Keith Lusher 03.20.23
Picture the scene: You’re fishing on your favorite river. You’ve been fishing this river since you were a kid. You come up on a small canal just off of the river and enter into it using your trolling motor. You’re about to make a cast to a wharf that extends from the land but you’re intercepted the landowner screaming for you to leave the canal. He informs you that you’re on “private property”.
For those living in any other state in the U.S. (besides Colorado) that may sound like a ridiculous scenario, but for those living in what is commonly referred to as “Sportsman’s Paradise,” it’s not so far fetched, in fact, it may have even happened to them personally.
To summarize, in a law dating back to the 1800’s, Louisiana considers land that extends underneath the water that is connected to dry land to be the property of the person who owns it. Within the past decade, Louisiana fishermen have been losing more fishable water due to landowners who own both sides of a tributary. These landowners are now installing gates and fences to keep people out of what is considered to be tidal waters in any other state.
Opponents to the law organized in 2018 and put forth House Bill 391, which would have allowed recreational fishermen to fish in privately owned waters without fear of legal consequences, however the bill failed 58-38. Rep Kevin Pearson, who put forward the bill, summed up the defeat with a warning. “Louisiana cannot remain the Sportsman’s Paradise when you have someone fishing and getting a ticket for trespassing on property that he doesn’t even know is private,” Pearson said.
Now, the legal battle between recreational fishermen and land owners is back, as State Rep. Tony Bacala has recently filed HB4. While the bill doesn’t take on the private waters debate directly, if passed, it would stop law enforcement entities from being able to write trespassing tickets on the water, which would make a huge difference for fishermen just trying to access water to fish.
I have to admit that I was one of those who looked at this news and viewed it as something that is happening to others and not to me making it easy and was able to brush it aside. But in the past few years, I’m starting to see more and more “Private Property – Keep Out!” signs along the rivers and bayous here on the North Shore of Lake Pontchartrain. They say the squeaky wheel get’s the grease and unfortunately that can be no more true than in the world of politics.
If you are a recreational fisherman in Louisiana or have any dog in this fight please help show your support for Rep. Bacala’s HB4 by clicking on the following link and filling out the brief form. https://form.123formbuilder.com/6369457/i-support-hb4
I also encourage you to email Rep. Bacala at email@example.com and thank him for filing this bill and championing this cause.
Private Waters Debate
The ongoing battle between boaters and landowners seems to be heating up again as State Rep. Tony Bacala has recently filed HB4 in the 2023 Legislative Session. While the bill doesn’t take on the private waters debate directly, if passed, it would stop law enforcement entities from being able to write trespassing tickets on the water which would make a huge difference for fisherman just trying to access water to fish.
To show your support for Rep. Bacala’s HB4, please visit the Louisiana Sportsmen’s Coalition website at https://www.joinlasc.com. Rep. Bacala can also be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.