Anglers in Northumberland, Durham and Teesside are being reminded that the coarse fish close season is in operation, as enforcement officers cast their net on illegal fishing.
Since the close season began on 16 March, Environment Agency fisheries enforcement officers have caught 11 people breaking the law.
This seasonal blitz on illegal fishing will be stepped up over the coming Bank Holiday weekends, covering commercial and non-commercial waters, to ensure that anglers have a valid licence and are compliant with national and local bye laws.
The maximum fine for fishing during the close season is £50,000; anyone caught doing so may be prosecuted.
Kevin Summerson, special enforcement team leader at the Environment Agency, said:
This is an important period for us. The close season in our rivers is important to allow the fish time to breed and spawn and so maintain a healthy stock of fish.
We use intelligence gathered previously to indicate the locations where anglers are likely to be fishing illegally, and we concentrated our efforts towards those areas.
This allows us to free up resources to carry out further work with partners at fisheries so we can carry out more checks than would normally be possible.
All the money from rod licences goes straight back into trout and freshwater fisheries. People who fish without a rod licence are having a direct effect on the work we can deliver. Anglers caught fishing without a rod licence face a maximum fine of £2,500, and bye-law offences now carry a maximum fine of £50,000.
We shall continue to target those waters where evasion and illegal activity is high and look to expanding our partnership working to deliver more for the environment.
Anyone who suspects illegal fishing to be taking place should report the matter to the Environment Agency’s incident hotline, on 0800 807060.