Last weekend I was disappointed not to be able to attend the Kish Wade on Saturday so I did the next best thing….got my son and a buddy and decided to float the South Branch of the Kish on Sunday. We floated the river between Oak Ridge FP and Deer Run FP. Along the way we found a nice little hole and pulled a few fish from it. As we were wrapping up, a guy came to the shore line and asked us to move along as he owned the land on both sides of the river. Having already pulled what we though we could from the area, we obliged without incident. However, this got me to thinking….. was I doing anything wrong? Did he really own the river because he owned the land on both sides? I was always under the impression that if you could float it, you could fish it.
What I found surprised me. I’m throwing this out there to see if anyone has any different information as some of what I found is old material from the Depaul Law Review. https://via.library.depaul.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://www.bing.com/&httpsredir=1&article=2408&context=law-review
Can’t see to find if the laws have changed in 20 years or not.
1. First if the waterway is navigable for commerce it falls under Federal Law and is fine for public use. Illinois Navigable waterways are listed on the ILDNR website. https://www.dnr.illinois.gov/WaterResources/Pages/PublicWaters.aspx
2. The Kish and its branches are not listed; therefore, it is not considered a public waterway (navigable) for the purposes of public usage.
3. Public use right then boils down to bed ownership and riparian ownership.
a. A Riparian Owner owns the land abutting the river and gives him access rights to use the waterway (and its water).
b. A bed owner owns the bed of the river and can limit access and use of the river. In Illinois infinite wisdom, they have granted land owners bed ownership as well. Private bed ownership severely limits the publics right to use the river or stream.
It appears to me that the rub is found deep in the Riparian Ownership rights. Certainly, where a FP district owns the land adjacent to the river it is fair game for the public. But how far down the river do the FP rights extend? This is probably a very oversimplified overview of the law but it begs the question “Next weekend can I legally Fish the Kish?”