Avid fishermen are always looking for new places to fish, especially lakes and ponds with little to no pressure.
And if you live near a golf course, you’ve no doubt felt the temptation to see if there were nice fish hiding in those undisturbed waters.
I get you!
You can really feel that temptation when you see a series of small ponds, the grass around them manicured and neat, with no casting hazards like trees or bushes cluttering the bank.
But unless you have the express permission of the golf club’s management, those ponds are a no-go.
Let’s explain why you can’t fish on a golf course.
Table of Contents (clickable)
The Legality of Fishing Rights
We’re not lawyers, and what follows isn’t legal advice.
We’re just exploring what lawyers have had to say about this issue, and seeing what they have to say about why you have the right to fish your local lake or pond but not a pond on a golf course.
According to the legal experts at Stimmel, Stimmel, and Roeser, “All persons have a right to use the navigable waters of a state so long as they do not interfere with other citizens’ use. However, the right to use navigable waters is subject to regulation by a state under its police power” Witke v. State Conservation Com., 244 Iowa 261 (Iowa 1953).
You’ll need a license, for instance, and the state and federal government can limit the species you can keep, set size restrictions, and generally regulate sport fishing. This also means that private ownership of rivers and streams is generally limited to the bank, not the water itself, and anglers and pleasure boaters have full rights to pursue their actions on the water.
“But note that the general public has no rights to the recreational use of a private lake, such rights being exclusive in the owner of the bed” Baker v. Normanoch Asso., 25 N.J. 407 (N.J. 1957).
Private lakes not owned by the state or federal government are private property, and the owners own the land under the lake and can control who has access to the water as well.
“A natural, nonnavigable inland lake is the subject of private ownership and since the bed of such lake is private property, the public has no right to boat upon its waters… In the case of a non-navigable lake or pond where the land under the water is owned by others, no riparian rights attach to the property bordering on the water and an attempt to exercise any such rights by invading the water is as much a trespass as an unauthorized entry made upon the dry land of another'' Loughran v. Matylewicz, 367 Pa. 593 (Pa. 1951).
That makes it pretty clear: you have absolutely no right to fish a pond on a golf course without the express permission of the owners or managers. That’s just as true on public courses!
Just don’t do it unless you’ve gotten express permission.
How to Get Permission to Fish on a Golf Course
The right way to go about this is to call or contact your local golf course and ask if you can gain permission to fish their ponds.
Don’t expect a “yes” and respect that likely “no.”
But if you do get permission to fish there, respect whatever rules or limitations are placed on your fishing, and realize how lucky you are!