All fish in public lakes are public

By on March 4, 2014
corbett 006_web

Dear Editor,

A group of eight people went to Corbett Lake in mid-February and were approached by one of the new owners who came out and told us the lake was a private lake. We told him we knew better and then he said we trespassed to get to it. We showed him that we did not, and then he said he owned the fish. He had us there. He may have and likely did own the fish until he put them in a public lake. We asked him what legal permit gave him the right to put the fish there in the first place but we didn’t get an answer.

He left very upset and understandably so, but most were releasing the fish they caught. The fishing regulations allow people to take five fish a day from Corbett Lake, one of which can be over 50 centimetres. Eight people left with three fish. The rest were returned to the lake. A private fish in a public lake becomes a public fish.

The fish and wildlife branch stepped back from its obligation to stock the lake with public fish and allowed a private individual to stock the lake. It always was and still is a public lake. Blocking public access is the only tool they have for allowing exclusive use of a public resource. That is a serious breach of trust in my mind. We trust the elected government to look after our resources, not give them away.

The previous owner of the lodge there never refused me access. He always said, “Come up and go fishing whenever you like, mate.”

The government seems to think that people are just going to walk away from some of their best fishing holes and let private enterprise take them over. They allow private enterprise to think that they own a public resource. They create hard feeling between friends and neighbours and seem to be proud of it.

Then the police and the conservation officers showed up at my house in town after we quit fishing and told us that Corbett was a private lake. The RCMP are not well versed when environmental issues like this arise, but the issue needs resolve and giving away our lakes is not the answer. Telling us the lake is private is also unacceptable. We were very upset with the situation and they can attest to that.

The conservation officers suggested we should hold off going back there fishing until they decided if we could or not. They are part of the problem, not part of a solution. They know very well it is a public lake. They are the messenger that tells us by their words and actions that the government has no will to keep public lakes and public access for the public. They could have been truthful right there and said that all lakes are public. But no, here is what they did:

Just to be spiteful and vindictive, the conservation officer issued a ticket charging one of the anglers with trespassing on Douglas Lake property last year. He was with an authorized person at the time and the Trespass Act reads:

Defences to trespass

4.1 A person may not be convicted of an offence under section 4 in relation to premises if the person’s action or inaction, as applicable to the offence, was with (a) the consent of an occupier of the premises or an authorized person.

The conservation officer knew that. A court case costs the public about ten thousand dollars.

He was much more concerned about the welfare of the Douglas Lake Cattle Company and made that obvious and added heat to an already heated debate. The ticket could have been written any time in the last four months if it needed to be written. How very unprofessional. What next?

Thank you for printing this very important bit of information so the public can start to see what is in store for them and their grandchildren with the attitude of the government and the people they hire to protect our resources. Let’s pray for a change of attitude or maybe demand it — whichever works.

Ed Hendricks



  1. private name

    March 5, 2014 at 5:58 pm

    Maybe its time to take a page out of the Native Canadians handbook and blockade the main road. This completely unacceptaable and the conservation officer who issued the ticket did not do his duty.

  2. cathy Mortimer

    March 5, 2014 at 8:13 pm

    corbett lake is a private lake and they pay a lot of money to stock that lake….if it is a private lake the government should pay to stock the lake…

    • James C

      March 6, 2014 at 11:04 am

      There is no such thing as a private lake in Canada. You can own the land up to the high water mark, but not the lake itself. The road that was blocked off is a public road. Barring public access to this lake is clearly illegal.

    • Johnny Canuck

      March 6, 2014 at 1:54 pm

      There is no such thing as a private lake in this country unless you dig the thing yourself. You cannot own a water feature… You can own all the land around it but the water – and anything you choose to put in it – was, is and will remain PUBLIC. Don’t like it? Go back to the States.

    • Farmer_General

      March 13, 2014 at 9:13 am

      Who are you the billionaire that thinks they can claim ownership over what is God’s? Enjoy the Karma that you are going to reap.

