Loughran wins access case in Virginia

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James Overstreet

HOPEWELL, Va. — Persistence finally paid off for Virginia pro Ed Loughran on March 7, as a judge ruled in his favor and he joined Mark Menendez as a winner in access battles for fishermen.

The angler cautioned, however, that his victory in Hopewell General District Court is a qualified one, with narrow scope. It is not, he emphasized, “carte blanche for vigilante fishermen to think they know more than they do and take actions that will get them in trouble.

“That is what got the defendant in trouble in this instance, not knowing what he was talking about,” said Loughran.

But Loughran, who also is an attorney, did know what he was talking about when he was confronted and harassed as he fished near Anchor Point Marina on the Appomattox River during a practice day for the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Northern Open last fall. A man at the marina refused to accept that the pro was legally fishing and sprayed him and his boat with a hose.

“He sprayed for a good 10 to 15 seconds before his girlfriend grabbed his arm and said that the cops were coming,” the Virginia angler remembered.

As a result, Loughran filed charges of assault, battery and impeding lawful fishing on a tidal river against his harasser, and the Commonwealth of Virginia presented the case, which stretched across eight months, with five continuances.

Although he showed leniency toward the defendant, the judge ruled that no state law prohibited Loughran from fishing.

“As such, he told the defendant he was impeding my fishing by spraying water around the boat and that I was lawfully there,” Loughran said.

“This is the outcome I expected on these counts,” he added, meaning he expected no fine or jail time for the defendant. “But my mission is accomplished, a shot across the bow of the marina operator.”

Still, Loughran doesn’t want anglers across the country to think their outcomes automatically would be the same in similar situations because access laws vary. Variables include state laws, inland versus tidal, and impoundments versus natural lakes, among others.

Menendez, meanwhile, won a case against a property owner on the St. Lawrence River who harassed him with his boat during the Evan Williams Bourbon Bassmaster Elite Series event in late July 2015.

“My fellow pleaded and paid his fine,” said Menendez. “I have received hundreds of compliments for pushing it through.”