Update, Feb. 10: The judge asked for a continuance until March 7. We will post an update after the ruling.
Update, Jan. 11: The judge accepted legal briefs regarding Ed Loughran's angler harassment case and heard arguments on the case. He will rule Feb. 9. We will post an update after the ruling.
HOPEWELL, Va. — If harassed or threatened, most anglers will just move to another location, even though they know they’re fishing in legal waters. A few might call local authorities to report the incident.
But Virginia’s Ed Loughran is a different kind of fisherman. He’s also an attorney. And when he steps into the Hopewell General District Court on Monday, he will be standing up for the right of all anglers to fish public waters.
“This is a matter of principle,” he said. “That’s why I’ve chased it so doggedly.”
The trial follows close on the heels of Mark Menendez pursuing and winning a case against a property owner on the St. Lawrence River who harassed him with his boat during the Evan Williams Bourbon Bassmaster Elite event in late July.
“My fellow pleaded and paid his fine,” Menendez said. “I have received hundreds of compliments by fans for pushing it through.”
The man who confronted Loughran on July 6 at the Anchor Point Marina on the Appomattox River is charged with assault, battery and impeding lawful fishing on tidal river. The Commonwealth of Virginia will present the case.
“I’m the witness,” the pro angler said. “And also a victim.”
Loughran was flipping pilings on an official practice day before the Bass Pro Shops Northern Open on the James River. He had caught a 3-pounder and had another bite when he saw a man and woman walk off a dock and along the shore toward him. The man said Loughran was on private property and not allowed to fish there.
When Loughran told him he was wrong, the man got “very agitated,” said Loughran, who added that the two men were only about 10 feet apart, with the river at low tide. Loughran said the man then grabbed a hose and began to spray the water where he was fishing, as well as his boat.
“He sprayed for a good 10 to 15 seconds before his girlfriend grabbed his arm and said that the cops were coming.”
The angler made his own call to the police as the two left, and he took a photo of their license plate, which enabled him to pursue prosecution.
“Then the marina owner comes down and says the same stuff,” Loughran said. “He said I would get a ticket for trespassing, and I said he was wrong.”
Loughran said he received little assistance from the local police.
“Bottom line is that nothing happened forever,” he said. “No one would investigate. I had to go to the magistrate. I had to press charges and swear out a warrant.
The attorney explained that any marina that puts in pilings, like those at Anchor Point, must get a permit to trespass on public waters.
“I wasn’t trespassing. I was lawfully fishing,” said Loughran, adding that the only way to create private waters in a tidal river is “to dig a hole in the bank and create a harbor.”
Because he didn’t want to provoke a controversy, Loughran didn’t return to fish the marina during the tournament.
“I barely missed the cut,” he said. “I was a 3-pounder away, and I had caught two decent fish in there. It was a little frustrating.”
Stay tuned to Bassmaster.com for updates following the Dec. 14 court date.