Four fishermen were probably wishing they bought rod licences after the penalties they landed far outweighed the cost of fishing legally.
Three Bristol men, proved guilty in their absence, were ordered to pay over 22 times the cost of an annual licence. A fourth man plead guilty and was ordered to pay nearly 17 times the cost of a full licence. The cases were brought by the Environment Agency.
Thomas Chitson, 26, of Hanham Road, Bristol, and Ollie Hussey, 18, of Cock Road, Bristol, were caught fishing at Acorn Fishery in Clevedon without rod licences on 8 October, 2015. With costs, each was ordered to pay £611.
Wesley White, 31, and James Thomas, 28, both of Bath Road, Thornbury, were caught fishing without rod licences at Plantation Lakes, Kingston Seymour, on 8 October, 2015. With costs, White was ordered to pay £611 and Thomas, who plead guilty, was ordered to pay £451 in total.
Chitson, Hussey and White were proved guilty in absence.
Following the verdict, an Environment Agency spokesman said:
“Money raised from rod licence sales is used to protect and improve fish stocks and fisheries, benefiting all anglers. We hope that this case will provide yet another deterrent for any angler thinking of fishing illegally.”
As well as cheating other anglers, fishing illegally can carry a hefty penalty. Getting caught without an appropriate licence could land you with a criminal conviction, a fine of up to £2,500 and up to £50,000 for byelaw offences.
Last year, in England the Environment Agency checked over 62,000 rod licences and prosecuted more than 1900 anglers for rod and line offences resulting in fines and costs in excess of £500,000.
Anyone with information about illegal fishing activities can contact the Environment Agency incident hotline on 0800 80 70 60 or anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
Why you need a rod licence and how to get one can be found at https://www.gov.uk/fishing-licences/when-you-need-a-licence.
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Notes for editors
• All defendants faced a single charge of fishing in a place where fishing is regulated and fished for freshwater fish or eels by means of an unlicensed fishing instrument, namely rod and line. Contrary to Section 27(1)(a) of the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Act 1975.
• 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 runs until the 16 June on rivers, streams, drains, some canals and specified stillwaters. Information on close seasons and other byelaws can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/freshwater-rod-fishing-rules/overview If you want to continue to fish while the coarse season is closed you can visit many stillwaters and canals, depending on landowner agreement.