Bow Fishermen cited near the Midewin Tall Grass Prairie

As the president of the Bowfishing Association of Illinois, Ed DeVries has asked to share some information regarding fishing and bowfishing near the Midewin property outside of Wilmington.

I am somewhat familiar with situations where the legal question came about regarding fishing from a boat in areas where it may be posted for No Trespassing.   Although some CPOs have cited anglers, other have not.  I heard that in court it was determined that property owners can post No Trespassing signs and that would prohibit persons from stepping on their land, the land under the water, and docks.  This includes anchoring.   As long as one stays afloat, they are not trespassing.  Although property owners may own the land and docks, they do not own the water.

The following was sent by DeVries to share with the readers of my blog.  Feel free to share your thoughts or experiences in matters like this.

To All Illinois Media;

Recently a new US Forest Service Officer hired by the Midewin Tall Grass Prairie near Wilmington has been issuing very expensive tickets to people fishing the backwater and Grant Creek located in the DesPlaines Conservation area. This backwater is bordered by the DesPlaines river on the north and Blodgett rd. on the south.

The officer claims these waters belong to the US Forest Service and are closed to recreational use. As many of you know people have fished these waters, hunted over them and held large retriever dog trials in them for years.

Last Saturday two bow-fishermen were given $225 tickets each for bow-fishing these waters. Now no sportsman or woman wants to break the law, but unfortunately in my opinion there is a clear case of legal entrapment going on here. The waters are listed on the DesPlaines Conservation area website as being part of DCA. I have personally been told over the years it is OK to fish or bow-fish there. The National Forest Registry maps do not show this area to be part of the Prairie in any way. Here are links to these maps from DCA and the National Forest;
http://www.nationalforests.org/files/dynamic/content_media_documents/83/Mid
http://dnr.state.il.us/lands/landmgt/hunter_fact_sheet/R2Maps/dspmap.pdf

As you can see from the IDNR site map these waters are 100% surrounded by DCA lands and even show a boat launch. So, it says fishing/bowfishing is allowed on the IDNR site and Fishing Digest, on the web site and maps shown here, is not posted no trespassing or closed federal lands in any way, people have told us it is OK to use these waters, and a federal officer gives you a ticket as soon as you enter the waters. Again, in my opinion this is legal entrapment.

Additionally, I believe the law states that a land owner who owns property on both sides of a waterway, eg... the Vermillion River, owns that waterway.

I remember my father taking me to these same waters fishing off the steel bridge in the early 70s. People have enjoyed fishing from the river rd bridge for catfish for years, had field dog trials there and fished from the shoreline. But now have been ticketed or chased away by this officer.

The reason I am writing you is that you hopefully warn the outdoor public about this so more people will not enter these areas and get more tickets. There is no way for them to know these areas many have been using for years are not part of DCA and are closed to recreational use. They are not posted no trespassing or closed and the officer informed me they have no intention of posting them. I can see why when every time someone crosses the line the Prairie gets a $225 fine. I would also caution anyone from using any part of the Midewin Prairie as there may be other areas, trails ect....., that are closed to recreational use but are not posted. If it occurs on the DCA waters there is no reason it is not happening elsewhere on their properties. As I said, fines are a nice source of income in tough times.

Thank you;
Ed DeVries
President Bowfishing Assoc. of Illinois

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