Louisiana to make all waterways accessible to fisherman

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Copied from WAFB Cheryl Mercedes - Some Louisiana fishermen are fighting an old law that makes it illegal for them to access private waterways. They claim it's limiting their recreational space and driving dollars away from the state.

One of the main attractions of the Bayou State are the miles of scenic waterways, which have allowed Louisiana to reel visitors into what is known as Sportsman's Paradise. But with more people buying property on the water, an estimated tens of thousands of acres of the state’s treasure are no longer accessible to fishermen. Angler and secretary of the Louisiana Sportsmen’s Coalition (LASC), Sean Robbins, says property owners are taking extra steps to keep unwanted boats out.

“It's getting to the point where they are having local law enforcement agencies, like the sheriff's office and justice of the peaces, write criminal trespassing tickets to people,” Robbins said.

The LASC has launched a video campaign aimed at raising awareness about the issue and letting landowners know anglers are running out of places to fish. It also raises concerns over a loss of state tourism dollars. Louisiana is the only state in the country that allows private land owners to restrict motorboats.

“To me, it's exactly the same situation as a plane flying over private land. The FAA controls that and it is accessible to all airplanes,” Robbins said.

If one lawmaker has his way, things could turn around for sportsmen. House Bill 391, authored by Representative Kevin Pearson of Slidell, would allow public access to all running waters in the state, including waters passing over any privately-owned water bottom.

“I am not trying to deal with the water bottoms, despite the fact there is land considered dually owned by the state and a landowner. We have companies such as Houston-based Apache, having local sheriffs and their water patrol issuing tickets to boaters in our waters. Obviously, Apache cannot do the same in Texas. If we pride ourselves in bring the Sportsman’s Paradise, something must change soon. It is getting worse and not better. I should also mention that these landowners are only paying about .13 per acre in property taxes. We have neglected this issue for too long and it is unfair to the sportsmen and women of our state,” Pearson said.

Robbins worries if something does not change, it could cast doubt on the future generation of fishermen. “I think it's going to snowball and progress to where those who are rich are going to be able to pay to play, and those who are not won't have the opportunity to. I think it’s a shame that that is so enshrined in the culture of Louisiana, and it’s so fragile, and for it to be subject to these archaic laws,” Robbins said.

The bill goes before the Civil Law Committee on Tuesday, April 10.