Legislative committee files report on fishing rights in Ga.

The state House Study Committee on Fishing Access to Freshwater Resources, which held four public meetings earlier this fall including one in Habersham County has issued its recommendations which will be presented to the full House next year.

The committee was charged with clarifying fishing rights to the public and private property rights of landowners adjacent to these streams. It was born out some private landowners attempts to prevent the public from fishing in certain streams and other waterways. At issue were ownership of these bodies of water and associated fishing rights under certain interpretations of the law. The Chestatee River, a tributary of the Chattahoochee River and Lake Lanier, is one of the waterways at the center of a debate which surfaced in the General Assembly earlier this year.

According to the Albany Herald, the committee’s recommendations include:

1. Determine and delineate the navigability of each of Georgia’s rivers and streams based on the statutory definition;

2. Preserve the definition of the state’s navigability set forth in the Official Code of Georgia Annotated (OCGA) 44-8-5a;

3. Maintain the underlying purpose of Senate Bill 115 while removing references to the public trust doctrine in statute and recognition of the doctrine’s standing as a common law provision;

4. Clarify the statutory language in regards to trespass and stiffen the penalty under the Hunting and Fishing Code to enforce existing law;

5. Ensure the protection of the right of passage for navigable stream as found in OCGA 52-1-31;

6. Recognize the importance of the Georgia trout industry, including its unique ecological needs and economic benefits, and seek to the protect state’s trout waters;

7. Support additional investment in public fishing properties.

(Picture courtesy state Department of Natural Resources)