Legal Fund to Fight Trotlines in TN's Moving Water

We need your help to support the legal fund to fight the criminal charges that have been levied against Scott Fisher, a former Ranger-qualified Army Officer, for cutting a trotline on the Lower Nolichucky River over Memorial Day weekend in an effort to keep people safe. The fund will also support the lobbying effort to get the trotline regulations changed in Tennessee so that it is no longer legal to run a trotline from bank to bank across moving water. Any remaining funds will be donated to the American Canoe Association and American Whitewater for paddler advocacy initiatives.
Over Memorial Day weekend, Scott Fisher, founder of the Nolichucky Outdoor Learning Institute, was leading a whitewater kayaking instructor class on the Lower Nolichucky River in the company of 2 of ACA's leading whitewater safety and rescue educators, Robin Pope and Tom Burroughs. While paddling down this heavily travelled stretch of entry level whitewater, one of the students/Instructor Candidates briefly became entangled in a fishing line with an exposed hook in moving water. This paddler was highly skilled and had the wherewithal to disentangle himself from the line, but less skilled paddlers might not have been so lucky.
Upon examination, the group realized that a trotline with numerous, large  hooks evenly spaced along its length had been set bank to bank across this popular section of river (which is also the county's most well known tourist destination) on a holiday weekend. The trotline appeared to be unmarked in any way and presented an imminent hazard to anyone traveling downstream. The group removed the hazard and were later confronted by a group of fishermen on river right, and confronted again later by additional parties who blocked the instructors' vehicles at the take out and would not move their cars until law enforcement was called.
At the time, TWRA investigated and turned the case over to the local District Attorney's office in Erwin, TN. Within a few weeks, the TWRA Officer called Scott and told him the Assistant District Attorney, Todd Hull, had declined to press charges because any reasonable person would cut a line that had already entangled themselves or their student.
This week, Scott received a different call from the TWRA Officer, asking him to turn himself in to the local sheriff for fingerprinting and processing. It seems that somewhere along the way the DA had changed his mind, called a grand jury, and decided to press criminal charges against Scott Fisher for interfering with fishing by cutting the trotline. No charges are being pressed against the person who deliberately created the hazard on a navigable waterway on a holiday weekend.
This group of paddlers was not just any random group of whitewater paddlers. Included in the group were 2 of the top 5 ACA Whitewater Safety and Rescue educators in the nation in addition to Fisher, who ranks among the Top 15 ACA Whitewater Safety and Rescue educators in the nation.
Robin Pope
President of the Board of the American Canoe Association
Division Chief, US Coast Guard Auxiliary, Paddlecraft Safety Division
Member, National Boating Safety Advisory Committee
L5 Advanced Swiftwater Rescue Instructor Trainer Educator as well as Secretary and Past Chair of the ACA Safety & Rescue Discipline Committee
Contributing Author, National Association of State Boating Law Administrators Guide for Multiple Use Waterway Management (Third Edition)
Tom Burroughs
ITRA Level 3V Swiftwater Rescue Instructor
NREMT/EMY-W/MPIC Wilderness Medicine Instructor
Team Leader, Washington County, AR Search and Rescue Team
ACA L5 Advanced Swiftwater Rescue Instructor Trainer Educator/L4 Whitewater Kayaking Instructor Trainer/L4 Whitewater Rafting Instructor Trainer
Director, Ozark Safety and Rescue Educators
Scott Fisher
Founder, Nolichucky Outdoor Learning Institute
ACA L5 Advanced Swiftwater Rescue Instructor Trainer/L5 Whitewater Kayaking Instructor
Former US Army Airborne Ranger qualified officer assigned to the 101st Airborne
Scott has already received an official statement of support from :
Charlie Walbridge
Board Member, American Whitewater
American Whitewater Safety Editor and Manager of the AW Paddling Accident Database
This GoFundMe campaign has zero interest in vilifying the fishermen with whom we, as paddlers, share our waterways. In fact, the eye witnesses to this event are among the most supportive of all ACA leaders in trying to help facilitate good river relationships and extend ACA Safety and Rescue training to anglers. The last thing any of us need -- paddlers or fishermen -- is a legal precedent that indicates it is just fine for a rogue fisherman to create a hazard across a heavily traveled section of a whitewater river and making it illegal for a trained rescue instructor to remove the hazard. It is in our collective best interests as outdoor enthusiasts to change the Tennessee regulation to more closely mirror the North Carolina regulation that requires a trotline be set parallel to the shore. Our only interest is in getting the charges against Scott dropped, his record expunged, and the Tennessee regulation changed to reflect a responsible attitude toward the safety of all parties enjoying the river.

Click here to send an email to TWRA Commissioners to ask them to change the trotline regulation to more closely mirror North Carolina's regulation.

Send an email to TWRA 


WJHL Trotline Trouble Kayaker Facing Charges Says Trotline Was Cut For Safety Reasons 
Johnson City Press NOLI Owner Charged After Cutting Trotline in May 
Johnson City Press As Outdoor Tourism Grows Communication Key for Avoiding Conflict 
Johnson City Press Charlie Walbridge Letter to the Editor 

Donations (181)

  • Kristin Smith
    • $20 
    • 2 yrs
  • Francesca Hartop
    • $251 
    • 2 yrs
  • Frances Scarborough
    • $100 
    • 2 yrs
  • Anonymous
    • $30 
    • 2 yrs
  • Marielle Charette
    • $30 
    • 2 yrs

Organizer and beneficiary

Andrea White
Mount Juliet, TN
Thomas Fisher

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