Georgia Governor Brian Kemp signed Senate Bill 115 into law, which guarantees Georgians the right to fish in navigable portions of the state’s rivers and streams. The need for the bill arose when a property owner along a portion of the Flint River claimed exclusive control over fishing from the bank on its side of the river to the center of the stream and banned fishing there.
Four Chimneys LLLP, which owns the stretch of the Flint along Yellow Jacket Shoals, sued the state alleging failure to enforce the ban and won an agreement from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources promising to enforce the ban. To counter this agreement, legislative leaders removed the language from a Senate bill heading for passage and inserted the fishing rights provision.
Although the bill had passed the House on the night of the 29th of March, the last day of the 2023 session, several lawmakers voted against it, unhappy with the 11th-hour process used to pass it. In his signing statement, Kemp acknowledged that his office received numerous calls on the bill, both in support and opposition, and explained that the bill allows for the public to hunt, fish, and transit the navigable waters of the state, a privilege that has been assured to Georgians for generations.
The governor also noted that the bill does not affect non-navigable streams nor the use of water by adjacent landowners in navigable rivers. However, Kemp acknowledged some uncertainty about the bill’s language and suggested that the upcoming House Study Committee on Fishing Access to Freshwater Resources would provide an opportunity for clarity.
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