Environment Agency enforcement teams have been busy cracking down on illegal fishing during the first few weeks of the coarse fish close season. Officers carried out more than 380 targeted patrols and found more than 70 people fishing on waters that are off-limits.
The close season is in place to help natural fish populations spawn so it is illegal to fish during this time on rivers and some protected still waters. For example, you can’t fish for coarse fish on any river in England and Wales from 15 March to 15 June.
An additional 55 other offences were detected during these patrols, with reports issued for unlicensed fishing and illegal traps seized. Illegal fishing potentially carries a criminal conviction and a fine of up to £50,000.
Sarah Chare, Head of Fisheries at the Environment Agency, said:
We are passionate about making fisheries and angling the best it can be in England. Patrols will continue throughout the close season, and beyond, to combat all types of illegal fishing.
The vast majority of anglers who fish legally deserve to see those who flout the law brought to account. To that criminal minority our message is clear; we won’t hesitate to take action to stop illegal fishing.
This work is just one part of the Environment Agency’s work to tackle illegal fishing. In partnership with the Angling Trust, Operation Clampdown, is running nationally with 240 volunteers trained to keep watch on their local waters and report incidents. The multi-agency initiative focusing on illegal fishing during the close season is now a national operation for the first time.
More police forces are joining the partnership against illegal fishing, with Operation Leviathan covering most of western England, and Operation Traverse focusing on the east. The Environment Agency also works in partnership with the police under the overarching National Wildlife Crime Unit initiative, called Project Poacher.
There are lots of still waters and canals open for those that want to wet a line. The Environment Agency is reminding anglers aged 12 and over that a licence is required on all waters. A full rod licence costs from just £27 (concessions available). You can buy your rod licence online from the Post Office, at your local Post Office or by phoning 0344 800 5386.
Money from rod licence sales is invested in England’s fisheries, and is used to fund a wide range of projects to improve facilities for anglers including; protecting stocks from illegal fishing, disease, restoring fish stocks through restocking, eradicating invasive species, and fish habitat improvements. Rod licence money is also used to fund the Angling Trust to provide information about fishing and to encourage participation in the sport.
To help tackle unlicensed and illegal fishing the Environment Agency urges anyone to report incidents by calling the Environment Agency Incident Hotline on 0800 80 70 60 or anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
The money raised through rod licence sales is invested directly in fisheries work that benefits all anglers. The Environment Agency either spends that money directly or through their partners the Angling Trust to deliver projects to maintain and improve the health of fish and to establish an infrastructure to develop the sport of angling across England. Locally this means, protecting fish stocks through permitting and regulation.
The coarse fish close season from 15 March until 15 June, inclusive, on rivers, streams, drains, some canals and specified still waters. Information on close seasons and other byelaws can be found here. If you want to continue to fish while the coarse season is closed you can visit many stillwaters and canals, depending on landowner agreement.