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Laws on crossing on a private beach/property?

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I have some buddy's in Southern MN right now about to go trout fishing and they are having a debate on the legality of walking on somebody's private property/beach to get to a fishing spot.

Do you have to be touching water in order for it to be legal to walk on, or is there a certain distance from the water to shore that's still legal to walk on?

Thanks in advance!

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typically you need to be below the ordinary high water (OHW) mark on a public water body. On most years, that is in the water.

There are some situations, though, where access through the water is not allowed. One such situation is where the water (river) is not considered navigable.

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That's my thoughts too. As long as you're below the high water mark(which is usually where the vegetation is growing), and the river/stream is considered navigable, you're alright. I read somewhere that navigable means you can float a vessel(canoe,boat,etc.)down it. Some people think the law requires the river/stream to be big enough for a motor boat to be considered navigable, but the law was made before motors were invented. At least that's the law in Indiana.

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Private property is private property, what the above have said about high water mark is where it is where you can be. Above that and you are trespassing.

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regs state you can be under the OHW level. That's a debateable line so usually I like to err on the side of caution.

If a river can "float a canoe" the entire surface of the water is open to recreation. Personally I think that means if at any point in that stream I can float a canoe, i'm free to walk along it anywhere. But that's no guarantee that the neighbors wont be PO'd

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Just ask the homeowner if it would be ok to cross their property.

most of the time its not a problem.

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also this all depends on if where they are entering is easement or not.. if the stream that you are trying to get to is all easement in the area you are entering.. then the landowners have made agreements with the DNR to allow fishermen to enter their land for the purpose of fishing only..

respect their property and walk alone fence/crop lines.. and avoid lifting/bending fences to enter the stream at all costs..

if its not easement.. then like others have said.. you must stay in the water at all times.. and well then.. enter from easement first or ask land owners if you can access the steam via their land

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  • 5 months later...

Iknow this is rather late.

This is the most misunderstood law in all states.

Because it is different in all states.

Worst case: Colorado on public waters that are on private property you must stay in a boat.

you may not touch the lake or river or stream bottom.

You may not drop anchor your paddles or ores may not touch bottom.

you may not touch a rock that sticks out of the water you may not stand upon said rock.

The bottom of many public waters is on private property.

Streams and rivers are the number one public waters in this category.

As a result of this Colorado has been buying land and setting it aside

for fishermen to be able to stand in the water or on the shore.

They are like wildlife management areas here.

No such thing as ordinary high water mark or low water mark in that state.

Some states use the ordinary high water mark rule.

there you can leave the water but must stay within the small area that this would encompass.

In Minnesota we do not use this rule.

Minnesota uses the current water line. You can stand or walk in the water regardless of who owns the land under the water.

This includes lakes, streams, rivers that you can legally access.

Yes some land owners in Minnesota own the bottom of some public lakes.

This law is printed in both the hunting and fishing regulations. I have also talked with the DNR and they confirmed this to be correct. If you leave the water and step onto the land you are trespassing.

If you stay in the water you are safe.

Here in Minnesota I have watched as the DNR agent arrested three guys on the shore of the Talmadge creek (Lake superior tributary) only inches from the water line. No DNR fishing easements exist there, I was the only one in the creek, I was the only one not arrested.

In Minnesota a lake rose and claimed private shore line (year mid 1970s).

I was in a boat anchored in that area, water two feet deep.

The owner came out screaming at me to get off her property. The police came and she was read the riot act, as long as the water level stayed up she had no control of that property. The water level never came down to this day. Wave erosion helped to strip away 5 feet of her shore and make it deeper in that area.

The bottom line here is that if you are unsure about the trespass laws in your state

or a state that you are going to hunt or fish in you need to call the DNR in that state.

I do and was shocked at the draconian law in Colorado.

I stayed on the public lands and enjoyed some great Trout fishing.


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Anyone know the statute for this law either way no office wants to look it up for me

In MN you must keep your feet wet at all times. You cannot leave the water and step on private land or you are trespassing.

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So no statue number? So when the river is low and set up camp on a sand bar I am possibly trespassing?

It depends upon the waterway. If the riverbed is owned by the landowner, then yes, you are trespassing if you camp on a sandbar during low water.

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What ever this means? confused


2009 Minnesota Statutes


Subd. 14.Ordinary high water level."Ordinary high water level" means the boundary of water basins, watercourses, public waters, and public waters wetlands, and:

(1) the ordinary high water level is an elevation delineating the highest water level that has been maintained for a sufficient period of time to leave evidence upon the landscape, commonly the point where the natural vegetation changes from predominantly aquatic to predominantly terrestrial;

(2) for watercourses, the ordinary high water level is the elevation of the top of the bank of the channel; and

(3) for reservoirs and flowages, the ordinary high water level is the operating elevation of the normal summer pool.

Subd. 15.Public waters.(a) "Public waters" means:

(1) water basins assigned a shoreland management classification by the commissioner under sections 103F.201 to 103F.221;

(2) waters of the state that have been finally determined to be public waters or navigable waters by a court of competent jurisdiction;

(3) meandered lakes, excluding lakes that have been legally drained;

(4) water basins previously designated by the commissioner for management for a specific purpose such as trout lakes and game lakes pursuant to applicable laws;

(5) water basins designated as scientific and natural areas under section 84.033;

(6) water basins located within and totally surrounded by publicly owned lands;

(7) water basins where the state of Minnesota or the federal government holds title to any of the beds or shores, unless the owner declares that the water is not necessary for the purposes of the public ownership;

(8) water basins where there is a publicly owned and controlled access that is intended to provide for public access to the water basin;

(9) natural and altered watercourses with a total drainage area greater than two square miles;

(10) natural and altered watercourses designated by the commissioner as trout streams; and

(11) public waters wetlands, unless the statute expressly states otherwise.

