Public or private land? What you need to know when fishing in Wyoming
JACKSON HOLE, WYO – Waterways in much of the valley are running high and hard with the spring runoff. Officially, the big melt has not yet hit some of Jackson Hole’s bigger rivers, so the time is right to get in a few casts before rivers blow out.
Many of the state’s rivers, streams, and ponds are on private land. It can be tricky knowing the particular laws and rules of conduct when negotiating between public and private land. Have you ever heard the rule: As long as you don’t touch the stream bed with your foot and remain floating, you are not trespassing? It’s kinda true.
Here is a rundown on what you need to know when you’re out and about in search of that perfect honey hole or bend in the creek.
- Wyoming law states that no person shall enter upon private property to hunt, fish, or trap without the permission of the owner or person in charge of the property. It is the responsibility of the person fishing to know if the land is public or private.
- The landowner has the right to control access to any land they own. Private land may include stream banks, islands, and streambeds.
- You may float across private land on navigable water, but the streambed is the property of the landowner. You must stay in your boat at all times unless permission has been obtained from the landowner. State law only allows you to leave your craft for short portages around non-navigable obstacles. Anglers are not allowed to wade fish or fish from a bank or island without permission if the stream bank, island, or streambed is privately owned. Wading, bank fishing, or anchoring without permission is trespassing.
- Access to public lands for fishing is only permitted if these lands are legally accessible (e.g., from an existing public road, they border other public lands, or you can float to them) and you can access without trespassing. If you are unsure, check with the land management agency responsible for the land in question. In some cases, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) or the Wyoming Office of State Land and Investments manages the land or an access easement. Access signs appear on most Game and Fish public fishing areas. Land status maps, available from the BLM, are excellent references, but it is key you know how to read and understand the maps. The penalty for trespassing while fishing could be a fine up to $1,000, up to six months in jail, and loss of hunting, fishing, and trapping privileges for up to three years.
- Permission to access private land for fishing is a privilege. In all cases, respect the land, the landowner and those who come after you by removing litter and minimizing evidence of your presence and the evidence of others who have not been so considerate.