Home Register Today's Posts Members User CP Calendar FAQ

Go Back   Little River Outfitters Forum > Fly Fishing Board > Smoky Mountain Fishing

Thread Tools Display Modes
Old 01-04-2008, 08:57 AM
10ML 10ML is offline
Junior Member
Join Date: Oct 2007
Location: Maryville
Posts: 15
Default What are the rules on this???

I know I am going to receive death threats for this one but I need to ask this question. LOL.
You guys were pretty helpful on my last question so I figured I would ask another. Ready?

What are the rules concerning fishing streams like Little River thru private property? As many of you are aware the summer is filled with tubers tubing down the river from the Y in the park all the way down. I know they get way out of hand and sunbathe on people’s property and use the bathroom where ever they like (including in my water supply).

I don’t want to walk across anyone’s property or anything but I was hoping there is some sort of law/rule that says if I am within a few feet of the bank of the river I am ok to follow it down and fish. Is there such a thing? I know TVA says I have 10 feet of bank on Navigable Rivers (I think that is how it is). But on the other hand I have a little creek behind my house and my survey says I own up to the middle of the creek.

I want to access the river thru public pull offs and fish the river several miles up or down the river then come back the same way I went in. I good example of that I am talking about is the Campground just before the park in Townsend. I park at the pull off and cross the river and fish the other side to hit some of the nice pools close to the road. These pools are impossible to hit when you are standing right over top of them so that is why I fish the other side. I always stay in the water but I am ½ expecting someone to yell at me.

Ok. I am ready for my threats of bodily harm now…

Reply With Quote
Old 01-04-2008, 09:13 AM
Fishermansfly's Avatar
Fishermansfly Fishermansfly is offline
Senior Member
Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: Alcoa, TN
Posts: 506
Default From the Y and the chaos!

All the fuss you may have heard is in reference to the tubers! The left hand side of the steam facing upriver is where people (home owners) have had all of the problems forcing the tuber businesses in Townsend to require specific pick up points and stricter rules to keep people off of private property. From the dam in Walland I can think of a few people who float that river all the way to around the Rockford area..I can't think of his name but he has a really nice large island created by the Little river! He starts the drop there in Walland and has em' float all day to his house just off of Wildwood Rd. which is pretty close to Rockford School!

Don't think you'd have to many problems! From what I hear floating Rockford's side of the Little river will put you on big smallies all day! Troutman would probably the guy to talk to about the specifics for floating the lower sections of this river, He's a smallie finatic!

When it comes to private property, just keep in mind it isn't yours and I don't think the little river up that high is navigable for purposes of that law! However it does fall into the scenic rivers but not down that low! The law is a funny thing when it comes to all this and I really find myself just scratching my head at it all anywho! A little common sense will get you a long way, while being on private property!

Hope that helps!
Reply With Quote
Old 01-04-2008, 09:15 AM
russ's Avatar
russ russ is offline
Senior Member
Join Date: Jan 2006
Posts: 283

I think, and I may be completely wrong, but I think the river bed is public and if someone starts yelling at you then just step into the river and move on.
Reply With Quote
Old 01-04-2008, 10:22 AM
Paula Begley's Avatar
Paula Begley Paula Begley is offline
Join Date: Jan 2006
Location: Townsend, Tennessee
Posts: 1,034

There is some question regarding this issue, but in Townsend, homeowners own to the center of the river and they can ask you to leave. That said, it's easy to just move on if someone asks you to...nobody owns huge long stretches.

Reply With Quote
Old 01-04-2008, 10:52 AM
18inchbrown 18inchbrown is offline
Join Date: Jun 2006
Location: SW Ohio
Posts: 39

The use of waterways by the public is a big debate all over the US. People are buying up land on both sides of flowing creeks and rivers and fencing it in. It is big in PA. with the whole Donny Beaver thing and also out in Montana. I think each locale handles it differently which I believe is not according to the federal law.

There is a law on the Federal record, I believe that says the public has access to any navigable waterway up to the high water mark. You can float a canoe on some very small creeks and a canoe is considered navigation. This law predates most local authority regarding waterways. This is not followed or enforced but the disposition of waterway use is left to whoever has the most money which leads to these pay to fish streams etc.
Reply With Quote
Old 01-04-2008, 12:24 PM
canerod canerod is offline
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 55

The term navigable water has nothing to do with any type of boat or craft in the water. If the water way was used for commercial purposes at any time it is called navigable water. This means if was used to run a mill or float logs etc. this covers almost any water way in the country. That is how it was explained to me how it is in NY and it could be different elsewhere?
Reply With Quote
Old 01-04-2008, 01:38 PM
Troutman's Avatar
Troutman Troutman is offline
Senior Member
Join Date: Aug 2006
Location: Seymour, TN
Posts: 1,466

I've floated the LR several times in my kayak and the only place I have ever had any trouble with the land owners was at the old mill dam in Townsend. I had put in at the park boundary and floated down to the dam hoping to portage around it but the campground would not allow it (to walk 10 feet on their property) and the landowner on the opposite side has signs posted and was onsite. I had to paddle back upstream to the tuber place. (they charge a fee to exit the river on their property)(anything to make a buck) Luckily they were not open yet. I dragged my boat and gear down the side of the road till I could access the river below the dam. I was sweating!
Noone has ever said anything to me while floating and fishing the river. If the landowner is fishing or down at the water, I just say hello and float on downstream. Theres plenty of good water to fish!

