What is a Private Waterbody?

August 11, 2020

By WLPR Staff

Have you ever wondered what defines public vs private when it comes to water? Do I need a permit to fish, or swim in my waterbody?

Ponds vs Lakes

Private ponds are a great way to have your own backyard paradise. Ponds come in all shapes and sizes and are often man-made using synthetic liners, sand, gravel, and other natural materials to look aesthetically pleasing. They are the main focal point for homeowners to gather with family, friends, and the furry 4 legged. Many ponds throughout the state are on private property and require permission to fish or recreate.

What makes them private?

Private Lakes are larger bodies of water owned solely by riparian owners. Private lakes may often come with private rules; things like boating hours, motorboat prohibitions, wake times, and fishing restrictions. They also require permission to recreate from the riparian owners, Lake District, homeowners association, etc.

In the state of Wisconsin, all water bodies are deemed public. But, to determine what makes waterbodies private depends on public access. If there are no public boat launches or carry- in areas, these waters are private. Landowners with a pond or living on a lake have the right to utilize the water because they own the land below or around it.

Wouldn’t it be awesome to never have to worry about a waterbody being public or private again? It might be more possible than you think! Talk to our experts to find out how you can build a pond in your own backyard. Or, to find out more on a specific lake, check out Wisconsin’s DNR lake database.

Please respect Wisconsin waters and landowners’ rights and be sure to do your research before going out and wetting your line!