As the Easter weekend approaches the Environment Agency is reminding anglers that they must have a valid rod licence and only fish where they are allowed during the close season.
Two men have been handed hefty court fines for fishing illegally in separate offences at Manor Farm Lakes, Northill.
They were caught in May last year fishing without a rod licence during targeted patrols by Environment Agency fisheries enforcement officers.
Jay John Whitbread, 22, of Church Lane, Bedford, was caught fishing without a licence at the same location on two separate occasions and both cases were heard together at court. He was fined £657, and ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £30 and £127 costs. A total of £814.
Liam Knight, 27, of Westmill Lane, Hitchin, was also caught fishing without a licence. He was fined £293, and ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £30 and £127 costs. A total of £450.
The defendants both pleaded guilty to Luton Magistrates Court on 6 March.
Environment Agency officer Kye Jerrom said: “It’s a crime to fish without a valid licence and offenders could be fined up to £2,500, have their fishing equipment seized and be banned from fishing. Our enforcement officers inspect rod licences throughout East Anglia and could turn up at any time.
“All income from rod licence sales is invested directly back into maintaining and improving fisheries. Those who fish without a rod licence are having a direct effect on that work and are selling other anglers short. At £30 for a 2 rod coarse and non-migratory trout license, or £82 to also fish for salmon and sea trout, and short term options available too, the rod licence is great value for money”.
Anglers are being reminded that fishing for coarse fish in rivers is off limits until 16 June and anyone caught can expect to be prosecuted and face a fine. The three-month break began 15 March and ends 15 June.
The close season on rivers is important to maintain healthy fish stocks, as it allows fish time to breed as well as giving other waterside wildlife the same break. During this time fisheries enforcement officers will be carrying out regular patrols of rivers with partners under OPERATION CLAMPDOWN.
OPERATION CLAMPDOWN is a joint Environment Agency, Police and Angling Trust - Voluntary Bailiff Service enforcement strategy run throughout the closed season. It ensures reactive and planned enforcement activity prevents illegal fishing on lakes, rivers, ponds and canals where coarse fishing is allowed. Officers will be ensuring all anglers have a valid rod licence, and they will also be on the look-out for those using illegal baits, banned methods of fishing and fishing in prohibited areas.
Buying a rod licence is quick and easy - either online at www.gov.uk – the only site you need, or from the Post Office.
The Environment Agency urges anyone to report illegal fishing by calling 0800 80 70 60.