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Fishing Access Controversy (8/06)

As kayaks and canoes have become more popular, there have been some uncomfortable moments and even some verbal clashes at fishing access areas in Vermont. One fisherman at the Kingsland Bay access told me, “This parking lot’s plenty big, but a lot of them across the state only hold three or four cars. We get to our favorite spot and it’s full and none of those people are fishing. The paddlers have expensive cars with expensive roof racks and all the latest gear, but they haven’t paid for a fishing license. I have. But come a busy weekend and I can’t even park to take my grandson out fishing. There’s no room for me anymore.”

Whether we really drive an expensive car or just tie a little kayak on top of a beat-up Ford Escort, it’s a good idea to understand the controversy. This spring, the Fish and Wildlife Department proposed a rule that doesn’t significantly change existing law but clearly sets out the priorities for authorized use of state fishing access areas.

  • First priority: Angling, ice fishing and the launching of any boat to be used for fishing and parking of vehicles and boat trailers related to fishing
  • Second: Launching inboard and outboard motorboats and parking of vehicles and trailers needed for that purpose
  • Third: Trapping, hunting and parking of related vehicles and trailers
  • Fourth: Launching of non-motorized vessels (boats, kayaks, canoes, rafts, sailboats and sailboards) not used for commercial purposes, and parking of vehicles and trailers related to that purpose

The bottom line in both the current and proposed rules is that recreational paddlers have a right to use the access areas after people who are fishing, trapping or hunting. (Groups of paddlers who have paid a guide will have to get a permit from the Fish and Wildlife Department before using state-controlled fishing accesses.)

Here are some suggestions for maintaining a good relationship among all Vermonters who enjoy being out on our lakes, streams and ponds:

If you’re going paddling with a group, carpool whenever possible. If you need a car for every boat, unload boats at the access and then move cars well away from the launching ramp. If the access parking area is very small, leave cars alongside the road if it’s safe to do so.

Be polite and friendly with people who are fishing. Don’t put your boat in until you’ve checked where people’s lines are. When you’re coming in off the water, approach slowly. Hang back a short distance from shore and look at the posture of the people fishing. If everyone is sitting around chatting and looking relaxed, getting out of your canoe or kayak won’t be too intrusive. On the other hand, if someone’s craning forward with tension in every line of her body, she might have a big fish nibbling the bait and she won’t appreciate a sudden approach.

A friend of mine who is an avid kayaker has bought a fishing license, although he has never fished. He leaves the license prominently displayed on the dashboard of his car when he’s parked at a state fishing access. He feels that it’s a way of saying, “I value having ready access to beautiful bodies of water, and I’m willing to pay my share to build and maintain the parking areas”.

Do you have thoughts, suggestions or reactions about the use of fishing access areas?

Send them to Ridge Lines.