Let me start by saying that this thread may belong in the conservation section or it may not belong at all. I went fishing on the South Holston yesterday for the first time in over a month and had a very unpleasant experience. I entered the river through the River's Way property where I have permission to do so. after about an hour of good fishing with a couple of friends, I decided to move upstream. I was walking the edge of the big island in the middle of the stream when someone began yelling at me from the far bank, he informed me that I was on private property and should go back down stream, he further stated that he owned to the center of the river and that if I wished to go upstream I would have to do so on the channel on the other side of the island. I did not enter into an arguement I simply said OK and walked back down the river and into the office at River's Way to see if they agreed with their neighbor's position.
The director had been investigating this very issue for several hours as I was not the only person who had been told that they were trespassing. This had never been a problem in the past, but the land was sold last fall and apparently the new owner is not happy about the number of people who fish on "his property". There seems to be a lot of questions about who is right on this issue, can we travel up and down the river once we are in the sreambead? In this case, I have permission on one side but not the other, so am I limited to only one side of the river or once in can I move back and forth? The question seems to come down to navigable water and the land beneath the water.
I have been told that the ground level TWRA folks will come down on the side of the landowner, therefore if they show up you will be treated as if you were trespassing. However the folks in TWRA headquarters aren't so sure. Here is the problem, I don't have the time, money, and maybe not even the desire to fight this and I believe that is what he is counting on. If no one fights it, he wins and we all have to stay off of his property. Here is the bigger concern, this effects us all. Most of the South Holston, Watauga, and many other streams are surrounded by private property. I understand not being able to cross private property, but if you are not allowed to move or walk on the streambed, then eventually enough wealthy people buy up all the land and none of us have anywhere to fish. This property used to be owned by a local farmer, oh what I would give to see the bait boys back on his banks.
This doesn't just impact wading, if you can't walk there then you also cannot drop anchor there, and who knows you eventually may not even be able to fish from a boat floating through there. This is a big deal. I hope someone or some organization has the time and the money to fight this. I know that many are afraid to because if the fishermen lose, then the precedent has been set and we have lost the river. That may be so, but as the farms are being sold, I think that we are going to lose the river anyway. Anyone who has fished the Rockhold stretch of river, the Hickory Tree Bridge stretch of river, even the ramp underneath the Weaver Pike Bridge if you move up or down you are on someone elses property. I am afraid that it wont be long till the only place you can fish one of the greatest rivers in the south will be the TVA property below the dam.
On the plus side, I did catch a beautiful 18" rainbow before things turned ugly.