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Trespassing Queston


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Here is a question that I'm asking for a law BEFORE I attempt it. If I want to shorefish a lake that has a public access, but completely surrounded by private property, would it be legal for me to wade and fish as long as I never actually went on land? If I did this I would do it with the utmost respect for private property, and would respect landowners wishes if they wanted me to move even if I wasn't breaking a law.

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Good question! I think you have all the right in the world to walk along the edges. I think in minnesota you get a few feet from the normal water level on shore. Someone more informed than me might be able to fill me in on this. but there has to be some leeway for people with boat troubles etc..I know theres alot of property owners out there that think they own land clear down to the center of the lake but its not true. Their docks are sitting in state property. I should go read the laws on this or possibly any trappers reading this? you guys should have this one down pat.. Paul

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Paul Rohweller
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  • 'we have more fun' FishingMN Creators

That would be legal and you have the right attitude about being respectful.

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I think you would be legal, but if you have to cross docks I think you could be pushing it. A call to the local CO may be the safest way to go. ( if he'll return calls) Great question!

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See ya on the water!

Brian Rogers

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You would be legal in what your describing.. and yes, many people do think they own the water too... I would expect to have some problems from homeowners... I had one homeowner come out and try to describe to me that the lake was divided like a pie adjescent to the size of the property each lakeshore owner held. The home owner became irrate and called the cops .. and then the cops called the DNR because they were unclear.. in the end there was an unhappy homeowner, and I was still fishing.

I am positive it is legal if you stay in the water and access the body of water from public land(property, waterway, road right-of-way). I am 100% positive on this.

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You would be legal as long as you entered the water and exited the water via the public access and did not come in contact in any way with shoreline that is privately owned or docks, which too are private property. I guess what I would be more concerned about is how the landowner receives the fisherman.It is not always the legal issue that gets us in trouble but the limit-pushing ,on both sides, that will give the black eyes. And you know who will get them. I'd go ask the property owners if they'd mind if you went about fishing in this way. You may be surprised how many just don't give a rat's rump as long as you ask.

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Plastics...making better fishermen without bait! Good Fishing Guys! CrappieTom
[email protected]

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If they get irrate, invite ALL your friends, bring float tubes, have a party! Fight fire with fire!
Well, that probably isn't the best advise, it'll probably make it worse....But it feels good just thinking about it! grin.gif

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http://groups.msn.com/canitbeluck

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I like the fact that you'll respect landowners wishes if they ask you to leave, even though what you describe is legal.

In a nutshell, according to the DNR, if the waterway will float a canoe, then it's a legal waterway and open to everyone. Just as long as you don't trespass on private land to get to the water.

Some landowners think they own a certain amount of feet into the water. This is not true. But it's good that you say you'll be respectfull.

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Ok guys I have question for you, say we have a dry year and that lake dries up, who owns the lake bed? If lake levels continually drop over a course of 5 years and it is a shallow lake, it is efasible I think, so who would own that land? The state? Does your lot line extend to the neightbors on theother side? Just pondering.
Best FIshes
Chris

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DNR information to common water access questions:

Who owns the bed of a lake, marsh, or stream?

When a waterbasin or watercourse is "navigable" under the federal test, the State of Minnesota owns the bed below the natural ordinary low water level (see Minnesota Statute 84-032; Lamprey v. State, 52 Minn. 1981, 53 NW 1139 [1893]; and United States v. Holt State Bank, 270 U.S. 49 [1926]). The federal test used for navigability is: "when they are used, or are susceptible of being used, in their natural ordinary condition, as highways for commerce, over which trade or travel are or may be conducted" (see State v. Longyear Holding Co. 224 Minn 451, 29 NW 2d 657 [1947]). If a court has found that a lake is non-navigable and meandered, the shoreland owners own the bed of a lake in severalty (see Schmidt v. Marschel., 211 Minn 543, NW 2d 121 [1942]). If a stream is non-navigable but has been meandered, the shoreland owners own to the thread (centerline) of the stream. If a lake or stream is non-navigable and not meandered, ownership of the bed is as indicated on individual property deeds.

What are riparian rights?

Riparian rights are property rights arising from owning shoreland. They include the right to wharf out to a navigable depth; to take water for domestic and agricultural purposes; to use land added by accretion or exposed by reliction; to take ice; to fish, boat, hunt, swim; to such other uses as water bodies are normally put (see Sanborn v. People's Ice Co. 82 Minn 43, 84 NW 641 [1900] and Lamprey v. State, 52 Minn 181, 53 NW 1139 [1883]). The riparian owner has the right to make use of the lake over its entire surface (see Johnson v. Seifert 257 Minn 159, 100 NW 2d 689 [1960]).

What are riparian duties?

