WA River: No Trespassing / STAYOUT!

Discussion in 'Fly Fishing Forum' started by Andrew H, Feb 8, 2014.

  1. Smalma Active Member

    Posts: 2,798
    Marysville, Washington
    Ratings: +654 / 0
    While the State owns the water on navigable waters and you can float them it may not mean you can walk along the stream below the high water mark or even along the wetted stream bed. The are a number of rivers where at portions of the stream bed is owned by the adjacent landowner. It depends in part when the land was originally acquired (before or after statehood) and how the deed was written; the only way to know for sure is to go to the County assessor's office (or their on line site). On one of my local rivers there is checkerboard ownership with some owning to the edge of the river, others to the middle of the river and others all the river bottom. BTW if the landowner has ownership of the stream bottom courts have ruled that those floating the water can not anchor on that private land (the Icicle river during spring Chinook season is an example). Ownership of tide lands can get even more complicated (with the State unto the early 1970s often selling the state's tide lands to private individuals and corporations.

    I too remember problems with owners of docks on various fresh water lakes. On one lake the best dock for hold very large largemouth during the spring had a owner that thought those were his private fish and by fishing for them we were trespassing. He was able to cow some of the anglers. I checked with the assessor's office and found that he did not own the lake bottom. The next I fished there I made a point of "camping out" at the down pitching small jigs under the dock. Sure enough after a couple fish the owner can down (a Saturday morning) to chase me away. I informed him that I had check the ownership of the lake bottom and the extent of his parce and I was fishing publicly own water and over public owned bottom. I then asked since it was public property whether he had got all the necessary permits and permission from DNR (who owned the lake bottom) to build and repair his dock (knowing that he had not). That stopped him mid-sentence and no longer had issues with that particular owner - sometimes knowledge can be an effective tool.

  2. Old406Kid Active Member

    Posts: 313
    Spokane, WA
    Ratings: +84 / 0

    Yeah, he probably get's a trespass permit as one of his perks too... Now that's inequality!:D
  3. David Dalan 69°19'15.35" N 18°44'22.74" E

    Posts: 1,904
    Walla Walla, WA
    Ratings: +737 / 0
    Water access flows from Federal law, but states are allowed to make the determination of what is, or is not, navigable. Well, generally anyway.

    If a judge has not made a determination, then there is no legal obstacle to you using a streamed. Of course, if you are cited, and a judge ultimately rules it as navigable...the ticket would stick.

    There are lots of legal tests, here is a handy summary of SCOTUS rulings I found. The USACE has a nice summary of SCOTUS rulings, as Navigability is a big part of the scope of Clean Water Act enforcement.

    USACE -- http://www.usace.army.mil/Portals/2..._guide/app_d_traditional_navigable_waters.pdf

    Here is another doc where the USGS has been doing some work to try and develop criteria for what is and is not, based on river character. Its an interesting exercise, since SCOTUS does not seem to directly rely on river characteristics (depth, width, flow) much at all. Does give a good picture of the complexity of classifying marginally "navigable" waters.


    While there can be some gray areas with smaller waters, if you can ever run a boat down a river (Drift, Pontoon, raft) and a guide could charge you to fish it, its open to commerce and federally navigable. I think that is pretty clear in numerous SCOTUS rulings. To me anyway :)

    So if you're worried about small stream fishing, do your homework or get permission :)

    If it's bigger bodies of waters, then I think there is little to worry about. But you would still have to fight a ticket if you get one.

    I know a local sheriff who said he'd probably cite and let the courts figure it out. This was, however, on a VERY small river with almost no public access to the streamed. And, using the USACE criteria, probably not navigable.
    Cruik likes this.
  4. Old406Kid Active Member

    Posts: 313
    Spokane, WA
    Ratings: +84 / 0
    David Dalan likes this.
  5. Bob Rankin Active Member

    Posts: 438
    Yakima, WA
    Ratings: +167 / 1
    If know one see' s you where you really there, and
    Sometimes doing something wrong feels so right..
    I've been shot at before and I'm sure I'll be shot at again.:)
    David Dalan likes this.
  6. Jim Darden Active Member

    Posts: 890
    Bellingham, Wa.
    Ratings: +215 / 0
    It seems to me that the fundamental purpose of government is to protect the rights of the people. Defending the Federal laws on river access would be a good place to start.......but I guess you have to be a big campaign donor first.
    KevinLS likes this.
  7. Salmo_g Active Member

    Posts: 7,473
    Your City ,State
    Ratings: +1,616 / 0
    I think you're getting the concept of government figured out right here in this thread Jim. And guess what? It covers all walks of life. Welcome to the best gov't. that money can buy!

  8. Alex MacDonald Dr. of Doomology

    Posts: 3,320
    Haus Alpenrosa, Lederhosenland
    Ratings: +879 / 0
    Don't need 30 rounds; only one.
  9. Mark Moore Just a Member

    Posts: 734
    Vancouver, Wa.
    Ratings: +66 / 0
    I just don't get what Jim McNerney's compensation package has to do with this conversation. But since it is part of the conversation... for the first time in a decade Boeing has delivered more aircraft than Airbus. What other people make really isn't anyone's business. I just wish I had his agent, and his ability to run the most successful aircraft manufacturer in the world.

