No Fishing Signs Posted On Flint River

GON Staff | May 30, 2022

Anglers on the Flint River in the Yellow Jacket Shoals area recently might have seen No Fishing signs posted along the river. Apparently, a guide/outfitter is attempting to restrict access to the area by obtaining a lease from private landowners. Under Georgia law, navigable streams are those “capable of transporting boats loaded with freight in the regular course of trade either for the whole or a part of the year.” Few rivers legally qualify under Georgia law as navigable.

Also according to Georgia law, the adjacent landowner owns the bed of a non-navigable river to the midpoint. If the landowner owns both sides of the river, ownership covers the entire river bed. If the river is a boundary between properties, the landowners both own to the midpoint.

Georgia Wildlife Federation President and CEO Mike Worley co-wrote the following Letter To The Editor on the subject:

Public Access to Public Assets: Georgia’s Fish Belong to All of Us

Georgia is blessed with tremendous beauty and tremendous opportunity to enjoy the outdoors.  We have mountains and valleys, coastal plain and breathtaking marshlands.  We have lazy, slow-moving blackwater rivers and cataracts of cold mountain streams.

Georgia has also been blessed with leaders that recognize not just the beauty of the place, but the rights of our people to enjoy those places.  Our leaders and our citizens have even enshrined in Georgia’s Constitution the right to hunt and fish.

However, in recent years a growing number of landowners and those leasing ‘fishing rights’ from them are seeking to limit the public’s access to our rivers and streams as anglers.   “No Fishing” signs have popped up all over Georgia next to our free-flowing rivers, whose populations of fish have been managed and protected by dedicated public servants.  Those dedicated public servants’ salaries and resources are paid by those that hunt and fish, not by those that own land. Our access to these rivers is via boat ramps that are more often than not paid for by hunters and anglers.

In recent days we have seen such “No Fishing” signs posted along iconic Yellow Jacket Shoals on the Flint River.  The upper Flint is the world’s most important fishery for shoal bass, Georgia’s Official Native Riverine Sport Fish.  This designation by our legislature and Governor was advanced by non-governmental organizations specifically to promote and publicize the shoal bass fishery for all Georgians and for all economic purposes associated with the fishery . . . casual anglers, serious anglers, fishing guides, and private property owners. Everyone. Yellow Jacket Shoals on the Flint is not the only place such exclusion has been attempted and even enforced. Other locations on the Flint, the Soque, the Toccoa, and in the Satilla watershed have seen such activity in recent years.

So, the Flint is not the first river in Georgia to face the exclusion of the public from access and fishing; but it is likely the largest and most visible. And we think it is time for it to be the last, it is time to reclaim lost waters elsewhere. The Flint and our other rivers have been fished for generations of people of all ages, races, sexes, income levels, and walks of life.  And all of our rivers’ waters are ‘untitled’, owned by no one, as are the fish, both held in trust by the state for all Georgians.

Today we stand up and say our rivers belong to all of us, not just those that border them.  Our fish belong to all of us, not just those that own the land next to them.  We all have a constitutional right to hunt and fish, not just those that own land.  We are America, not the Europe of landed gentry from 200 years ago.  We demand the protection of the rights of all Georgians to enjoy the bounty and the beauty of this great state.

Mike Worley, President & CEO, Georgia Wildlife Federation
Gordon Rogers, Riverkeeper & Executive Director, Flint Riverkeeper
Fletcher Sams, Executive Director, Altamaha Riverkeeper

Catching Flint River Shoal Bass: GON-TV Episode on May 17, 1999

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  1. Qfloyd on July 23, 2022 at 5:42 pm

    So who officially decides if a river is navigable? If a well-to-do person has the local officials in their pocket then that will not bode well for the fisherman who is merely floating and fishing down a river and enjoying all the parts of our great state. I am not sure if folks from Atlanta need to decide either??

  2. killabig1 on June 25, 2022 at 10:30 pm

    The issue is whether the Flint River, or any river, is considered “navigable”. Some cite an 1800’s-era definition as commercial cargo ships and barges. Others say it’s any boat.

    I personally emailed the State WRD and got a response from the Assistant Chief of Fisheries. He stated that they believe that the Flint River is navigable and that anyone can fish it as long as they stay in the waters and off the land.

    Fish on bros!

  3. jeeptrk on June 24, 2022 at 8:37 am

    Please keep us updated. I take several trips down the upper Toccoa every year and time and again have to try to explain to friends and family about the 2 mile stretch that is “protected” by the landowners. They will yell, scream, and threaten you, even throw rocks and brandish firearms to make you float through without even touching the water for any reason. I have never understood how it was enforceable, and Ive never seen someone actually get ticketed or even warned by law enforcement.

    • cmulli on June 24, 2022 at 9:21 am

      You’ll receive a warning first. The next time you show up, you will see a ticket. Join a trout fishing group on Facebook and you’ll see it happening a lot.

  4. TritonDawg on June 24, 2022 at 6:18 am

    It’s been this way FOREVER on the Soque. I never understood why the State would stock trout with taxpayer dollars and then support landowners surrounding the river keeping all those fish to themselves. Good luck getting anything changed in this part of the State unless your last name is Lovell.

  5. mikemills on June 20, 2022 at 2:28 am

    The same thing is happening in North Carolina. These Greedy, money hungry developers came into the mountains with a promise of affordable housing, protecting the environment and a large tax base to cities and counties. The powers that be ate that lie up, now we have huge developments, disappearing fields and pastures, polluted waterways from runoff and an asphalt, concrete jungle. If we as sportsmen and conservationists don’t stand against the greed and corruption that is destroying our hunting and fishing areas, there won’t be any left to fight for. This problem is all over the united states, look at the coastal areas, development. Along rivers and streams, development. On ridgetops and side of mountains, development. And the people complain because the deer and bears are coming into the cities and towns, the developers and greedy politicians wanting a bigger tax base have destroyed their habitat. God gave this land to live on, take care of and feed off the bounty he provided. So far, I say we have not done a very good job. I keep hearing about going to other planets. Why ? Has mankind not screwed this one up enough ? Just a thought.

  6. EmeraldHazard on June 1, 2022 at 11:04 pm

    So, how do we proceed? We should definitely protect everyone’s right to fish our rivers! I can understand home/land owners along the rivers not wanting people to come onto their land or docks, but to say they can’t fish in the water FROM the water is absurd!

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