Sucker River Angler Access - NO MORE!?

Sucker River Access is in Jeopardy!
Are you aware that the access paths from the parking lot at Scenic Highway 61 to the downstream portion below the culvert to the mouth of the Sucker River lies within private property?  If not, you should be: The paths, the wooded area on both sides of the path, the stream bank and the water to the center-line of the river is private property; you read that right, private property on both sides to the center of the river bed. Though there is an angler easement on upper stretches of the Sucker River, there is no angler easement from scenic HWY 61 downstream to the lake.

On April 19th, 2017, the Board of Directors of Minnesota Steelheader received a call from DNR Fisheries Area Supervisor Cory Goldsworthy informing us that the landowners along left-hand side of the Sucker River looking downstream had stopped by the Fisheries Office with a message: Access to all foot traffic will be legally closed.  Knowing that Minnesota Steelheader was planning on conducting our annual River Clean-Up as part of the DNR's Adopt-A-River program along this area of river, he felt we should be aware of the situation and may want to reach out to the Landowners personally.

The Board of Minnesota Steelheader immediately reached out to the landowners, and although they were not available at the time of the call, they did graciously return our call that evening. During this 40 minute conversation, they expressed their concerns and frustrations in disturbing detail: Litter, vandalism, theft and blatant disrespect of the land and land-owner rights by a few anglers. They also shared their planned recourse: legally closing access to the river through their rights as private property owners.

Clearly unsettled and disappointed about what they had been witnessing as of late, they acknowledged that, “It is likely that only a few bad apples are responsible for the problems”, but they are at wits end and prepared to close off access to all angler foot traffic along the noted section of the Sucker River. 

This news was disappointing to hear, not because a land owner wants to close off access, but because the disrespectful folks out there are fellow anglers. We should all be good stewards regardless; we should know better, we DO know better. There is no excuse.

It must be noted that the landowners were far from unpleasant during our conversation. They support respectful anglers and enjoy sharing their property with us.  Minnesota Steelheader has formed a wonderful relationship of mutual respect with them over the years, and plan on continuing our Sucker River stewardship through the Adopt-a-River program.

 Our conversation with the landowners ended with many kind words exchanged from both sides. They stated that before the phone call, they were planning on closing off their property to angler access to the Sucker River with strict enforcement effective Thursday morning, April 20th 2017.  Minnesota Steelheader's proposed solution of support and a commitment to reach out to our friends and followers in the angling community halted their decision to close off access for the immediate future.

 As for the future well, this is where YOU come in.  This is where WE come in.  If you are still reading this, you are likely a Minnesota Steelheader volunteer or follower who supports our mission of conserving the Lake Superior steelhead fishery of Minnesota's North Shore through informing, inspiring, and educating on the water, on-line and in our communities.  We need to band together as anglers, as good stewards of all our rivers, shores and private property access points and call out those who are misusing these wonderful resources, especially at the Sucker River.

If you prefer not to respectfully confront another angler, gather what information you can: Photos, video, descriptions and other details, then report that information to DNR Enforcement.  Let your angling friends know they are on the brink of losing a long-standing, wonderful fishing area as a result of the abuse and criminal behavior of a few selfish jack-wagons. 

DNR Conservation Officers are aware of this issue and will be closely monitoring the Sucker River access areas and anglers.  The next time you are wading the waters of the Sucker River and notice someone being careless with trash, violating the property owner's rights or observe criminal behavior, know that they could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back – for all of us.

You are all welcome and encouraged to stop by and say hello next Saturday (April 29th, 8am – 10:30am) as we once again clean up the Sucker River.  The landowners will be joining us and providing muffins and hot coffee for all the volunteers, tell them how much you appreciate their generosity in allowing public access to the Sucker River and your commitment to making sure that they have no reason to regret that generosity going forward.  

Here are some facts related to land owner rights.  This is taken directly from the MN DNR.  A link is also provided HERE

Who owns the bed of a lake, marsh, or watercourse?
When a waterbasin or watercourse is navigable under the federal test, the State of Minnesota owns the bed below the natural ordinary low water level [see Minnesota Statute 84-032; Lamprey v. State, 52 Minn. 1981, 53 N.W. 1139 (1983) and United States v. Holt State Bank, 270 U.S. 49 (1926)].

