“You can’t fish here, this is private property! Leave or I will call the cops.”Friendly Neighborhood Karen
Have you spent a nice, quiet, peaceful day on the water casting into public waterways with public access only to hear the shrill voice of a ‘Karen’ bleating at you that you can’t fish here. If you are an angler in California, you may experience this encounter at some point. This is especially frequent for shore pounding and small craft anglers who regularly fish harbors along the coast. After reading this article, we know you will feel more comfortable fishing public waterways with California State rights to back you up.
Let’s first impress that at no point should you welcome confrontation without having substantial confidence in your rights as a state citizen and a fishing license holder. Properly equip yourself by remembering specific laws that will deescalate the situation especially with the inclusion of law enforcement. Have your CA Fishing License on your person with the proper amount of validations (stamps) and report cards for extra protection. The following information will not legally protect those who enter protected areas, private land, or break CDFW regulations.
Let’s use a relevant example of a confrontation that you might become a part of or witness to: Kayak fishing in marinas and around docks. We all know there are fat spotted bay bass using those docks as structure to ambush their next meal. As you fish along the docks paying special care not to hit any docks, not touching the docks, not casting onto the docks, and not blocking any access to slips, a marina manager comes out to tell you to, “GET THE F*** OUT OF THIS MARINA”. Well, there goes your nice day minding your own business.
Now you have to make a decision at this point. Do you (a) turn around and leave the marina or (b) do you stay and fish?
Time to go over the reasons you can continue to fish in the marina from the kayak/float tube/small vessel. In the State of California, the rights of citizens is listed publicly and can be found at this website: https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes.xhtml. All the references to the codes mentioned below are cited word for word from this government website. These are CA State rights with current amendments.
California State Constitution Article I Declaration of Rights Section 25
California State Constitution Article X Water Section 1-7
California Fish and Game Code – FGC Division 3. Fish and Game Generally 2009
The first listed right State Constitution Article I Declaration of Rights Section 25 states “The people…” meaning California citizens, “have the right to fish upon and from the public lands of the State and in the waters thereof…” This is key to understanding you have the right to fish on public lands and in the waters which include public beaches, public waterways like harbors, bays and estuaries.
Determining if you can fish in public waters like harbors, bays and estuaries is thoroughly clarified in State Constitution Article X Water Section 1-7. Section 4 explains that marinas and other businesses must allow for ‘any public use’ which includes fishing. “No individual, partnership, or corporation, claiming or possessing the frontage or tidal lands of a harbor, bay, inlet, estuary, or other navigable water in this State, shall be permitted to exclude the right of way to such water whenever it is required for any public purpose, nor to destroy or obstruct the free navigation of such water;…”
If someone confronts an angler and attempts to stop them from the lawful act of fishing, they are also breaking the law. As stated in California State California Fish and Game Code – FGC Division 3. Fish and Game Generally 2009 (a) “A person shall not willfully interfere with the participation of any individual in the lawful activity of shooting, hunting, fishing, falconry, hunting dog field trials, hunting dog training, or trapping at the location where that activity is taking place.” And if found guilty that they did break this law that person could be fined, serve jail time, or both and be charged with a misdemeanor.
So while our Karen may scream at the top of her/his/its lungs, “You can’t fish here! I’m calling the police!” Reassured that can fish that public waterway. The person trying to stop you from fishing is breaking the law and the officials can be made aware of that. Just don’t touch the dock or hit a boat since that would violate their rights as the owner of that private property. Do not block another vessel from passing through the public waterway or the slip they may need to access. An added brownie point would be to launch from publicly accessible launch points as well to avoid any further legal confrontations unless you are a legal tenant with the private access.
If the harbor police are brought into the fray, please respectfully state your rights. There is no reason that you should be removed from fishing as long as you have not violated any private property laws which reside on the visible docks and on the vessels in the slips. Arm yourself with this knowledge to get the most of out your fishing day so you can fish in peace.
You can read each code in detail to address other situations you may encounter while fishing public land and waters. See the table below.
|California State Constitution Article I Declaration of Rights Section 25||Section 25.|
The people shall have the right to fish upon and from the public lands of the State and in the waters thereof, excepting upon lands set aside for fish hatcheries, and no land owned by the State shall ever be sold or transferred without reserving in the people the absolute right to fish thereupon; and no law shall ever be passed making it a crime for the people to enter upon the public lands within this State for the purpose of fishing in any water containing fish that have been planted therein by the State; provided, that the legislature may by statute, provide for the season when and the conditions under which the different species of fish may be taken.
(Sec. 25 added Nov. 8, 1910, by A.C.A. 14. Res.Ch. 44, 1909.)
Water Section 1-7
The right of eminent domain is hereby declared to exist in the State to all frontages on the navigable waters of this State.
(Sec. 1 added June 8, 1976, by Prop. 14. Res.Ch. 5, 1976.)
