State Weighs In On Flint River Access Controversy

For now, DNR won’t be writing tickets for fishing Yellow Jacket Shoals area, despite posted signs.

Daryl Kirby | June 29, 2022

A conflict has brewed for more than 40 years between landowners of riverfront property on the Flint at Yellow Jacket Shoals and anglers who wade the beautiful area to fish for shoal bass. 

In the 1980s, a No Fishing sign was erected at the shoals, but it was not an edict ever enforced by DNR rangers or local law enforcement. Now, new signs posted in the area say fishing is allowed by permit only. 

But DNR Law Enforcement won’t be writing tickets, at least for now. The state is treating that stretch of the Flint River as it always has and how it treats other rivers across the state—as a navigable waterway that is open to public use and fishing. 

“Landowners along a navigable stream own to the low water mark. The area in question (Yellow Jacket Shoals) is believed to be navigable,” said Col. Thomas Barnard, Chief of the DNR Law Enforcement Division. “We ask that anglers and boaters respect the signage and remain in the river channel below the low water mark. If a person steps onto dry land that is privately owned, they must have permission from the landowner to be on their property.”

Anglers walking up and down the riverbank to access areas or kayakers portaging around low-water shoals has long been a contentious issue for landowners. But anglers simply wading and fishing in the shoals has also been an issue for landowners who consider this stretch as non-navigable and private.

In 2020, rifle shots were fired near a family in canoes. Charges were filed against Sam Brewton III, and in Upson Superior Court he received a 40-year sentence—10 years to serve in prison and 30 years probation, plus a lifetime banishment from the Griffin Judicial Circuit. A news report said that during sentencing the judge told Brewton he was 5 feet from a murder charge. 

Public access to Yellow Jacket Shoals is far from a settled matter. Principles in the effort to restrict access reportedly include attorneys, a judge and a prominent Upson County family. There are serious concerns that if a court case or the state legislature gets involved in this local issue, it could affect access to other rivers in Georgia.  

The most recent court precedent in Georgia sided with public access. That 1997 case involved a lawsuit filed by the Atlanta School of Kayaking against Douglas County, which contended the Dog River was non-navigable and therefore the county had the right to restrict access. A judge disagreed. Among the findings, the judge said, “The Dog River at some points apparently has rapids, rocks and shifting currents. These attributes do not prevent a finding of navigability.”  

If the Yellow Jacket Shoals issue wasn’t complex enough, a letter in opposition to closing public access to the area was co-signed by Gordon Rogers, Executive Director of the Flint Riverkeeper. Gordon’s son, Quint Rogers, is one of the state’s most respected fly-fishing guides and reportedly has secured a lease to fish clients in the area where signs say that fishing is allowed by permit only. GON attempted unsuccessfully to contact Quint Rogers for comment. 

Another co-signer of the letter was Georgia Wildlife Federation President and CEO Mike Worley. 

“This issue is critically important to the fishing community and the broader outdoor community, as well,” Mike said. “We also recognize the fundamental right of private owners to protect, preserve and control their property. This issue isn’t as simple as it appears at first glance. We are still awaiting legal reviews, which in some aspects go back over 100 years. 

“There are many directions and venues that might apply as we engage on this issue, but be assured GWF will stay engaged, and we will do our best to balance all of our commitments. We believe, fundamentally, that anglers should have access to the very resources for which they pay… this is the foundation of our North American Model of Wildlife Conservation that has served us so well and makes us the envy of many around the world.”

Become a GON subscriber and enjoy full access to ALL of our content.

New monthly payment option available!



  1. sevristh on July 7, 2022 at 4:36 pm

    How does this affect the situation at Flat Shoals? How can the DNR write tickets there but then say Yellow Jacket is ok?

    • alexnmu on July 29, 2022 at 11:20 pm

      Great question sevristh….would love to have someone chime in on this. The game warden is practically impossible to get in touch with.

    • Castanea on April 13, 2023 at 8:14 pm

      Flat Shoals is not a navigable stream. The landowner owns to the middle of the screen. And in many cases that landowner owns both side of the flat shoals such as the area where the Shoal Spider Lilies are located. Flat shoals a much smaller stream. It has Rocks where the shoal spider lily’s Hymenocallis grows and blooms that prevents any motorized boats from coming up the creek. Shoal spider lilies are a protected plant in Georgia. The Nature Conservancy is in the process of acquiring both sides of Flat Shoals, And they sure as h.. are not going to let the red necks drive 4-wheeler up the creek bed. Also, if it too shallows for boat traffic other than canoes and Kayaks in summer and fall. That is why they have been fining people in 4 wheelers driving up the creek in the summer. I addition there is another Georgia law that says you cannot drive a 4 wheel up a stream bed regardless of who owes it. The 4 wheelers in the stream bed, kill the shoal bass fry and other fish hatchlings that have hatched out. They turn the creek into a muddy mess and the mud suffocates the eggs of many species of fish and amphibians that lay eggs and live in flat shoals. In addition, there is another law that you cannot interfere with a legal fishing man or hunter. Buy driving a 4-wheeler up the creek bed and up the banks you turn the water in mud that ruins any fly fishing for almost 2 days. So you could be fining and charged under this law. So just getting one ticket the game warden is letting you off easy. There are at least 3 laws they are violating when a motorized vehicles or motorized boats are driven up a steam bed. This is especially destructive during droughts or dry season like the fall One other hint, there are video cameras along the creek and people have been prosecuted based on the videos.

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.