Rod licence evasion is at a record low, Angling Times can reveal. At a time when more licences are being sold than ever, figures obtained from the Environment Agency show that the nation’s fishermen are cleaning up their act.
Improved bailiffing policies and awareness of regional ‘hotspots’ favoured by illegal anglers have been cited by the Agency as being central to the lower evasion rates, with all regions of the country showing fewer offenders, apart from the Thames area, which continues to be blighted by licence-dodgers.
The EA’s fisheries policy manager, Heidi Stone, revealed how bailiff teams have gradually wised up to the movements of poachers: “Officers used to check every water in their jurisdiction at least once or twice a year, including club venues, but we found that many of these places had a zero evasion rate.
“We now concentrate our efforts on known hotspots which we have identified through a combination of public information and our own patrols. This greater efficiency means that we will be able to invest more time and money on helping clubs and anglers, as well as improving fisheries – which is surely better,” she said.
Interestingly, the area of the country with the highest population of Eastern European immigrants – East Anglia – showed a dramatic 49 per cent fall in licence dodgers. And, in an extra boost to the sport, officials have also revealed that 11 per cent more prosecutions against licence evaders now end in victory, with convictions against anglers in the Midlands showing the largest rise at 29 per cent.
Despite the impressive results, Angling Times readers remain divided on the issue of whether the EA is finally getting to grips with the problem of licence evasion.
Liam Hutton, from Wolverhampton, believes that the situation has improved markedly in the past few years.
“I haven’t been fishing for that long, but I got my licence checked a couple of weeks ago at a local water. I’ve got friends who have had the same happen to them too recently, after many years without seeing a bailiff. Seeking out the dodgers is a good use of our money,” he said.
However, fellow Angling Times reader Tony Weale, from Essex, is yet to be convinced.
He said: “I’ve been fishing since I was a kid and I’ve never been asked to produce my licence – not once, which proves there is still a long way to go before our waters are policed properly.”