It is the duty of the riparian owners to exercise their rights reasonably, so as not to unreasonably interfere with the riparian rights of others (see Petraborg v. Zontelli, 217 Minn 536, 15 NW 2d 174 [1944]). They cannot dike off and drain, or fence off, their part of the waterbody (See Johnson v. Seifert). It is a public nuisance and a misdemeanor to "interfere with, obstruct, or render dangerous for passage waters used by the public" (see Public Nuisance Law, Minnesota Statute 609.74).

What are public rights?

Where the public is a riparian landowner, such as when a public road abutts the water or at a public access, the public has riparian rights. (See Flynn v. Beisel, 257 Minn. 531, 102 N.W .2d 284 [1960].)

Additional information

Minnesota case law has established that a public road abutting a body of water gives the public riparian rights to the water. Riparian rights exist whether or not the lake is navigable or public and regardless of who owns the bed. Riparians are entitled to exercise their rights over the entire surface of the lake. One riparian cannot keep others from using all of the lake. Where access to a "wetland" is available from a public road, Minnesota Statutes Section 103G.235 provides the following: "In order to protect the public health or safety, local units of government may establish by ordinance restrictions upon public access to any wetlands from city, county or township roads which abut wetlands." In all other cases (i.e., state or federal roads abutting "wetlands" or any public road abutting a "public water"), the public has the riparian right of access.

Trespassing on private property

The belief that the state owns a strip of land around all Minnesota lakes for public use is absolutely false. Riparian property (property abutting a lake, river, or wetland) is either privately or publicly owned. The general public can access water bodies or watercourses via public property, but not through private property. Individuals entering private property without permission from the landowner are trespassing and may be prosecuted under the state trespass laws. It is illegal to trespass on private property in order to gain access to a water body or watercourse without first obtaining the verbal or written permission from a landowner.

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Not sure how many people are old enough to remember, but there was a time when persons who were buying land including lakeshore had to pay for the acreage underneath a body of water if they were to own the other side of that body of water. Friends of my family purchased 120 acres on a small private lake, but only 50 acres are actually above teh water because they own the point on the opposite side of the lake. The other landowner owns the land surrounding that point so the only legal access to the rest of the land is by crossing the water.

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DoctorB, that was an excellent post. Riparian rights refers to flowing water(river or stream). Littoral rights refers to non flowing(pond or lake). That's straight from the MN real estate licensing guide. All rights are pretty much the same for both riparian or littoral landowners with a few variations.

A comment on CrappieTom's post, a dock is NOT private property once it's put on the lake. Then it's public. The state does this to protect the landowner from liability. You can actually pull up to any dock, get out of your boat, and fish on the dock. If the landowner gives you any hassle, you can have him or her charged with harrassment under the MN harrasment laws.

Huskies, the realty term is Reliction or dereliction, and when a body of water recedes gradually, the landowner aquires title to the newly exposed land.

I'm not one to fight with a landowner over a bass under his dock, There's plenty of water & I'm there to relax, but if they're gonna be an A$$ about it, they better know what they legally own.

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Takin it easy! & if it’s easy, I’ll take it twice!

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I'ld have to see it in writing before I'd believe that MY dock can be fished by anybody that wanted to. I take out liability insurance in case something happens to someone on my property. I completely agree that someone from a boat can legally fish all around my dock but the minute they step foot on my dock I'm pushing them off.

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Landowners who also have shoreline are easement holders for that waterfront. While they cannot control the water itself, they do have ownership of any dock extending into the water IF it is connected to their land!That dock is private property. I'd toss someone's arse off it if it was mine as well and he'd be wearing his tackle.

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Plastics...making better fishermen without bait! Good Fishing Guys! CrappieTom
[email protected]

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  • 'we have more fun' FishingMN Creators

I'd have to agree with Crappie Tom here.
Just think a second, If a dock is public property then the boat thats tied to it would also be public property. LOL

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I actually had a guy last year who thought he owned the water. We had found some nice early season crappies about 15' from his dock and were having a blast with light tackle. Guy game out with a big rod and started heaving a daredevil at us. Got the cable for the graph and also punctured a hole in the boat seat until we cut his daredevil off. Came back out with another one. By the time he was back out the cops showed up and he was fried. He had to buy a new cable and 4 new seats beacause nobody could match the color of the one he destroyed. And to think we only kept 8 crappies between 2 of us for a meal. The rest went back into the water. I actually caught my biggest bass from a homeowner telling me he had seen a big one in a bed on the other side of the dock. Most people are pretty cool about letting you fish around thier dock and lifts but there is always that one jerk.