(B) Public waters are not determined exclusively by the proprietorship of the underlying, overlying, or surrounding land or by whether it is a body or stream of water that was navigable in fact or susceptible of being used as a highway for commerce at the time this state was admitted to the union.

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  • 3 weeks later...

AND don't land your float plane in lower red lake and 2/3 upper red lake, this is not public waters, you may not like the outcome!

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  • 4 months later...

Private property is private property, what the above have said about high water mark is where it is where you can be. Above that and you are trespassing.

And yet the land owner can send a dock out into public waters so deep that you have to walk above the high water mark to get to the other side of the dock!

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Over the years I've ran into a few lakeshore property owners who demanded I don't fish near their dock or lakeshore from my boat. 95% of these experiences are with people who are very surly and usually threaten to get the authorities involved. I typically avoid confrontation on the water but it's been occuring more lately.

Is it safe to assume that I have just as much right to be fishing the water in front of their property and dock on a lake with public access? Would this change if I was fishing a Three Rivers Lake? I've read through the reg's but they seem quite vague on the matter. A guy shouldn't have to worry about their rights on the water but it's coming to that.

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you have every right in the world to be there. its public water and you have the right to recreate over the entire surface. if you wanted to swim under their dock, you'd have the right to do so. Obviously that wouldn't really be the most considerate thing to do... but you would have the legal right to.

here's a good summary

[Note From Admin: Please read forum policy before posting again. Thank you.]

Dock Fishing Rights and Obligations

By Paul Becka, Sportsmen Bassmasters

Encounters with irate and/or hostile lakeshore property owners seem on the increase over the past few years. Almost everyone who fishes docks has a colorful story (or several) involving flying rocks, miscellaneous threats and purple vocabulary directed their way. In most cases, the property owner's ire is inversely proportional to his knowledge of the law.

Very specific Minnesota law governs a bass fisherman's rights and obligations vis á vis lakeshore property owners. The following is a short explanation of the nuts and bolts of Minnesota law as it applies to dock fishing.

Lakeside property owners have certain unique "riparian" rights involving the water that borders their property. Putting in a private dock is considered a riparian right. Riparian rights allow lakeshore property owners to enforce trespass laws up to the water's edge. These rights generally end with the low water mark, although docks extending further out are acceptable as long as they do not interfere with navigation. Comprehensive "fee" ownership of the land is coterminous with the high water mark. The State of Minnesota owns all the land (and water) below the high water mark, in trust for use by the public.

Under Minnesota law, the public has a right to boat, cast or be present on any navigable water it can reach from a public access. Lakeshore property owners cannot legally exclude the public from any water below the current shoreline. By definition, navigable waters include those under, around or near private docks. Signs placed by property owners like those proclaiming "no fishing within 50 feet" of a dock are unlawful attempts to exclude the public from state-owned property. According to the DNR's Enforcement Department, such signs can be legally ignored.

Think of docks as vehicles parked on a public street. Passing fishermen obviously may not trespass on or cause damage to docks, boats, canvas (a particular problem), or any other property "parked" on a public lake. If damage occurs, the perpetrator is liable to the property owner for damages. A conscientious bass fisherman who rips up a canvas canopy with an errant crankbait should immediately contact its owner to make amends. There really is no excuse for slobs who leave hooks buried or line trailing from private docks. Such behavior gives all bass fishermen a bad name.

On the other hand, dock owners have no right to prevent, disrupt, dissuade or otherwise harass anyone who is lawfully attempting to take wild game on navigable waters. Bass are included in the legal definition of the term "wild game". It is a criminal misdemeanor for lakeshore property owners (or anyone else) to interfere with this right. Under extreme circumstances, a hassled bass fisherman may have little recourse but to contact the local authorities and file a formal complaint under Minn. Stat. 97A.037.

The most ambiguous situation occurs when a lure snags a mooring line or wraps a pillar. Technically, the lure's owner may be permitted to "trespass" solely for the purpose of removing the offending lure, although liability can accrue if any actual damage occurs during the trespass. In the real world, property owners are seldom sympathetic to a bad cast. They perceive evil intentions in anyone "messing around" their docks. So proceed with discretion and great care.

Here's the practical bottom line: the public legally entitled to fish just about anywhere we can float a boat, including under private docks. But common sense and courtesy in exercising that right can save a lot of heartache for all concerned.

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goblueM, thanks for the link brother. That summarizes the otherwise cloudy regs. quite well. There's a guy on a three rivers lake in the SW metro that swims around in a red wetsuit just off his property and will bark at anglers all day long. It's reached a point where he's tried swimming after my lure to grab it. It's almost as fun as fishing for fish, and it's open season all year! Can't beat that.

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i can understand that folks don't like it when people zing lures off their dock or boats. but getting confrontational and harassing anglers (illegal) is not the way to go about it. You chose to live on the lake, deal with it

there's one dock up in wisconsin that says NO MUSKIE FISHING. the guy has harrassed us about fishing about 50 yards out from his dock - the dock isn't even really in that great of water. needless to say, people go out of their way to fish near it since he is so miliant

juvenile yes, just like your wetsuit guy. sometimes it is hard to help yourself smile

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goblueM, thanks for the link brother. That summarizes the otherwise cloudy regs. quite well. There's a guy on a three rivers lake in the SW metro that swims around in a red wetsuit just off his property and will bark at anglers all day long. It's reached a point where he's tried swimming after my lure to grab it. It's almost as fun as fishing for fish, and it's open season all year! Can't beat that.

I think we need to see a video of this...maybe you can send it to one of those TV shows and win $10,000 or something laugh

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