Alleghany County, VA.- Arguments are underway in a civil trespassing case that could have wider implications than simply the State of Virginia.
North South Development, LLC are suing three anglers for fishing on a river they claim to be theirs.
The three anglers, Frank Garden, Charles Crawford, and William Coggeshall, went out to enjoy a day of kayak fishing on the Jackson river, and put their kayaks in at a public access point known as Smith Bridge.
As they drifted down the river, they remained within the river banks, but came to a point where the adjacent land belonged to the aforementioned land developer. During this stretch, as with other stretches, the got out of their kayaks and waded to do some fishing.
Under Virginia law, this is fine—it states the following: the beds of all rivers and streams “are the property of the Commonwealth and may be used as a common by all the people for the purposes of fishing, fowling, hunting, and taking and catching oysters and other shellfish.”
So, to clarify, this reads that while the surrounding land is certainly private, the beds of the streams remain property of the state, and are available for use by the people. This has been on the books for over 200 years.
Not so fast, say the developers.
They are invoking an even older statute—land grants, actually. One of which was executed, in effect, by the King of England.
Oh yes, you read that right, King of England…
The interesting part about the land grants in question (dating 1743 for the Crown Grant, and 1785 for the commonwealth grant) do not actually deal with the beds of the rivers at all.
Here we have a case of lawyers trying to get really fancy so that their clients can offer exclusive plots of land that will be sold for a nice price. Protect profits, to hell with anything else.
They are offering a once in a lifetime chance to “own a piece of the Jackson,” and experience one of the finest wild trout fisheries on the East Coast.”
This is not just about Virginia and a stretch of the Jackson River—this could present a slippery slope and establish precedent that could potentially affect you and me and where we like to fish.
Visit www.virginiariversdefensefund.org to learn more, and share this article with anyone you know that fishes so awareness starts rising for serious issues affecting our ability to fish.
See ya on the water…
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