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Reminds me of a time while going to college in Bemidji. There was a lake where there were some really nice gills. The fish were mainly concentrated out from this one guys cabin. He would do just as the guy panolo described...cast a huge daredevil accross our lines and bobbers. His line was "when you kids get old enough to buy a cabin and pay taxes, then you'll understand."
Needless to say that did not deter us, ended up being a kind of game to see how fast you could reel in and recast while he was doing the same. Would have been fun to rig up a muskie rod with 100lb superline and see who would win that tug-of-war grin.gif

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The term for where a dock is when it is on the lake is an "easement". It's the same term that is used for an alley behind houses on a city block. The rear boundary of the lot goes to the middle of the alley, but there is an alley easement.
Thus the lot owner can't just block someone from driving down the alley.
By the same theory, a dock owner can't just block a wading fisherman from crossing the dock.

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I am not positive on this but I thought I read a few weeks ago that White Bear Lake shore line owners were given exclusive rights to the water surounding their dock areas. This stemed from a court ruling they recieved because they were bi***ing about fishermen thinking they had the right to cast around their docks.
Cliff

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Before anyone reads this, understand, I'm not trying to argue with or for anyone, just trying to educate with any info I can help with. Don't take my word for it, ask an attorney.

Smallies,
If the road is owned by the city, they more than likely 98% of the time own the land along it, but NOT always.
The landowner must have a permit to place buoys out on the water, and there are restrictions on where they can place them.

On the dock subject, I'm not an expert in this area, and I don't need to be, because I wouldn't remain somewhere where someone was going to make my relaxation time a hassle. & if it was my dock, I'd have a few choice words also. But the law is the law, and I can only tell you what the book says the law is. Keep in mind, every city can have it's own subset of laws.

I'm currently taking classes to get my realtors license, so I asked the instructor today. Turns out, he has a friend that lives on Minnetonka, and had this very thing happen to him last summer. Guy got out of his boat and started fishing off his dock. When he told the guy to get off, the guy refused, so the landowner called the cops. Who got in trouble? The landowner was charged with harrassment, AND lost in court.

Aint our system great! Ya right.

As far as the boat being tied to the dock, that gets into the personal property side of it, just as if you'd parked your car in a public lot. It is not part of the real estate unless PERMANENTLY attached. Why that wouldn't apply to the dock, don't ask me, I don't make the laws.

As far as the liability issue goes, I would consult a real estate attorney, but I've always been told that the landowner is not liable, and would think that it would be covered under the same statute (Minn. Stat. 604A.23)from the hunting regs, which says a landowner that gives permission to use his land for recreational activity is not Liable.
A real estate attorney or real estate broker should either be able to answer any of these questions, or find the answer for you.

As far as I'm concerned, if you got the stones to jump on someone's dock, you shouldn't have a problem with them jumping in your boat an taking it for a whirl.

This subject comes up constantly on the forum. I'm a bass guy for the most part, so I've seen this first hand. Most people are nice about it, and the ones that aren't, aren't worth arguing with, just move on. Yelling scares the fish anyway. SSShhhhhh! grin.gif

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Takin it easy! & if it’s easy, I’ll take it twice!

[This message has been edited by sandman469ss (edited 03-23-2004).]

[This message has been edited by sandman469ss (edited 03-23-2004).]

[This message has been edited by sandman469ss (edited 03-23-2004).]

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A couple questions.....first, what about water that is adjacent to a road? Can you legally gain access to that water if the reamaining shoreline is privately owned?

Also, does anyone know the law as pertaining to swim areas? Specifically areas marked by homeowners and not the DNR. There's a lake near the twin cities I fish where homeowners have put "swimming area" bouys out in front of their docks. My main problem with this is they have the bouys out in 15 ft of water and restrict the access to a decent chunk of the lake.

If you go near the bouys one of the owners always comes out and threatens to call the cops. Can they restrict the lake area themselves or designate an area as swimming only? Doesn't make sense to me.

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Something I wish more people were aware of is that if I as an individual am acting within my legal perogatives and am hassled by another person, it is they who are breaking the law. It is called harrasment and no one has the "right" to do it.

The solution is for people to be better educated about what the law is and is not. Most of the time when "Joe fisherman" is getting an ear full, it is the person doing the confronting that is 100% in the wrong.

There was a lot of discussion on the swim area's last year. Unless the bouy's have a permit with each labeled with the owners address, and are put in and removed every day than they are not following the letter of the law and are being used for an illegal purpose restricting anothers legal access to that public water.

The ancedote about docks is interesting and I would hope is true; Not because I think people should disembark from their craft and fish off someone's dock (which makes no sense as that a boat is just a floating dock, why would you want or need to tie up on a persons dock), but because people should realize putting a dock in the water is a priviliage, not a right. If they don't want bass or panfish fisherman fishing around your dock or boat lifts then the onus IS and should be on the owner of the dock to get the dock, boat lifts, and boats pulled out of the water so people can't fish around them.