I do know a landowner on the LR in Townsend and she told me that when she bought the house and property, that the property lines went to the middle of the river.

The one thing we can all do, is pick up any trash you find along the river. Spring is usually not to bad with trash, but by late summer, it can get frustrating when you find Hardees bags and cups sitting on rocks in the middle of the river. If the landowners see the fishermen as stewards of the river, they are more accepting of us.
Reply With Quote
Old 01-04-2008, 02:24 PM
mtnman2888's Avatar
mtnman2888 mtnman2888 is offline
Senior Member
Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: Hendersonville, NC
Posts: 763

I'm sure all of us, as fly fisherman, have debated this topic before. The way i understand it, and the way i was told, was that if land on both sides of the river were private then you couldn't wade in it. If it is two different land owners then their property line meets in the middle of the stream and they own the land. However, they do not own the water, so you could float or whatever down the river and be legal just as long as you never touched bottom. This is how i understood these rules personally, but to me it's usually been productive just to ask for permission and most of the time they grant it. I would like, however, to hear some "official" word on this matter, would definitely be good to know.

Reply With Quote
Old 01-04-2008, 03:20 PM
Jack M. Jack M. is offline
Senior Member
Join Date: Mar 2006
Posts: 141

Some states have special laws, mostly out West. However, in Tennessee, my most educated guess is that the general common law doctrine of public trust prevails. This legal doctrine holds that the streambed of navigable rivers/streams cannot be privately owned, but are held by the sovereign in trust for the benefit of the public. "Navigability" does not mean only streams that were used for modes of transportation or commerce, but applies to streams that could have been so used at the time of statehood. Dams that subsequently destroy or limit present-day navigability do not change ownership of the streambed. If the river is navigable, you can float or wade it. If it is not navigable, then a private entity can own the streambed and prevent wading. Whether one can float through a section of stream where the streambed is privately owned is a matter of dispute. Two other points: if the water is non-navigable, then it doesn't matter if you own land on both sides of the river, because you can still prevent trespass on your half; secondly, if the river is navigable, then regardless of what your Deed may say, the streambed does not belong to you exclusively. Some constructions of the public trust doctrine construe the sovereign's interest as an "easement" others as ownership, but it makes no practical difference to your right to wade.

This is my story and I'm sticking with it. I have no idea whether the Little River is navigable, but I think there is a good chance that it is. Having said all this, I would suggest asking permission where you can and not taking chances angering a landowner. If push comes to shove and you may risk your life trying not to trespass, then trespass and tell tham to sue you. If you portage quickly without harm to the land, it would never be worth it for them to pursue the matter.

Here is a bit more info on the Public Trust Doctrine: http://www.adventuresports.com/river...tes/tn-law.htm

Keep in mind this piece is maintained on a website by an organization that advocates public rights in waterways and may be worded optimistically.

One final note: even on navigable waters, the landowner has exclusive rights to land above the normal high-water mark-- there is no right to gain access to a navigable river over private property.
Please bear in mind that I have no idea what I am talking about.

Last edited by Jack M.; 01-04-2008 at 03:49 PM..
Reply With Quote
Old 01-04-2008, 04:48 PM
Byron Begley Byron Begley is offline
Senior Member
Join Date: Jan 2006
Location: Townsend, Tennessee
Posts: 1,397

The Little River is considered navigable by the State of Tennessee. It has a history of commercial use dating back to the logging days and before. Landowners in Townsend have deeds and surveys that show where in the river they own streambed. It is not always in the middle of the stream. A friend of mine bought a lot on the Little River and had it surveyed. Temporary stakes were driven into the streambed to show him where his property lines were located then the stakes were removed. Today the Little River is used for commerce mainly for the tubing business.

This summer a landowner and an angler had a confrontation. The landowner called the police who arrived and told the angler he was trespassing and should leave. The angler was standing on the streambed, not on dry land.

This started a huge debate here in town. Our mayor owns the largest tubing business here. I spent a lot of time talking to him about this situation. Joe Hatton got deeply involved, did a lot of research and still the issue was not completely resolved. Our County Commissioner, John Keeble got involved and asked for an opinion from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.

TDEC told John Keeble that the angler was in fact trespassing. You can float through on the Little River but not touch the streambed which is is the property of the landowner.

So, at least for now the Townsend Police did the right thing and one should get permission to wade on someone's property.

In reality though, this is the first time I have ever heard of a confrontation between an angler and a landowner in Townsend. Fishing is business here in our town and that means jobs and commerce. My best advice is to enter the river at a place where you are not trespassing or ask permission to enter. I would wade up and down the river without getting out in someone's back yard. If a landowner asks you to leave, tell them you are sorry and move off their property. If you need to portage around the dam stop by the Old Mill Campground and ask permission before you put your boat in the water. I've launched there before without a problem but I asked first if it would be OK.

If this becomes a hot issue and it is pushed to the limit TWRA would have no choice but to stop stocking trout in Townsend. I have talked to TWRA about this issue. That would not impact our business much but many campgrounds and other businesses in this fragile economy would suffer.

The last thing I would want to see at least for now is a test in our court system. I think the anglers would lose and so would Townsend's tourism business.

Reply With Quote

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump

All times are GMT -4. The time now is 08:50 PM.

Powered by vBulletin®
Copyright ©2000 - 2016, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.