Welcome to Camo Coalition 2024. The Legislature begins today and we want you to be on the lookout for Camo Alerts during this legislative session. As many of you know, 2024 is the second year of the General Assembly session, any bills that were introduced last year that either weren’t passed or defeated in ’23 (this is a very large number of bills) are still eligible for action this year; and your Senators and Representatives will certainly introduce many more this year.
The last day of the ’23 session proved very successful for fishing access on Georgia’s navigable streams. Landowners along the Flint River had asserted that they owned the fishing rights and were attempting to exclude anglers from fishing the river. The General Assembly passed SB 115 in the waning moments of the last day that firmly established that Georgians have the right to fish the navigable waters of our state, a right we believed we always had but which was reinforced with this bill.
One of only two study committee bills passed the Georgia House last year, HR 519 established the House Study Committee on Fishing Access to Freshwater Resources. The Study Committee held hearings across Georgia and issued a report in November of 2023 that made 7 recommendations:
- Determine and delineate the navigability of each of Georgia’s rivers and streams based on the statutory definition;
- Preserve the definition of the state’s navigability set forth in the Official Code of Georgia Annotated (OCGA) 44-8-5a;
- Maintain the underlying purpose of Senate Bill 115 while removing references to the public trust doctrine in statute and recognition of the doctrine’s standing as a common law provision;
- Clarify the statutory language in regards to trespass and stiffen the penalty under the Hunting and Fishing Code to enforce existing law;
- Ensure the protection of the right of passage for navigable stream as found in OCGA 52-1-31;
- Recognize the importance of the Georgia trout industry, including its unique ecological needs and economic benefits, and seek to the protect state’s trout waters;
- Support additional investment in public fishing properties.
We will be vigilant in watching for any legislation that might arise from these regulations. We are on guard to protect our rights to hunt and fish as delineated in our Georgia Constitution.
There are several bills from last year that involve the operation of off-road vehicles and boats in our state’s waters. We will stay on top of those bills and active on tracking any new legislation.
Thank you for being a part of Camo Coalition. Our voice is amplified when we speak together. Our legislators need to understand that we are all passionate about our outdoor heritage. Please be on the lookout for Camo Alerts in the coming months. Camo Coalition members made a real difference in the considerations of the House Study Committee on Fishing Access. Let’s keep up our good work together.
President & CEO
Georgia Wildlife Federation