Saturday, September 16, 2006

Bizarre ruling

In a case that could only come out of Louisiana, a judge has ruled that fishing in many parts of the Mississippi River is actually trespassing .

The right of outdoorsmen to fish and hunt on navigable waters was issued a stunning defeat Aug. 29 when a federal judge ruled that the public has no “right to fish and hunt on the Mississippi River.”

U.S. District Court Judge Robert G. James ignored recommendations from his own magistrate in ruling in a case pitting a group of anglers against East Carroll Parish Sheriff Mark Shumate over the legality of trespassing arrests stemming from their fishing on Mississippi River flood waters in Northeast Louisiana.

“This is gigantic,” said Mark Hilzim, president of Restore Our Waterway Access, Inc. “He has opened up Pandora’s box. If I read that (ruling) right, does that mean nobody has the right to fish above the low-water mark?

“Every fisherman in the country needs to pay attention to this.”

I agree that fishermen should pay attention to this, but I also have little doubt that, if appealed, this decision will be sent back down for further definition or overturned. The judge has essentially ruled that there is no constitutional right to hunting and fishing, but then he usurps the state's right to regulate hunting and fishing when in his own ruling he says that water up to the high water mark is navigable but not useable by the public for hunting and fishing. His ruling is a contradiction of logic.

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