    • Lou M

      November 17, 2014 at 10:05 am

      this is what happens when you let too many of them thar southern folks into Canada. They just dont get it ! Canadians have the right to access “a highway or public right of way, watercourse, right of water or other public easement.” Don’t get me wrong, we love our American neighbours, but we do not want to take on their ideas of privitization …

  3. Tim Martindale

    March 6, 2014 at 12:40 pm

    Right on Ed.. I bet I can gather 100 people before the weekend who have had same issues with this. You “CAN NOT” have a natural made lake as a private lake that’s all there is to it. Corbett lake has done a lot with the lake I know that and they’ve done a beautiful job of it too I agree. The problem I encountered was they wanted to charge me at the time $40.00 just to put my canoe in the water which is no acceptable. If you access the lake from crown land then you can fish there all you want. Granted you may have to get permission from Douglas Lake (The present owner, Stan Kroenke, is a Missouri and Colorado based businessman with a commercial real estate and sports based business)owned by an American so if that isn’t a kick in the face as well then what is? We would all like to see Corbett lake perserved for it’s beauty and well stocked fish but Corbett lake has also got to get off their high-horse and stop thinking they own the bloody world up there because they don’t. If you were to drop into the lake from a helicopter and fish they couldn’t do anything about that so long as you don’t use private land or at the very least have permission from the owner of the adjacent land surrounding the lake. Something needs to be done about this or else we’ll find others trying to do the same thing with lakes around their property you watch it’ll happen if it hasn’t already.

  4. John Whent

    March 6, 2014 at 12:58 pm

    This is an interesting case. I have a friend that lives in the area that does work for Greenpeace and the Suzuki Foundation, I am going to flip this article to her.

  5. Sammy

    March 6, 2014 at 5:39 pm

    This needs national coverage right away ! I forwarded this to the CBC`s Story suggestion box – I hope the story gets some attention. wow!

  6. Jack Andreasen

    March 7, 2014 at 6:30 am

    It’s time we fought for the rights of the people and our children and grand-children. The previous owners have made plenty of money on their investment. Since it has always been a “public” lake, perhaps it’s time we all went fishing there!!! I’m in! Bear in mind that this is not the only lake where this problem is occurring and it’s going to keep happening unless we stand up for our rights! Way to go Ed!

  7. Dave G

    March 7, 2014 at 1:44 pm

    You people act like a bunch of savages, no wonder the economy in your town is doing the pits. You all act like the same people in your council, greedy and uneducated. Get a grip if your going to do something educate yourself first. But hey continue to make your town look more pathetic so another News Paper can catch up on the clowns of Merritt. I hope the “Nicola Fish and Game Club” is abolished after this.

    • Farmer_General

      March 13, 2014 at 9:16 am

      Rich shill? Get your hands off of the PEOPLES property!

  8. Cynthia Morrison

    March 16, 2014 at 10:43 am

    I’m not exactly sure…but I don’t think all lakes are public. I’ve lived at a private lake almost all my life. No, we don’t own the water, just the land….but the water in our lake is owned by Nova Scotia Power….& they sell the land. Our lake is stocked but since someone introduces a bass into a trout lake, it’s all bass now.
    I know people go fishing that don’t live there or own land there, but they go down where there’s a public launch now for their boats, but before that just a small clearing to launch a boat.
    But some lakes are private & no one allowed to live on them, becuz they are town water supplies & such. Some lakes run into each other….we have 5 that do….there’s one bid beach at one of them for the public.
    I find that it is the Anglers Clubs & Associations that are the ones that actually protect the fish. Certainly not the gov’t. You might want to check into that & ask them.
    Let me know.

  9. ken pountney

    May 13, 2014 at 3:56 pm

    We are having a problem here in Mount Uniacke ( pentz lake ) . There was always a public access lane to the lake , but now it is chained off and no way to the lake . I read that Pentz lake is a public lake and would like to know who I can contact to try to have this access lane opened up . it was the residents who put the chain there , which I feel is illegal . Please help me do the right thing and get it opened up again .
    Thanks .

  10. Rj

    July 29, 2016 at 6:11 pm

    If you let every moron the lake it will be ruined. It’s already not as good as it was. No fish should be taken from any lake near a large population of people period. IMHO. Taking fish is a natural thing but only when your a newbie really or do you really drive three hours to get a free fish?

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