Rod licence blitz by the Environment Agency has seen offence reports issued to anglers unable to demonstrate a valid licence.
The clampdown on illegal fishing across Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire saw 362 checks to waters and 50 offence reports handed in Lincolnshire and 193 checks to waters and 21 offence reports handed in Northamptonshire.
The coarse fishing ‘close season’ – which runs from 15 March to 15 June inclusive – is when coarse angling is suspended on rivers, streams, and specified canals and stillwaters to protect spawning fish.
Environment Agency enforcement teams carried their clampdown on illegal fishing from the start of close season (15 March) to the middle of June. Patrols focused on a range of illegal fishing – including close season offences and fishing without a valid rod licence.
During one of these checks at Langdale Lake in Lincoln an incident proved that anglers should have their licences up to date even when not fishing: an angler was measuring the depths of waters while an enforcement officer was enquiring about his licence and the angler accidentally caught a pike! Luckily his licence did check out too.
The maximum fine for fishing without a licence is £2,500 – and an annual licence costs just £27.
Sarah Chare, Environment Agency head of fisheries, said:
Our enforcement teams have been in out in force – particularly over the last couple of bank holidays – and will continue to be over the coming months. The number of anglers caught red-handed is testament to how seriously we take illegal fishing but worryingly it shows a blatant disregard for the law and the health of fisheries.
People who don’t buy a licence are not only cheating other anglers and the future of the sport but running the risk of criminal conviction and a fine. There is no excuse – it costs just £27 for a whole year and you can buy it from the Post Office website.
The Environment Agency’s work is intelligence-led, meaning that work is targeted on areas where there are reports of evasion or are known illegal hotspots.
Nationally, last year (2014/2015), Environment Agency officers checked more than 70,000 licences and prosecuted more than 2,100 licence cheats. Between them, they were ordered to pay fines and costs in excess of £500,000. To help crack down on unlicensed fishing the Environment Agency urges anyone to report illegal activity by calling 0800 80 70 60.
Money raised from rod licence sales is invested in England’s fisheries, including a wide range of projects to improve facilities for anglers, manage predation, protect stocks from illegal fishing, plus fish restocking, invasive species eradication, habitat improvements, and working with partners to encourage people to take-up fishing for the first time.
Annual rod licences for trout and coarse fishing remain at £5 for 12 to 16 year olds, £18 for senior and disabled concessions and £27 for non-concessions. Children under 12 can fish for free. Buying a licence online from the Post Office website saves time and administration costs, which means more of the income can be spent on improving fish stocks and fishing.