It is hereby declared that because of the conditions prevailing in this State the general welfare requires that the water resources of the State be put to beneficial use to the fullest extent of which they are capable, and that the waste or unreasonable use or unreasonable method of use of water be prevented, and that the conservation of such waters is to be exercised with a view to the reasonable and beneficial use thereof in the interest of the people and for the public welfare. The right to water or to the use or flow of water in or from any natural stream or water course in this State is and shall be limited to such water as shall be reasonably required for the beneficial use to be served, and such right does not and shall not extend to the waste or unreasonable use or unreasonable method of use or unreasonable method of diversion of water. Riparian rights in a stream or water course attach to, but to no more than so much of the flow thereof as may be required or used consistently with this section, for the purposes for which such lands are, or may be made adaptable, in view of such reasonable and beneficial uses; provided, however, that nothing herein contained shall be construed as depriving any riparian owner of the reasonable use of water of the stream to which the owner’s land is riparian under reasonable methods of diversion and use, or as depriving any appropriator of water to which the appropriator is lawfully entitled. This section shall be self-executing, and the Legislature may also enact laws in the furtherance of the policy in this section contained.
(Sec. 2 added June 8, 1976, by Prop. 14. Res.Ch. 5, 1976.)
All tidelands within two miles of any incorporated city, city and county, or town in this State, and fronting on the water of any harbor, estuary, bay, or inlet used for the purposes of navigation, shall be withheld from grant or sale to private persons, partnerships, or corporations; provided, however, that any such tidelands, reserved to the State solely for street purposes, which the Legislature finds and declares are not used for navigation purposes and are not necessary for such purposes may be sold to any town, city, county, city and county, municipal corporations, private persons, partnerships or corporations subject to such conditions as the Legislature determines are necessary to be imposed in connection with any such sales in order to protect the public interest.
(Sec. 3 added June 8, 1976, by Prop. 14. Res.Ch. 5, 1976.)
No individual, partnership, or corporation, claiming or possessing the frontage or tidal lands of a harbor, bay, inlet, estuary, or other navigable water in this State, shall be permitted to exclude the right of way to such water whenever it is required for any public purpose, nor to destroy or obstruct the free navigation of such water; and the Legislature shall enact such laws as will give the most liberal construction to this provision, so that access to the navigable waters of this State shall be always attainable for the people thereof.
(Sec. 4 added June 8, 1976, by Prop. 14. Res.Ch. 5, 1976.)
The use of all water now appropriated, or that may hereafter be appropriated, for sale, rental, or distribution, is hereby declared to be a public use, and subject to the regulation and control of the State, in the manner to be prescribed by law.
(Sec. 5 added June 8, 1976, by Prop. 14. Res.Ch. 5, 1976.)
The right to collect rates or compensation for the use of water supplied to any county, city and county, or town, or the inhabitants thereof, is a franchise, and cannot be exercised except by authority of and in the manner prescribed by law.
(Sec. 6 added June 8, 1976, by Prop. 14. Res.Ch. 5, 1976.)
Whenever any agency of government, local, state, or federal, hereafter acquires any interest in real property in this State, the acceptance of the interest shall constitute an agreement by the agency to conform to the laws of California as to the acquisition, control, use, and distribution of water with respect to the land so acquired.
(Sec. 7 added June 8, 1976, by Prop. 14. Res.Ch. 5, 1976.
|California State |
California Fish and Game Code – FGC Division 3. Fish and Game Generally 2009[2000 – 2945]
( Division 3 enacted by Stats. 1957, Ch. 456. )
Chapter 1. Taking and Possessing in General [2000 – 2024]
( Chapter 1 enacted by Stats. 1957, Ch. 456. )
(a) A person shall not willfully interfere with the participation of any individual in the lawful activity of shooting, hunting, fishing, falconry, hunting dog field trials, hunting dog training, or trapping at the location where that activity is taking place.
(b) A violation of this section is punishable pursuant to subdivision (b) of Section 12000.
(c) Any person convicted for a violation of this section that occurred within two years of a prior violation of this section which resulted in a conviction is guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment in the county jail for a period of not more than one year, by a fine of not less than one hundred dollars ($100) and not to exceed one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by both imprisonment and fine.
(d) This section does not apply to the actions of any peace officer or personnel of the department in the performance of their official duties. This section does not obstruct the rights and normal activities of landowners or tenants, including, but not limited to, farming, ranching, and limiting unlawful trespass.
(e) In order to be liable for a violation of this section, the person is required to have had the specific intent to interfere with the participation of an individual who was engaged in lawful shooting, hunting, fishing, falconry, hunting dog field trials, hunting dog training, or trapping.
(f) For purposes of this section, “interfere with” means any action which physically impedes, hinders, or obstructs the lawful pursuit of any of the above-mentioned activities, including, but not limited to, all of the following:
(1) Actions taken for the purpose of frightening away animals from the location where the lawful activity is taking place.
(2) Placing or maintaining signs, gates, locks, or barricades that prohibit or deny access to lands without authorization from the landowner or lessee or an authorized designee of the landowner or lessee.
(3) Placing food on lands not belonging to the person placing the food for purposes of eliminating the lawful ability to hunt due to the presence of bait, as defined in this code or regulations adopted pursuant to this code.
(Amended by Stats. 2009, Ch. 394, Sec. 5. (AB 1423) Effective January 1, 2010.)