An angler has been handed one of the biggest fines in the history of the sport after being caught with his fishing rods spaced 50m apart.
Matthew Collins, from Hertford, was ordered to pay £1,027 in fines and costs after Environment Agency bailiffs found him targeting pike in an out-of-bounds area of Norfolk’s Stoke Ferry Cut-Off Channel last December, and “using rods and lines in such a way as to cause harm to fish.”
By law, anglers using more than one rod must ensure the distance between them does not exceed 3m. However, when EA officials measured the distance between Collins’ rod butts they found it was more than 15 times the legal limit. A second angler, Thomas Coombes, also from Hertford, was fined £250 for the same two offences and ordered to pay £127 costs. Both men pleaded guilty to the charges at King’s Lynn Magistrates’ Court.
The case has divided the pike-fishing community. While some believe the authorities were justified in making an example of the two anglers, others feel the legal limit of 3m is simply too short and should be reviewed.
EA bailiff Mick Robinson, who dealt with the case, said: “These people were fishing in an area where it is clearly signposted that no fishing is allowed. To add to this, they were using rods and lines in a way that could have left fish struggling on a hook for some time. I am very pleased with this result and hope it will make anglers fish in a responsible manner.”
One man who believes the severity of the fine will force some anglers to clean up their act is well-known piker Gord Burton.
He claims the law regarding the spacing of rods is regularly flouted.
“Fifty metres is taking the mickey – there’s no way you can see a float at that distance. It only takes a few seconds for a pike to swallow the bait and be deep-hooked, which can be fatal,” said Gord.
“The size of the fine will serve as an eye-opener to a lot of pikers, because excessively spreading rods out along the bank is quite common practice. If the EA went around the country it would find hundreds of anglers breaking the law in this way on any given day during the busy winter period.”
While he was quick to condemn the actions of the anglers on the Cut-Off Channel, former pike record-holder Neville Fickling believes the limit of 3m between rod butts is a little on the skinny side, regardless of what species is being targeted.
“These guys were asking for trouble by blatantly breaking the law on two fronts, so must face the consequences. We all know what the rules are, whether or not we agree with them. I believe the 3m rule is unreasonable. I think you can safely have your rods slightly further apart. Tactics-wise, sometimes the situation calls for it, such as when fishing either side of a tree, or for species such as catfish, where having the rods side by side can lead to tangles. If I were to set my rods 10m apart, and sit in the middle with my remote alarm receiver unit, there’s no way the rods wouldn’t be fully under my control,” said Neville.