Private Property--"why can't I fish there?"


Why do I lock my pasture gates? Why don't I allow people to fish in the ponds? Why can't people hunt on my land? And what does "Private Property" mean anyway?

I really hate to get a phone call from a neighbor asking for permission to fish in one of our ponds. Not because I don't like the person (usually just the opposite). Not because we want to keep all the fish to ourselves. And not because we are mean and selfish and don't want anyone else to have fun. I love to fish and I love to see others enjoy the relaxing, fun sport. But look at it from my perspective.

We are cattle ranchers. Each pasture has a purpose. Each pasture has a water source, often a farm pond. Each pasture has cattle in it at least a major portion of the year.  Land prices are amazingly high these days. It takes about 7 acres of native grassland in the Flint Hills of Kansas to raise enough grass to feed a cow and her calf for a grazing season. Each acre is about the size of a football 7 football fields for one cow and her baby. The price of 7 football fields alone is crazy, but multiply that by the number of cows in each pasture--from 30 to 150 cows in each of our pastures, and imagine the investment--let alone the amount of property tax paid on land around you. (Remember, property tax goes to support the local schools and other infrastructure--but that's a blog post for another day!)

But it isn't about the money. It isn't even about the cows. My cows are relatively tame. You can't actually scratch one on the head, but if you drive or walk into the pasture they will be curious enough to crowd around you to see if you happen to have any treats with you. So I'm not worried that my cattle will injure someone fishing.

It is more about the whole ecosystem! Frankly, I'm not sure many people truly understand what it means to be responsible for the health and sustainability of a piece of land. Many people have a small yard to keep up, but ranchers have thousands of acres to monitor and manage to make sure it is healthy and able to raise cattle. If I let one person fish in a pond, others may see that or hear of it (thanks a lot, Facebook) and assume that it is okay to fish there too.  Eventually, a path may be worn to the pond, allowing erosion to begin. Or trash may begin to accumulate on the bank where fish or cattle may consume it. Or the fish population may decline, resulting in a dirty, weedy pond. Or...or...or...or...There are so many reasons why I can't allow people to fish or hunt, or just walk in our pastures.

But because we are supportive of fishing and hunting, we have certain pastures that are easily accessible to roads that we have enrolled in the Walk-in Hunting or Walk-in Fishing programs. We do want people to enjoy the land and that means they need to be able to get out in it! We are paid a small fee by the government to allow licensed hunters and fishermen to use our land where these signs are posted. The fee is not even enough to cover the property tax for a year on the land, but that is not the point. It is encouraging those sports within a safe environment. We have committed to keeping good fences and good wildlife in those areas. We want people to enjoy them.

I know that putting a lock on my gate merely keeps out the good people--but I don't think there are many truly "bad" people trying to hunt and fish. I believe most people just want to get out in the country and enjoy an evening with their family or friends catching a few fish. So check out the Walk-in Fishing program and find those ponds. But be respectful of the farmer and rancher who has invited you to use their land. Carry your trash back out with you, don't destroy the fishing hole for the next guy. Respect the land and the farmer or rancher who is the caretaker and owner of that land.

It is my responsibility to take care of that land, but I also want you to enjoy it as well.


  1. I understand your point of no trespassing. Just thinking that how can only a little trash make a big problem in a cows stomach. That Walk-in Fishing program seems to be a great idea, just wonderin do they let a tourist enjoy it or do you have be a local people? By reading your post make me really thinking that how huge fields you have to keep in shape, lot of work :)

    1. Actually it isn't because the cows may eat the trash, but because it will not decompose and will get in the pond, in the grass and will just get worse! Sure, a cow may eat it and there is a chance she may get sick. In fact, I've heard of a cow dying because she ingested a walmart bag. But it is more the environmental impact I'm worried about!!

      And yes, anyone can participate in the walk in fishing program! It is public. I believe there are rules---you must have a fishing license and you must walk driving to the pond. Google it for more information and I'm sure you can find ponds near you!

    2. Ok, if I ever came to your country, I must check some area like that and hopely to get some fish too :) I was only thinking cows stomach, because I have seen once a cows stomach with lot of plastic rope inside it. I was thinkin then how painfull it has to be to that animal. I have always think that the stomach of cows is quite sensitive. But your point is correct, environmental well-being is the starting point for everything.

  2. And...suppose someone slips and falls and maybe cuts a leg open on a rock, or breaks a leg/foot/arm/whatever. Then what? Yep, Mr. Farmer gets sued and here you go again. While we love being the nice guy that lets you fish/hunt, it's just not worth the risk.

  3. this is a nice post.


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