Two laws that were added to the books in this decade designed to protect the rights of hunters and anglers have done more to damage our rights than at any time since Iberville set foot on our silty soil.

The first was passed by the Legislature in 2003. This well-intentioned disaster of a bill removed the burden from landowners to post their property to indicate to the general public that it was off-limits. Indeed, the bill was designed to prevent poachers and trespassers from ripping down posted signs, hunting on obviously private land and then using the fact that there were no posted signs as a defense in court.

But a very tragic side-effect of the law has been the forfeiture of access rights for anglers in the swamps and marshes of the Bayou State. Now, any time an angler motors his boat in a marsh canal or trolls into a redfish pond, he is guilty of trespassing.

In the past, only ponds and canals that were posted were off-limits to anglers, but now, every pond and canal that's not on a wildlife management area is because there's no onus on the owner to post his desire for the public to keep out.

You know that canal you've been using to get to your favorite honeyhole all these years? You may find a sheriff's deputy waiting in it tomorrow to give you and all the other "outlaws" a ticket.

The second problematic law was actually a constitutional amendment approved by 81 percent of Louisiana voters in 2004. It guaranteed the rights of Louisiana citizens to hunt, fish and trap forever.

But prior to its approval, those who came up with the language of the amendment caved to pressure from private landowners that the amendment might be used as a defense by those caught trespassing. So they added the following line: "Nothing contained herein shall be construed to authorize the use of private property to hunt, fish or trap without the consent of the owner of the property."

That's the exact line used by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in a ruling last month that completely obliterates the rights of anglers in our state.

The ruling, written by Circuit Judge Carolyn Dineen King, states that only boaters, not anglers, have access rights to waters outside of the lowest points of the state's rivers.

Anyone who's ever spent any time on a river knows it ebbs and flows according to seasonal rainfall and snow melts up north. Well now, those rivers are accessible to anglers only if they stay between the low-water marks, even if the river is at its seasonal high point.

Want to catch spawning bass this spring? Well, tough luck.

The asinine nature of the ruling can be seen most readily in the fact that King and the two judges who agreed with her opinion decided that the restriction applied only to anglers, not boaters. Areas of the rivers up to the high-water marks are accessible by boaters, but not anglers.

King said the constitutional amendment changed the constitution to allow landowners to say who could hunt, fish or trap on their property.

"(T)he Louisiana Constitution, far from creating a private right to fish on the (p)roperty, explicitly reserves to private property owners the right to refuse consent to fishermen's entry on their land," she wrote.

King would have a hard time finding anyone who disagreed with the rights of a landowner to say who could or couldn't enter his property to do anything; the dispute isn't in regards to that. The dispute is about who owns the flowing waters of the state.

King's use of the word "land" in her decision shows she doesn't understand that.

So let me get this straight: A drop of water that falls in Minnesota, flows through Iowa, Missouri and Arkansas belongs to the American public, but as soon as that drop of water crosses into Louisiana, it is owned by a private citizen until it is spewed by the mouth of the river into the Gulf?