The federal test used for navigability is “when they are used, or are susceptible of being used, in their natural and ordinary condition, as highways for commerce, over which trade or travel are or may be conducted.” [See State v. Longyear Holding Co., 224 Minn. 451, 29 N.W. 2d 657 (1947).] If a court has found that a lake is non-navigable and meandered, the shoreland owners own the bed of the lake in severalty. [See Schmidt v. Marschel, 211 Minn. 543, 2d 121 (1942).] If a stream is non-navigable but has been meandered, the shoreland owners own to the thread (centerline) of the stream. If a lake or stream is non-navigable and not meandered, ownership of the bed is as indicated on individual property deeds 


Rich Dowd said…
I caught my first steelhead in the sucker in 1975 at age 14, my dad would take me there a few times a year until I was able to drive myself. It's a crying shame that a few disrespectful people ruin it for the rest. I can see the land owners point, I would be tired of it too.
BobWhite said…
... and that's how responsible anglers deal with landowners.

Well done, folks!

Unknown said…
Thank you from a cities angler who has enjoyed the "sucker hole" for the last 5 years. I hope that this stretch of river remains open and everyone does their part on keeping our rivers and this particular section of private land and access open for years to come.
Anonymous said…
Those landowners deserve a hearty thank you! Without landowners who graciously allow access and care about fish and wildlife we would not have the bounty of habitat that we all need. For water quality habitat and places to recreate and to renew our sense of nature we are grateful for private and generous landowners!
Unknown said…
I had a very special moment happen with my brother 5 years ago around this time on the Sucker. We saw a big fish swim under a rock so we decided to film it with our gopro, , when we later examined the footage we found out it was a big steelhead!! Since that day I've been inspired to fly fish for steelheads every spring! The Sucker is a very special place to me. Whenever I drive up the shore I make sure to stop there and walk to the lake and gaze upon its beauty.

That being said, I will gladly spread the word to fellow anglers and sight see-ers, pick up any trash I see there, and notify DNR and this community of any misuse of the land.

Iceguy said…
It breaks my heart to hear that one of my favorite streams is in jeopardy of closing because a few bad characters disrespect for private property. I would like to thank the owners of the property for allowing access to this beautiful river as long as they have.
I'm broken hearted that access to this beautiful stream is in jeopardy of closing because a few bad characters disrespect for private property. I would like to personally thank the owners of the property for allowing access to this beautiful river as long as they have. Remember access to this river is a gift not a right
Unknown said…
It's as simple as pack it in and pack it out! Really simple...a! And don't tread and disrespect people's private property who are actually giving all a unique and special opportunity for enjoying the great outdoors...
Anonymous said…
When I was there, I didn't see much trash. By the mouth I found a plastic container that I assume spawn was in. I grabbed it. Either way, we need to do a better job. Maybe police our cigarette butts and yarn pieces a little better. That's what I noticed. I did notice a lot of yarn pieces.
Ruser said…
My son and I learned to flyfish for steelhead together starting 7 or 8 years ago. As we explored the north shore the Sucker became one of our favorite destinations-that stream stole our hearts. We always stop there to fish, whether we see fish or not, we do it just to BE there! Last year we had a day on the sucker that is one of our top 2 fishing days. We took nothing but pictures and left only foot prints. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to the land owners for allowing us to create life long memories through their generosity in sharing this treasure with us.
It angers me to read that some would disrespect this treasure. I will stop there, my blood pressure is already going up.
If the landowners are reading these posts, THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart! Whether you allow access or close it. Thank you!
Mike Swan said…
Appreciate you guys taking the time to call, and for the cleanup effort. I live in the cities and make it up there usually once a year in the hope of catching a fish and losing ANY place to fish along the shoreline is a real drag as competition is fierce for a spot to go. Thanks!

NMF said…

We passed your kind words along to the landowners. Thank you!

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