Lakeshore owner cited for angler harassment

By Kurt KruegerCorrespondent

Eagle River, Wis. – Waterfront property owners might learn a
lesson from the experiences of a riparian landowner who has been
cited by a DNR conservation warden in Vilas County for harassing a
fisherman.

It was about 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, May 2, when an angler
casting near a beach and pier on the west shore of Anvil Lake in
Vilas County was confronted by a property owner, officials
reported.

The owner apparently asked the angler not to fish around his
pier or in the area his grandchildren use for swimming – to avoid
problems with lost hooks that could injure someone.

The angler’s reply, according to DNR conservation warden Tim
Price of Eagle River, was that it was a publicly owned lake and
that he was a taxpayer who had a right to fish anywhere on the
lake.

What transpired next, according to Price, is exactly why the
state of Wisconsin created a law that prohibits the harassment of
people involved in legal hunting, fishing, and trapping.

‘The property owner threw two or three hardball-sized rocks
toward the boat, in the area where he was casting, to deter his
ability to fish,’ Price said. ‘When he cast his bait in another
direction to the side, the man threw smaller rocks to that
location. Frustrated but not looking for a confrontation, the
angler left.’

Price said the fisherman handled the situation just the way he
should have – by avoiding a confrontation and instead calling a
warden.

‘I have to give the angler a lot of credit for not getting into
a more heated argument, and just leaving,’ said Price said. ‘There
is no better example of someone interfering with the legal right to
fish than this case.’

Price said the citation is just an allegation and the man hasn’t
appeared in court. However, he said the man was regretful for
losing his temper and the man planned to pay the minimum fine of
$329.

‘He didn’t deny any of it when I spoke with him,’ Price said.
‘He was basically embarrassed and apologetic. The man is a casual
angler himself, and he has nothing against anglers in general.’

Price said it’s the first time in his five years as a warden
that he’s written a citation enforcing what is called the ‘Hunter
Harassment Law,’ which was enacted in 1990. It’s a little-used law
that prohibits people from harassing those who hunt, fish, and
trap.

‘I had some complaints in southeastern Wisconsin where hunters
questioned what their neighbors were doing to interfere with their
deer hunting, like playing loud music,’ Price said. ‘But the people
were doing those activities on their own land. There are more user
conflicts down south because the woodlots are smaller and people
are closer together.’

Price said he cited the Anvil Lake property owner for the
minimum civil forfeiture of $329. According to the wardens’ bond
book, the maximum forfeiture would have been $1,133.

‘I’m just hoping a lesson was learned and that other property
owners will hear about the case so that they are reminded of the
law,’ Price said. ‘The man admitted that he has yelled at fishermen
in the past about fishing the spot in front of his pier and
beach.’

Contacted by telephone, the property owner said he simply lost
his temper. ‘It wasn’t one of my better moments,’ he said. 

Initially, the Hunter Harassment Law was sparked by some
anti-hunters who were following deer hunters into the woods from
parking lots on public hunting grounds. They would sit or stand
near the hunters, talking to them, which clearly deprived the
hunters of a chance to bag a deer.

Price said this case is no different. The angler was deprived
the right to try to catch some crappies in front of the landowner’s
beach. The angler left intimidated and frustrated, wondering if
someone that angry might go to the landing and damage his vehicle
and/or trailer, according to Price.

‘The bottom line, then, is that property owners can’t protect
their piers from hooks or keep anglers from fishing in what might
be their favorite spot without interfering with the right of
anglers to fish,’ Price said.

Wading shorelines

State law does not allow fishermen to use a riparian’s pier
without permission, although the pier is over publicly owned water.
Fishermen must have the owner’s permission to tie up to a pier and
stand on the deck.

However, if a fisherman is wading the shoreline and a pier
impedes his travel along a lake shore, the angler may legally go
onto shore to get around the pier, or may get on the pier, cross
it, and get back onto the shoreline, according to DNR warden
supervisor Tom Wrasse, of Woodruff.

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