Private Waters Versus Public Waters: Management, Analysis and Sustainability
Eugene P. Macri Jr.

Private Trout Waters Conewago Creek at Private Wates Versus Public Waters at 


Private waters whether they are trout streams or bass lakes etc. can be managed in much more scientific way if desired by the owners or leaser. What I have learned over the years is that when such waters are managed in a scientific manner that even smaller less rich streams can become tremendous aquatic ecosystems and fisheries. You can tweak and manage such systems much easier than public waters. Private waters can be managed in a precise manner that benefits your goals.  If your goals are hatchery fish I have no problem with that. If your goals are wild trout and you have a system that supports such a fishery then it can be accomplished much easier than a state stream.

Itchen River England; Famed Chalk Stream at Private Waters Versus Public at

Private Waters and Navigable Streams 

It should be noted that most private waters tend to be smaller streams especially in the East. Why?  Because most laws that were written addressed whether a stream or river was navigable. In other words, was it used for commerce in some way that allowed the moving of logs, boats etc. If it was navigable by state laws then seldom can it be private.  On smaller streams the owners of the land actually own the stream bottom.  Each state is different but most of the time this is the way it's interpreted.  There is quite a bit of misunderstanding about the birth of fly fishing and our environmental ethos.  Modern fly fishing for the most part began in Europe, mainly England.  These waters of ancient lore and literature were private sections of the famed Chalk Streams of Europe.  In America the environmental ethos that some of us hold so dear was actually an outgrowth of private waters by Teddy Roosevelt and his friends at the North Eastern Hunting and Fishing Clubs.  Roosevelt and his friends pushed for National Parks and protection of the environment which many people don't realize. This movement grew from private waters not public ones!

A section of the Private Waters of the Avon, an English Chalk Stream at Private Waters versus Public Waters at

Private Waters and How They Are Managed

Not all private waters are managed properly. Once again this depends upon the philosophy of the management and members.  Too many chefs spoil the soup is true in the kitchen as well as stream management.  Some private waters are managed for big hatchery trout for members who can't catch wild fish.  I don't have a problem with it.  It is what it is!  This is similar to streams and rivers that are heavily stocked but are catch and release.  They serve the purpose that they were intended to. However, wild trout fisheries often bring a higher price and better long term membership for a club or group.

A Fly Angler fishes for wild trout on the Conewago Creek in Pennsylvania at

Also, there is the ongoing debate of stocked versus wild trout and what affect it has on the fishery. In England and other places a law has been passed to protect the native stocks (especially brown trout, Salmo trutta). The law which goes into effect I believe by 2015 only allows the stocking of triploid female brown trout in streams with native populations.  These trout are unable to reproduce and therefore, will not impact the gene pool by reproduction.  Studies have shown that these triploids also have slightly higher rates of survival than regular stocked diploid trout.

Private Waters Should Be Tested and Studied Before Utilization by Clubs

This seems like it should be common sense but it's not. Chemical and benthological studies should be done prior to  putting money in a stream, lake or pond.  This will give you some idea what you can expect.  There have been many failures and wasted small fortunes by some so called "entrepreneurs" who thought they were going to make it big by acquiring private waters and stocking them without understanding the stream ecology.  In one instance the guy failed to understand water temperature and all his trout bit the bullet or moved out with the heat of summer. Also, the number of members, time on the stream etc. all make a difference in the quality of the fishery.

There are some good lessons on private waters that can be applied to public streams and the first is to realize what you have and manage accordingly.  Don't paint every stream with that wide agency brush and do some real research.



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