiscent of the Okefenokee.

    Pidgeon's property encompasses about 144 acres of water along the north side of the river.

    Efforts to contact Pidgeon were unsuccessful, but his attorney, Scott F. May, said no one has the right to fish within his client's property without permission.

    "It's his property. He pays taxes on it," May said. "He doesn't see any reason why someone should go on his property without his permission."

    That's especially true given that the state natural area and state wildlife area lie adjacent to Pidgeon's property, he said.

    "There's 6,000-7,000 acres of state land that wraps around Mr. Pidgeon's land," May said. "It's not like the public doesn't have anyplace to go."

    The issue pits riparian rights -- the claims of a landowner along a stream -- against the rights of the public to use a waterway.

    Tennessee law divides navigable waterways into two main categories. Streams large enough to convey commerce upstream and downstream during normal water levels are considered navigable in the legal or technical sense. Along those waterways, the stream and its bed are held in trust for the public by the state.

    But along waterways that are navigable in the ordinary or common sense -- meaning they can float boats but not commercial vessels -- the riparian landowners own the bed to the center line of the stream. However, the public has an easement to navigate the waterway.

    Neither the property owner nor the waterway users should "unreasonably interfere with" or obstruct one another, court rulings have held.

    In a 1980 opinion dealing with another Tennessee stream, then-state Atty. Gen. William M. Leech Jr. said that along any navigable waterway, adjoining property owners "may not impede commerce or prohibit reasonable public use of the waterway."

    May said that even though Pidgeon could claim ownership to the centerline of the Wolf, the boaters he's prosecuted have ventured 100-250 yards off the main channel into his acreage.

    Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency officials, who issue the citations, say fishermen have no right to use Pidgeon's acreage.

    "If they get off the WMA (state wildlife management area) and onto his property, even though it's under water, they're fishing without permission," said Ronnie Shannon, the agency's area law-enforcement supervisor.

    Fayette County General Sessions Judge William Rhea ruled last June that the fishermen charged in the case were "well beyond the questionable area" and on Pidgeon's property.

    Fishing without permission is a Class C misdemeanor, punishable by a fine up to $50, or up to 30 days in jail, or both.

    Rhea dismissed the initial cases, in part, because Pidgeon at that time hadn't adequately posted his property. But he warned fishermen they need to "steer clear" of the owner's property.

    "There's an abundance of other places to fish right along this area," Rhea noted.

    Smith, however, said that interpretation of the law would allow property owners along other Tennessee streams to prohibit trout fishermen from wading in front of their land.

    Alkema, one of those whose case was dismissed, can't understand the prosecutions.

    "This is the only place in the United States that I've heard that you could not stay on water that you accessed publicly," he said.
     
  2. tncatfishing

    tncatfishing New Member

    Messages:
    916
    State:
    clk. tn
    According to the core of engineers( excuse my spelling) nobody owns the right of ways, now if you step onto the bank of the property then you are tresspassing. A friend told me of a situation where a land owner was after him about being in a canoe in a stream going through farm land, according to the corps of engineers as long as he was in a boat and not on the bank he was fine.
     

  3. dinkbuster1

    dinkbuster1 New Member

    Messages:
    2,272
    State:
    Ohio
    geez, i get really angry when i hear about stuff like this so im not in the right frame of mind to comment. however, something needs to be done soon on a state and national level to come up with a law that will allow the public to enjoy our rivers and lakes, in boat and on bank, before things get so bad where folks start looking at socialist, or communist solutions where there is no such thing as a "land-owner"! im afraid its going to come to that, just a matter of time....
     
  4. Swampy

    Swampy New Member

    Messages:
    818
    State:
    Fl.
    In Fl. if someones land is flooded by over flow of a river and you are on the land you can be fined. about 20 years ago we had a guy tell us that we couldn't fish in a area so we asked the Fl FWC Officer. The Officer told us not to cross the prop.line,then he said "just cast like hell from the prop.line" and ya'll be just fine.LOL
     
  5. gargoil77

    gargoil77 New Member

    Messages:
    859
    State:
    Clarksville, Indiana
    That's just screwed up. Anyone know what Indiana's law says? I wade fish quite a bit and it goes between farms.
     
  6. Cheryl

    Cheryl Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    5,010
    State:
    TN
    "MOSCOW" must be more Communist than American. That's all I got to say about that.
     
  7. Cheryl

    Cheryl Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    5,010
    State:
    TN
    OK, to clarify my last comment----The news item is from MOSCOW, TN.
     
