Respecting private property

Beach fishing for Sea Run cutthroat is very sporadic because it is a sand flat but I have caught the there periodically, depending on the tide and resident coho are there as well as the larger migrating coho and chum in season. During the Pink run, about a million swim by so the fishing is great while it lasts. You do have to contend with the gear guys who seem to have migrated from the pier to the beach after seeing the fly fishermen doing so well. The pinks start around the first week of August. I'll be the old guy limping up and down the beach. Feel free to join me anytime.


Active Member
Just talked (obviously in passing) with a lawyer at my work. He stated that you can dictate what behavior people do while on your property if you are giving permission to be there. This means you could post a by permission only sign, and when approached could limit their activities to fly fishing while they are on your property.

Okay. That sounds reasonable however the regulations apply, again, to the water, not the land. I believe you could request certain behavior on your property and post it but I also believe that you would be hard pressed to specify "flyfishing only." I'll ask my daughter, who just by coincidence , is an attorney. However, she has told me many times that all attorneys have specialties and so I would make damn sure if you plan on going to court on this at any time, that you find an attorney whose specialty lies in the correct area. You could wind up spending a lot of money on a suit that you might not be able to win.


Active Member
My understanding is that this is pretty basic property/ownership law. He owns the land. He pays the taxes on it and pays to maintain it. He decides who can be standing on it at his discretion.
My understanding is that this is pretty basic property/ownership law. He owns the land. He pays the taxes on it and pays to maintain it. He decides who can be standing on it at his discretion.
I think this makes sense. It is not so much an issue of telling a person how to fish, but more an issue of telling a person what you expect of them while they are on your property. If they aren't going to follow your rules, then you are allowed to kick them off your property. It has nothing to do with the regulations, but with the fact that you can decide who gets to be there.


Milt Roe

Active Member
Public Trust Doctrine is the unresolved legal issue. I posted a link to a legal review of the issues a couple of years ago, probably could do a search and find it.


Active Member
Spoke with a good friend who just passed the bar, so he is about as close to it gets at current interpretation on this issue here in WA. He stated that someone can limit access to their property to specific uses at their discretion. He went on to say that the only problem would be if they were not specific in who needed to seek permission and for what activity, and knowingly lapsed enforcement of his rules for his property. It could set a precedent that would make it hard to give someone a sentinel trespassing ticket for one activity vs another. That is to say if the OP states from the get go that only fly fisherman can access his property, his is within his rights, and such wishes will be enforced by local LE.

This really is an issue of getting a ticket or worse on the first offense. It at the end of the day is the OP's land and he can be very specific as to what allows others to gain access to his property. The OP can ask anyone to leave for any reason at any time. If they do not, his next step would be to call the sheriff. After this the user of the OP's land leaves either way, likely with a ticket or worse, and if he returns he will definitely then be penalized per the local laws. That is the law.

Milt Roe

Active Member
Look, it is different on tidelands. The right to restict or otherwise limit public access may be different there. Tell your friend to research the issue. Public Trust Doctrine. And congratulations on passing the bar, but that does not grant the recipient universal knowledge on all points of the law. Google " tideland ownership in Washington" . It may not be as clear cut as you think.
While the document you provided is interesting to read, currently you will be ticketed or worse, as per the 2006 ruling cited in the article. Unless you are planning on taking the State of Washington past the court of appeals, it appears the current interpretation (wrong or right) of the law as of the 2006 ruling is that the OP can do as described above and can depend on the state to enforce it. You can argue with the land owner or arriving officer, but you will loose, at least initially and for the foreseeable future. Public trust doctrine is in no way limited to Washington State and most states face this issue with sportsmen and land owners.

Sadly, sportsmen of principal rarely can stave off the wishes of men of means.
There is no offense intended but merely passing the bar exam does not mean that one has an adequate grasp of all points of law. Knowing what my daughter went through to become an attorney brings me great pride and I applaud anyone who accomplishes it. But that is why attorneys specialize. The laws of our state are very complicated and unless one is well versed in an area, basic knowledge is not adequate.

I read the entire 32 pages of the piece noted and found that in conclusion there have been no real decisions other than the fact that the public has an inherent right to pass through and fish on the tidelands. As a property owner I can do only so much as in asking law breakers to leave if they violate one of the three acts noted. One would need knowledge of thoseto be certain they were within their rights to ask someone to leave.

It goes back to the beginning. Post it as fishing by permission only and then let the individual know your expectations.
Well unless a higher court has ruled differently in the interim, the upholding by arrest of the trespasser by the 2006 Washington State Court of Appeals does not agree with you.

Until a court with higher authority rules differently, i.e. the State Supreme court makes a final interpretation of the issues presented in the document, the fact of the matter is you will be asked to do EXACTLY as the land owner wishes unless you are floating in the water. There is precedent. It happened. We may not like it but that is the current state of affairs.
I must be reading it incorrectly then because as I read it, the owner cannot violate the Public Trust Doctrane regardless of ownership. The Public has a right to transverse, fish, swim, and boat on all 2337 miles of Puget Sound coastline. That doesn't really sit well with me as I am a property owner however, I have already stated in this post as well as many others, that people come and go daily across our property and I have only asked two knucleheads to leave in all the years we have owned the land. I think you have to realize that this is an opinion in the Law Review and of course, everyone is entitled to an opinion. The Supreme Court of Washington did uphold the Public Trust Doctrane in 1987 re; Bainbridge Island.

It is true that most people are unaware of this and many may be violating the spirit of the doctrane however the facts remain the same. The law enforcement will be left to the arresting officers to interpret the issue. Enough said by me on the subject.

Latest posts