- Don’t know if this is right and it is a few years old.
B. Fishing in Lakes - Rights and Regulations
1. Private Lakes
Non-navigable lakes and streams have generally been construed to be private waters.
There are two kinds of private lakes. Those with a connection to public waters and those
with no such connection. The fish in lakes having a connection with public waters by
which fish can migrate to or from for any length of time at any season of the year are the
property of the state and may be taken only in accordance with law. The riparian
owner(s) may determine who shall fish but the fishing is regulated by law. Fish in private
lakes, having no connection with public waters, are considered private property and not
subject to legislative regulation which prescribes methods of fishing, closed seasons,
creel limits and minimum sizes. However, persons possessing such fish off the premises
from which taken, if contrary to law, could be subject to sanctions. Riparian owners may
determine who shall or shall not fish in such a private lake. Those permitted to fish in any
private lake enjoy the same rights and privileges as the permittee. Thus, in most all
cases, the right to fish extends to the whole lake.
It is apparent, then, that the public has the right to fish in navigable lakes and streams if
access is gained without trespass upon privately-owned property. However, the public
can fish in non-navigable waters, too, but only with permission of the riparian owner.
a. For the purpose of classifying to what extent the state or riparian owners may
regulate the use and activity of a lake, the following illustrations are provided by
OAG, 1931-1932, p. 295 (August 19, 1931):
(i) A private lake of less than 250 acres with no inlet or outlet and not planted with public
The riparian owners of private lakes not connected with other lakes or streams by flow of
water in any season of the year so that fish may pass, may, by reason of their
constitutional rights, take fish therefrom without restraint from legislative enactment.
They may keep the public from fishing in said lake. Their lessees and licensees have
(ii) A private lake of less than 250 acres with no inlet or outlet, but planted with public
MCL 324.45101; MSA 13A.45101 applies in this scenario. This section reads as follows:
No person shall take any fish from any of the inland waters of this State,
within which fish shall be planted at the expense of the people of this State
or of the government of the United States, after the passage of this act,
from which waters the public is excluded from taking fish: Provided,
however, that this act shall not apply to any small inland lakes covering
less than two hundred and fifty (250) acres in which fish may be so planted
without the written consent of the persons who together own in fee simple
the submerged acreage.