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Are you in Louisiana? You could be fishing illegally!

People go fishing every day thinking they are legally doing so, but they'd be shocked if they saw what this government map reveals.

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Think back to the last fishing trip you went on. Where did you go?

Got it? Good.

Now, is that location you fished legal to fish in the first place?

How do you know?

These are really odd questions...

And that's because they're not what you would think of in the first place.

"Is where I fished legal?! Well, of course it is!"

Asking someone if their fishing spot is "legal" is right there with asking if the air they breathe is theirs.

You don't need to identify ownership of various air molecules in order to have permission to breathe, do you?

Well, it's very much the same with navigable water, which includes (but is not limited to) water that is subject to the flow and ebb of the tide.

After all, it's set in stone in the Public Trust Doctrine, right? It states that:

 “Louisiana claims the beds and bottoms of all navigable waters and the banks or shores of bays, arms of the sea, the Gulf of Mexico, and navigable lakes and declares the state’s policy to be that these lands and water bottoms are public lands and shall be protected, administered, and conserved to best ensure full public navigation, fishery, recreation, and other interests.”

Seems pretty straightforward and, after reading that, you ought to feel all warm and fuzzy that your fishing spot is perfectly legal to go fishing in.

You had better think again...

But that's simply not the case and that's because a lot of water and water bottoms out there are claimed by both the state and private land owners.

How private land owners got any claim to ancient bayous and bays is a blog post for another day, but for now you should know that there are essentially three types of ownership of our waterways:

  • state claimed
  • privately claimed
  • dual-claimed

That last one means that the waterway in question is claimed by both the state and some private landowner.

I know. This is all very confusing and it is likely that – by now – your head is ready to explode.

its-all-so-confusing

Who owns your fishing spot?

You can determine this by using this mapping tool made available by Louisiana's Department of Natural Resources.

It's called SONRIS, which is just a fancy acronym for Strategic Online Natural Resources Information System.

It's mostly for oil and gas, but has other cool information like a layer defining ownership of whichever body of water.

How To Use SONRIS (to see if your fishing spot is public or not)

I'll admit that the interface is a tad clunky and difficult to use on anything other than a decent desktop computer, but you're welcome to give it a shot.

That and it is recommended you watch the video above, because it does a better job of breaking down how to use it.

But, if you're familiar with using mapping tech like this, then know that you need two layers enabled:

  1. "State Claimed Water Bodies" under the "State Lands" tab
  2. Whatever map you prefer under the "Imagery and Maps" tab

I prefer the "South LA Photography (2016 CIR)" map because it looks most like what I regularly work with on Google Earth to scout fishing spots and safe routes.

Once you got those you should have something that looks like this:

SONRIS screenshot

Make sure you enable the legend by clicking on the layers icon under the SONRIS title. It looks like this:

SONRIS state owned water bottom legend

As you can see, anything that's not blue or light blue is a no-go. Let that sink in.

Anything colored red is dual-claimed and, anything shaded yellow, I am not certain.

I do see that they misspelled "judgment" and "compromise", so I am not going to interpret that as "you are 100% okay to go fishing here" and feel that's a safe bet.

But that doesn't undermine the fact that the majority of water that we normally traverse is not okay to float our boat in.

Not without the owner's permission, anyway.

This is a problem in Louisiana...

Private interests are laying claim to waterways that have existed for centuries, if not millenia. 

Who are they to take an arm of the sea for themselves?

Oil companies, land managers and more have taken advantage of creative loopholes in Louisiana's law to sidestep the Public Trust Doctrine and take what belongs to all of us for themselves.

This is inherently wrong and the reason why Louisiana Sportsmen's Coalition was formed in the first place.

There is a solution to this problem...

You'll see imaginative suggestions on social media as to what should be done.

Some feel we should decline purchasing a fishing license, or boycott gasoline, or whatever hair-brained idea that is more trouble than what it's worth.

What really works is working with our elected representatives to craft legislation to bring to bear at the state capitol.

What really works is getting people organized and notified to call their elected representatives to support such legislation or, conversely, do the opposite for legislation not kind to the pastime of fishing.

That will get our fishing spots back to us, so you can go fishing without worry of trespassing, no more than you should worry if you own the air you breathe or not.

Joining our ranks is easy, all you have to do is click the green button below to get started.

Devin Denman
 

Devin is the founder of Louisiana Fishing Blog and enjoys exploring new fishing spots on Louisiana's coast. He prefers using artificial lures and casting tackle, but won't hesitate to break out a popping cork when the time is right.

  • James says:

    My favorite place to inshore fish is the Biloxi marsh management area between Pete’s and brick lagoons. I just go and if someone approaches me and seems credible I’ll take a pic of their boat number and move to another spot. I do think it’s illegal to harass another outdoorsman.

  • Jim says:

    I thought that the public doctrine ruled. I guess I had better look more closely at SONRIS!

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