Of the anglers checked for a valid licence, 965 were fishing illegally and could face a court appearance and a substantial fine. A recent penalty was more than £800, when an annual licence costs just £27.
May falls within the coarse fishing ‘close season’ – which runs from 15 March to 15 June – when coarse angling is suspended on rivers and a few canals and lakes in order to allow coarse fish to breed.
While some licence cheats were also fishing rivers during the close season, the majority were caught on stillwaters where fishing is still allowed during these months.
One Environment Agency enforcement officer reported an angler for fishing with three rods on one licence (each licence covers up to two rods). The angler was particularly aggressive because he had been caught in the same place for the same offence last year.
In another case an angler gave a false identity and nearly ended up being arrested. The following day the same angler was checked at a different fishery but had subsequently bought two valid rod licences. What’s more, he was fishing with several other anglers and had informed them that the bailiffs were about – his fellow anglers told the officer they had been tempted to fish without a licence but, on the advice of their friend, had bought one that morning online.
Sarah Chare, head of fisheries at the Environment Agency, said:
The number of anglers caught red-handed is testament to the hard work of our enforcement teams. But worryingly it still shows a blatant disregard for fisheries and the environment. People who don’t buy a licence are cheating other anglers and the future of the sport. The Environment Agency relies on the income from rod licences to continue the important work we do to protect fish stocks, improve fisheries and encourage more people to take up fishing.
If you are caught fishing without a rod licence you risk a criminal conviction and a fine. There is no excuse – it costs just £27 for a whole year and is easy to buy from the Post Office website.
In addition to the Environment Agency’s rod licence enforcement work, which focused mainly on stillwaters, Angling Trust voluntary bailiffs were also patrolling rivers to detect and report any close season and other fisheries offences. Environment Agency officers were able to respond to their reports and all the intelligence information gathered will help inform future enforcement patrols – they will know who is likely to be fishing illegally when and where.
Last year, Environment Agency officers checked more than 70,000 licences and prosecuted more than 2,800 licence cheats. Between them, they were ordered to pay fines and costs in excess of £600,000. 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 reinvested in the environment, including a whole range of projects to improve facilities for anglers, protect stocks from illegal fishing, plus fish restocking, invasive species eradication, 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.
Rod licence prices have remained unchanged for the last 4 consecutive years.
More on rod licences and how to buy one here or direct from the Post Office
Anglers can also buy a rod licence by calling the Post Office on 0344 800 5386 or by visiting any Post Office branch.
Alternatively, you can buy your licence through the Angling Trust’s mobile-configured website. Whether at home or on the move, anglers can use this new website to get details of thousands of fisheries, tackle shops, clubs and coaches, plus all the latest angling weather and river levels.