    Complaining about it is a little bit like complaining about the fact that on some rivers (although not many) there is no legal right to stand on the bank and fish and being pissed just because we think it shouldn't be that way.
  10. Mark Moore Just a Member

    Posts: 734
    Vancouver, Wa.
    Ratings: +66 / 0
  11. Cruik Active Member

    Posts: 459
    Seattle, WA
    Ratings: +141 / 0
    That's burglary. No need to intend to commit a crime for criminal TP, just need to knowingly enter private property unlawfully. The "knowingly" is the interesting part, though. For criminal trespass to stick, the prosecutor needs to prove that you knew you were trespassing. For instance, you walked right past a 'private property; no trespassing' sign. I'm pretty sure believing it was public property or having a good faith belief that there's a public easement would be good enough to form a defense. Civil trespass is different and doesn't require intent.

    Careful. Criminal trespass is a misdemeanor, not a ticket.
  12. Phil Fravel Friendly

    Posts: 646
    Bonney Lake
    Ratings: +96 / 0
    It is legit and I have talked to the property owner. His family has been there for more than 3 generations and has 2 more generations following. I have gotten permission from him to fish it . That said that whole stretch of river has a ton of sand. There is much better water up river. It was his Grandfather who donated the property across the street for the Camp ground. He is not a Ass. He has lived there his entire life. He has personally also done more than most of us combined to save Steelhead. Though I might not agree with him entirely. He is tired of people trashing and littering his place, and ignoring his signs. The best water there is at the park anyway.
  13. Old406Kid Active Member

    Posts: 313
    Spokane, WA
    Ratings: +84 / 0
    It's sad to say but trashing, littering, shooting towards cattle, buildings, driving off road, etc.
    have probably closed off way more property than landowners with snooty attitudes.
  14. golfman44 Coho Queen

    Posts: 1,639
    Ratings: +986 / 0
    I encourage you guys to check out what is going on in Utah as over 3k river miles have recently been closed off to the public regardless of high water mark/navigable etc

  15. Kcahill Active Member

    Posts: 894
    Renton, WA
    Ratings: +262 / 2

    Yeah theres two sides to every story.

    I have been having my morning coffee and found someone peeing in my backyard because they wanted a tree to stand behind instead of peing off the boat, I have found a family having a picnic on my dock because they didnt want to eat on the boat,finding treble hooks and lures people lose on your dock while walking barefoot (seriously if you lose a lure or fly off someones dock dont friggen leave it there where someone can step on it).... im the one always picking up the trash floating on the lake after fourth of july blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah.

    If that guys lived on that river for that many years he is probably so sick of peoples shit he put up those signs, I dont blame him.
    Bill Aubrey likes this.
  16. Salmo_g Active Member

    Posts: 7,473
    Your City ,State
    Ratings: +1,616 / 0
    I don't mind property owners posting the property they own. What pisses me off is when they post the property or public easement that they don't own, either out of ignorance or ill intent. And I'll never condone littering, hate it with a passion, but if property owners are all uptight about the public littering the public property or ROW, well, no one forced them to buy waterfront property. My main gripe in all this is property owners whose sense of entitlement allows them to believe they can prevent the public from accessing and using that which the public owns.

    _WW_ and Kaiserman like this.
  17. Paul Huffman Lagging economic indicator

    Posts: 1,419
    Yakima, WA.
    Ratings: +132 / 0
    Is that the crazy ass mofo that nobody on the lower Klick likes, including his neighbors? Including the sheriff? The one that that trashes cars parked along 142 within a mile of his place?
  18. KerryS Ignored Member

    Posts: 6,704
    Sedro Woolley, WA, USA.
    Ratings: +1,747 / 0
    I remember watching a couple of very well known, highly respected northwest steelheaders (well one of them was) posting no trespassing signs on state owned land along the Sauk River years ago. Laughed my ass off while disbelieving what I was seeing. We later found several parcels of state land adjancent the river posted with no trespassing signs. I figured it was the same two respected steelheaders that were responsible.
  19. troutdopemagic Active Member

    Posts: 406
    Lake Stevens, Washington
    Ratings: +134 / 0
    Sounds like a typical "I don't beileve in public access" asshole that thinks he owns the river. As far as I know, as long as its navigable and below the high water mark your good to go and once your on the water they can't make you leave. If it were me, I would have fished it anyway, since it is your legal right to do so. The only issue that comes out of this is if you can access the river bank legally without crossing onto someones property to get there, but I would hope most people know how to do that.

    This reminds me of one of my favorite runs on the Klickitat where I got yelled by Mr. Wannabe Badass that I was trespassing on his land by walking across a gravel bar, accessed from a public trail. Now I just access the run from downstream where he can't see me.
    Bob Rankin likes this.
  20. cuponoodle breakfast gritty

    Posts: 1,651
    Ratings: +305 / 0
    On most rivers, yes. As mentioned more than once in this thread though, there are a handful of rivers where the property owners own the riverbed.