Anglers are being reminded that fishing for coarse fish in rivers is off limits until next month and anyone caught fishing illegally can expect to be prosecuted and face a fine.
The three-month break – from Sunday 15 March to Monday 15 June – is designed to protect breeding fish.
The Environment Agency team will also be ensuring those fishing the many lakes, rivers, ponds and canals where coarse fishing is still allowed have a valid rod licence.
And they’ll be on the look-out for those using illegal baits, banned methods of fishing and fishing in prohibited areas – such as that underneath Framwellgate Weir in Durham.
The Environment Agency’s Kevin Summerson said: “The close season on our rivers is important to maintain healthy stocks, as it allows fish time to breed and spawn.
“During this time fisheries enforcement officers have been carrying out regular patrols of our region’s rivers.
“Over this coming Bank Holiday weekend we’ll be out and about making checks to make sure angers aren’t fishing illegally.
“With migratory fish now returning to our rivers we’ll be paying particular attention to the prohibited areas below weirs and dams.”
It’s a crime to fish without a valid licence and offenders could be fined up to £2,500, have their fishing equipment seized and be banned from fishing. Fishing during the close season, using banned baits and fishing in prohibited areas attracts a fine of up to £50,000.
Over the past six weeks Fisheries Enforcement Officers have checked 1,213 licensed anglers with a further 42 reported for unlicensed fishing.
Using intelligence they’ve carried out 49 patrols specifically aimed at targeting those who fish during the close season, with 17 byelaw offences detected and dealt with.
Kevin added: “All the money from rod licence sales goes straight back into maintaining fisheries so those people who fish without a rod licence are having a direct effect on our work.
“It’s unacceptable to fish without first buying a licence, and we’ll continue to work with angling groups and the police to target areas where illegal activity is high.”
At £27 for coarse fishing and non-migratory trout, or £72 to also fish for salmon and sea trout, the annual licence is great value for money.
There are flexible options to choose from too: a one or eight day licence or the full season. And there are also junior and concession options as well to ensure value for money fishing for the whole family.
You can buy a rod licence online from the Post Office, at your local Post Office or by phoning 0870 166 2662, or online.
Environment Agency officers routinely carry out licence checks and anyone with information about illegal fishing activities is urged to report it via the Environment Agency’s Incident Hotline on 0800 80 70 60 or anonymously to independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.