What would you do if a boat dock owner demanded you to stop fishing their dock or physically prevent you from fishing public waters? There have been numerous incidents where conflicts between boat dock, marina owners or other structure on or over public water with harassment of law abiding anglers. What should you do if you end up in this situation?
Recently, a Beaver Lake crappie guide Payton Usrey was dock shooting a private dock on public waters when a boat dock owner came down to the dock began harassing Payton and his client.
“I had a client from Arkansas that wanted to come up and go dock shooting so before we agreed to go I told him that you are going to run into dock owners that don’t want you fishing around their docks. I figure it’s around 10 percent of them you might have an issue with,” Payton continued, “There’s one dock I planned on fishing that was holding fish off a point, but there was an old man that was known to come down and get hostile with anglers fishing his dock and use a metal pipe on angler’s fishing his dock.”
Payton noted that he and his client did go fish that dock and after catching a couple fish the owner came down and told them to leave. From there the incident escalated and words exchanged.
“I have been dock shooting for 10 years and know the rules. I knew my rights when going dock fishing. More words were exchanged then the dock owner threatened to get his pipe,” Payton continued, “He came back with his 10-foot metal pipe and slammed it into my trolling motor that left a big round mark. He then threatened to hit my boat again if I came close enough and my boat did drift over and the dock owner pushed his pole towards me and my boat again.” I also filmed the incident to have evidence of the dock owner’s actions.
At that point Payton wisely called the law and told them what was happening. The boat dock owner over heard the conversation and went back up to his house. Law enforcement showed up and visited first with the boat dock owner then came down and visited with Payton. Payton explained what happened and handed his phone with the video over to law enforcement to watch.
After watching the video and taking statements from Payton and his client, Payton stated that he didn’t want to press charges; however, he did want the dock owner to understand his rights as an angler and how serious it is to harass anglers fishing around his dock.
Currently the incident is still ongoing, however, the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers office in Rogers, Arkansas has been notified about the confrontation. The confrontation happened on Beaver Lake which is a U.S. Army Corp of Engineers reservoir that is all public waters and U.S. ACE owns the land surrounding the reservoir. Anglers are allowed to fish the water around docks except for commercial docks (See below). Fishing means casting or pitching a lure towards the dock. An angler can’t stand or touch the dock. It is not lawful to obstruct navigation, to disturb or interfere with a person that is lawfully taking a fish from around or under a boat dock.
In Arkansas it’s unlawful for any person to willfully obstruct or impede the participation of any individual in the lawful activity of fishing. (Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies) Harassment of anglers is illegal in all fifty states.
Note: On Beaver Lake commercial zone zones marina concession sites have the authority to post “No Fishing” signs on their docks as provided in their lease agreement. Signage is located on each dock where the restriction applies. Commercial Zone restrictions are not provided for resort leases and private docks. (Regulation No. 1130-2-57 CESWL-OP-O)
You can watch an interview of Payton and article author Brad Wiegmann at the Fishing Guide Podcast Payton Usrey crappie guide talks about the-water confrontation with a boat dock owner & dock fishing – YouTube
Note: Please check your state’s parks and wildlife department/DNR to clarify your rights to fish from a boat on public waters. Harassment of a law abiding angler is a crime punishable by fine and or in imprisonment.