WA River: No Trespassing / STAYOUT!


Well-Known Member
The purpose of signs saying "stay out" or "no trespassing" located below the ordinary high water mark of a stream is to deter you from entering, and it looks like it worked. It has nothing to do with the legality of you entering said area. My goal in life is to post all the good fishing holes that I'd like to fish in solitude and see if it works.

Landowners sometimes post out of ignorance or are just hoping to deter legal entry for whatever personal reason they have. And some of them can be a real pain in the ass and threaten to call the cops (ask them to please do that) or even shoot you (for standing on a river bank they would commit murder?); it's a strange world out there, so act accordingly. My strategy is to be firm but polite and only leave if they threaten to shoot me (which hasn't happened, and if it did I'd call 911 immediately.).



Piscatorial predilection
I would have knocked the sign over in the snow to cover it up, then proceeded to fish. If harassed by the person who put it up, I would just make sure they could see the pistol grip sticking out of my wader pocket ( you know especially if they threatened to shoot me ) or I might just shoot it full of holes, the sign that is, and then leave.

As it was explained to me (in a fashion so that even I could understand):
the river is like a sidewalk in that's in front of your house. You "own" it, you get to pay taxes on it, you get to maintain it, but, you are not allowed to set up anything that blocks the ability of another to pass.
That's the deal as I understand it.
So would putting up a fence to deny people their legal fishing access count as "harassment?"

There a crazy ass mofo on the lower Klick that keeps coming out and yelling at me. Finally I asked him to go ahead and call the sheriff. 1st couple times the cop told him I was well within my rights. 3rd time he issues the guy a warning for harassment. Haven't seen the land owner since.

Now I see barbed wire fence in another spot going well into the water. Wondering if that's legal...


Active Member
And this is, at least partially, why I love fishing lakes. Plenty of nice ones, surrounded by private property...but with a public access point. Got something that floats...you can fish the whole damn lake. Never been hassled by a landowner yet (hell...half the time I get a friendly wave, since they can see I'm C&R'ing them) though there's been more than a few times I've had a f&g officer wanting to check my credentials when I came ashore.

David Dalan

69°19'15.35" N 18°44'22.74" E
There are a few rivers in the state where landowners do own the river bed.

There are many, actually. But it does not change your ability to legally access below the OHWM, if the river meets the condition of being navigable. Every river within my county has property lines running down the middle of the river, or the river bed is included in the legal description. Many deeds are written noting the center of a river/stream as one edge of a property.

I've heard of a some places where people even claim one cannot float (Little Spokane?), which knocks me down. Waters of our state are all the property of the state. It could be legal to float and not use the river bottom, if a legal ruling has determined a river is not navigable, but you can actually float it.


Active Member
There are a few rivers in the state where landowners do own the river bed.

Edited. I did a little research, and there are some situations where the state did grant ridiculous titles. Not sure how these would hold up to the Public Trust Doctrine, since the Fed. government reserved the rights at statehood to regulate navigable waters and the Public Trust Doctrine is a federal idea.
The Icicle River is probably the most wellknown example of a river bed being private property. At least on parts of it, the high water mark doesn't mean shit when it comes to public access.

Tacoma Red

Active Member
What determines the "Ordinary" HWM for a particular river and where would you find that information? Is the flood stage used to determine that?