  8. Nobody Special

    Nobody Special New Member

    Messages:
    614
    State:
    TN
    It only applies if they are millionaires who give generously to the campaigns of our "public servants".
     
  9. loanwizard

    loanwizard Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    3,297
    State:
    Coshocton,
    In Ohio the waterways are open territory to the bank. I don't know about Flooding. If it were me I would start a sportsmen's petition against Coca Cola and even contact Pepsi in the event that they might own some lands where it could be useful in their advertising. Hit the idiot where it hurts, in the pocketbook. Even if he is retired, if Coca cola gets wind of this they might apply a little of their own pressure since I don't see what company (other than Halliburton or the WWF) can stand negative publicity in these trying times.
     
  10. Deltalover

    Deltalover New Member

    Messages:
    1,227
    State:
    Tracy Calif
    "Hit um where it hurts"! I like that, count me in!
     
  11. Icemanxxxv

    Icemanxxxv New Member

    Messages:
    51
    State:
    Smithville Missouri
    Count me in I'm switching to Activist Mode and that can be Ugly. I boycotted Home Depot for three years after I waited 40 minutes at a register to get a Gift Certificate. I know that most people would say why wait? Well it became personal after three employees visited the register and nobody even asked why I was standing there......
    I've now become a Pepsi man!
     
  12. Nobody Special

    Nobody Special New Member

    Messages:
    614
    State:
    TN
    If that is allowed to stand, it could eliminate fishing on any water that barges couldn't travel in.
     
  13. Flathead

    Flathead New Member

    Messages:
    4
    State:
    Palmyra, TN.
    Grumpy;
    I agree with you that has been tried here in Palmyra Tn.on east fork creek.
    Carrol
     
  14. loanwizard

    loanwizard Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    3,297
    State:
    Coshocton,
    You know, if we could get an address on this guy, his attorney, and Coke headquarters, we collectively "might" be able to make a little noise. Things like this really get under my skin.
     
  15. Catbird

    Catbird New Member

    Messages:
    294
    State:
    Fayetteville, Ohio
    Moderators..if this is out of line...please deleat post.

    Contact info requested:

    "Attorney"
    Scott F May Law Firm
    1850 Poplar Crest Cv
    Memphis, TN 38119
    (901) 683-9111

    "Land Owner"
    Bobby Pidgeon
    18600 Highway 57
    Moscow, TN 38057
    (901) 877-1222

    "Coca-Cola Consumer Affairs"
    PO Box 1734
    Atlanta, GA 30301
    (800) 438-2653
     
  16. dafin

    dafin New Member

    Messages:
    1,461
    State:
    Manhattan,Kan
    I see it a matter if land owner rights. To me it is like hunting, the state owns the deer on private land. should anyone have the right to hunt any land they want?
     
  17. loanwizard

    loanwizard Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    3,297
    State:
    Coshocton,
    Dafin, I see what you are saying, but where are the property lines where water is concerned? Should he erect a fence to the end of his property line in the water? Fences delineate property on land as set forth by surveyors. Do property lines move with the height of the water? Just seems raw to me. Are they damaging his property more than the water itself by floating on it? Like I said, it just seems wrong to say that the river is a Federal waterway yet part of it is owned privately. It's not a pond completely surrounded by his land.
     
  18. Matt Smith

    Matt Smith New Member

    Messages:
    119
    State:
    Tennessee
    If you are going to write letters, they would be best served to the folks who write the laws.
     
  19. Deltalover

    Deltalover New Member

    Messages:
    1,227
    State:
    Tracy Calif
    I see this as a trend all across the U.S.A. All up and down the thousand miles of Calif Delta, fishing access is being denied, if it isnt the water distric illegaly blocking access, its the farmers closing off fishing areas that have been used for over fifty years. most of the small mom and pop launch ramps are being taken over by big hotel interest, with plans of building privet docks for the wealthy. Access to many coastal fishing areas are slipping away from us as well. I think we as fisherman need to fight for our right to fish on every front! Just maybe our children will thank us for it!
     
  20. dafin

    dafin New Member

    Messages:
    1,461
    State:
    Manhattan,Kan
    I can't say for other states, Here the deeds will have the lines spelled out. On navigable streams it is the normal high water line. If one has not seen the deed or a plat of the land they have no idea where the line is.The stream is not the line on most streams here. Land was marked out off section lines We own all the stream that runs through the farm