Fishing and Posted Property in New York State
Several kayakers launch from a campground, and make their way down stream to private property. While on that private property, they exit the water, a “right” given them by the current definition of navigable in fact. While on land, one slips and breaks their leg.
They file suit, and WIN a decision against the landowner, resulting in financial compensation. The landowner still technically has to let people paddle through his property, although he clearly isn’t happy about it. How can you blame him?
The Context of Posted Property and Fishing
For the purposes of recreational fishing, it’s important to note that navigable in fact does not make the posted water fishable. A properly posted stream or pond, meaning marked per the law on BOTH sides of the stream bed CANNOT be fished legally. You may currently pass through, but you are not allowed to cast in posted water.
You may also only exit the water in the case of having an impassable barrier preventing you from navigating safely through the area. Short of that, you must remain in your boat, and moving.
So no, you can’t beach and fish. You can’t get out to relieve yourself. And you certainly can’t get out and have a shore lunch.
Why Sanity Must Be Brought to the Navigable-In-Fact Discussion
It doesn’t do anyone any good to have this argument draw out over countless pieces of legislation and instances of litigation. For one, it’s a monumental waste of personal and public money and resources. While I would argue that people have the right to spend their own time and money however they wish, when we start spending state money (read: our money) in defense of groups that wish to exert what they see as their rights over the rights of land owners, I think we cross a line.
The property owners aren’t looking to limit access to public water. Instead, they are asserting their right to not have to worry about the conduct and actions of persons on their property.
In most places, there is abundant access to fishable public water. Through State sponsored easements, the Parks system, and classic marine law, New York State residents have access to thousands and thousands of miles of water.
I would argue that State money would be better spent in improving these areas, rather than fighting with private property owners over paddling through creek beds that are nearly dry a significant portion of the paddling season. I cite the improvements being made by New York State at their recently purchased properties at Canadice and Hemlock Lakes, where the state has modified hand launches for better access. That’s a spend that makes sense.
Further, there many more improvements the state could be making with that money. Consider access to the Letchworth Gorge as an example. There’s water we have “access” to, without really having access. Currently, the roads that lead to the waters edge can only be utilized by Adventure Calls, a rafting adventure company with an office in the Letchworth State Park. While I have no issue with Adventure Calls being there, and utilizing that great water, the current conditions create a scenario where private paddlers have a long carry in, and a long carry out.
That seems to run counter to the idea of a waterway having public access. The argument is apparently that due to the dirt roads, private vehicles have damaged them in muddy conditions. How much state money would it take to improve those roads? Even if parking areas weren’t created at the water’s edge, and likely they wouldn’t be, a pick up and drop off lot would make it far easier for moving gear down to the water, and away from it, essentially granting improved access to the water for all.
The long walk wouldn’t be anywhere near as bad without 200 pounds of kayak and gear.