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This is a separate but related question.

Obviously inclement weather can be unpredicable in the summer and boater can get caught in a dangerous situation quickly and with little warning. Are trespass laws "suspended" so that a boater can seek safe refuge from lightning?

I have been known to push it hoping a storm will pass North or South or not materialize (sometimes they don't and sometimes they do) and when necessary have docked under empty boat lifts, or docked on a dock and gone up to a cabin to get protection under overhangs. No one has been around so there hasn't been a problem.

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I have a solution to the dock problem. Have the state make everybody buy a license, the same as a fish house. Then you would have the same rights as a fish house.

Ha ha. Just a joke. Don't anybody get bent out of shape.

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ok then,

This is a very common problem in South Dakota, the lakes out there continually grow larger which floods a person's land. Is this now public property or is it private property. A few years ago when this battle was really raging my dad went ice fishing out there. Some guy was really P***ed off about the whole thing and had set up a rifle range on "his land." Who is right and who is wrong?? They also have building sites that are now underwater or surrounded by water. Is this public too??

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And then there's the fellow I know who uses a bedspring strategically placed near his dock, and firmly anchored down. Pulls it up every couple of weeks to clean off the lures. Says he hasn't had to buy a lure in years.....

Or the moron whose lure caught on the beach towel my kid was laying on - and no, he did not get his lure back. He was telling the kids to get away from the edge so they wouldn't scare the fish, but they were busy watching crayfish and didn't obey his command quickly enough. Guess he thought that gave him the "right" to scare the kids a bit. Thought the guy would keel over when my then 6 year old whipped out his pocket knife and cut the line.

The bottom line is that we all need to try a little common decency and respect for others, and not get so caught up in our "rights" that we miss the larger point. If exercising your "right" is going to make someone else uncomfortable, its a big world out there - with plenty of other water. Sometimes discretion needs to be exercised. Not to say you shouldn't stand up for your rights, but take a look and ask yourself is the other fellow has a decent point. Further, is the antagonism going to be worth it? For my part, I'm out fishing to enjoy myself - and the last thing I want is to have to deal with a bunch of nonsense.

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my dad used to have a place on the lake--it was great we knew every inch of that lake. I understand both sides of the argument. My only answer is tolerance goes a lot further than yelling. Some days we could not find the fish and would sk the fisherman as they came by the dock. other days we would let them know. Nobody owns nature, yet it is up to those of us who want to use to be respectful and have integrity.

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In response to the questions about where does public property end, my understanding has always been the ordinary high-water mark. While, I wouldn't encourage anyone to test this theory out on a lake, when trout fishing in streams, you get a little more personal with other people's private property.

While I couldn't find any regulation stating this, I did find this on a Minnesota regulations page of Definitions:

Subp. 16. Ordinary high-water mark. "Ordinary high-water
mark" means a mark delineating the highest water level which has
been maintained for a sufficient period of time to leave
evidence upon the landscape. The ordinary high-water mark is
commonly that point where the natural vegetation changes from
predominantly aquatic to predominantly terrestrial. In areas
where the ordinary high-water mark is not evident, setbacks
shall be measured from the stream bank of the following water
bodies that have permanent flow or open water: the main
channel, adjoining side channels, backwaters, and sloughs.

Wally H.

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JP Rob
You may want to let "that guy you know" that the bed spring on the bottom of the lake would be considered "illegally placed artificial structure" by the Minnesota DNR. With today's underwater cameras, it wouldn't be too hard for a suspicious fisherman who has lost just a few too many lures in that spot to lower a camera, see the bedspring and make a report to the friendly neighborhood CO.

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"If exercising your "right" is going to make someone else uncomfortable, its a big world out there - with plenty of other water."

I'm sorry but I don't except this as a standard of "common decency" because this means the assertive squeaky wheel who may very well be in the wrong gets to make the rules. I agree that common decency is the key, but that requires both parties to understand the law, respect both sides of the story, and then to "stay within their lanes." The problem comes in when some people refuse to do that and fly off the handle without just cause against somebody else.

When it comes to trespass law, fishing docks and boat lifts while they are unoccupied, intentionally fishing for a species out of season, angler harrasment, and a few other issues, if I am confronted by someone when I am in the right then I will be firm and will not take any crap. If the person wants to escalate a situation where I am in the right, than I will be more than happy to call in the civil authority to settle the dispute.

I don't think giving to intimidation and harrassment is an answer. If some people were not such A holes than there would not be any problem.

How hard is it to hold your tongue, be respectful and friendly instead of confrontational, and give the other person the benefit of the doubt?

[This message has been edited by Basspastor (edited 03-24-2004).]

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