Fishing: Do public lakes have private water?
The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation has asked the state attorney general's office to examine whether marina operators can legally establish "no-fishing zones" on state lakes.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Oklahoma Department of Tourism and Recreation allow marinas on state lakes to restrict fishing access by as much as 50 feet from boat docks.
That policy often has resulted in clashes between anglers fishing from a boat in the posted areas and marina operators. Boat docks around marinas are prime fishing areas, especially for bass anglers.
"We don't want to get on the boathouse," said Ray Earley, president of the Texoma Christian Bass Club. "That's theirs, but the water is not. We feel like the water right up to the boathouse is public water."
Robert Cartlidge, chairman of Oklahoma Anglers Unlimited, said his organization is considering filing a lawsuit over the issue.
"We just absolutely don't think they have the authority to do that," he said. "It will probably take litigation to stop it. That's just the reality of it."
Neither the Tulsa district of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers nor the state tourism department impose the fishing restrictions.
But in lease agreements, both agencies support an individual marina operator's right to restrict access to the water around boat docks.
"It's public water but rented space," said Mike Fina, spokesperson for the Oklahoma Department of Tourism and Recreation.
Fina said marina operators pay their leases and are entitled to protect their property and that of their customers.
"They (boat slip renters) pay a lot of money for the privilege of parking in a marina," said Mark Zahourek, owner of Calypso Cove Marina at Lake Thunderbird State Park.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spokesperson Ross Adkins cites examples of boat covers being ripped by fishing hooks and other property damage on docks caused by anglers.
"It's basically to protect the boats," he said of the policy. "We've had lots of damage and vandalism, too.