Poachers drill holes in ice to pilfer coarse stocks

These pictures show the extreme lengths some poachers will go to in order to take fish illegally for the pot. Five individuals are shown drilling holes in the ice to fish for perch at Rahan's Lake, County Monaghan, near the border between Eire and Northern Ireland.

Their publication comes in the same week that officials from the Loughs Agency of Ireland introduced a total ban on the removal of fish in the areas they feel have been hit hardest by poachers.

Unlike the authorities in England and Wales who, under proposed new byelaws, are set to allow the taking of up to a dozen small coarse fish a day, Loughs Agency bosses have chosen to adopt far stricter rules after surveys showed coarse stocks in the Carlingford and Foyle catchment areas ­ which border County Monaghan ­ were at an alarmingly low level.

The scheme, which will be run across all waters controlled by the organisation ­ including former world championship venue the Newry Canal, will make it illegal for anyone to remove even a single bream, carp, perch, roach, rudd or tench.

The debate has now started as to whether the new laws should be rolled out across the whole of Ireland, with some believing it is a necessity in order to preserve the country's once-legendary bream and roach fishing for the future.

Loughs Agency director of conservation and protection John McCartney said: "A survey was commissioned to check stocks in our venues and it found coarse fish ­ particularly bream ­ were in decline. We have now banned the removal of all coarse fish and anyone caught breaking these laws will be instantly prosecuted. Other organisations need to follow our lead if they want to stop national stocks deteriorating."

However, Eamonn Cusack, chief executive of the Shannon Regional Fishery Board, believes a complete ban is unnecessary. He told Angling Times: "A few years ago, bag limits were decided and these appear to be working well. Some lakes may benefit from a total ban on fish removal but, on the whole, we feel this wouldn't work because some people still eat certain species and anglers use small fish for bait. We are always reviewing the situation and we would ask anglers to contact us with their views on the issue."

However, this stance has been viewed as naive by many anglers, including Irish team manager Richard Caplice. He said: "I have personally congratulated the Loughs Agency for its decision, but this needs to be rolled out nationally. Bag limits were introduced in good faith, but the loophole needs closing. There are ruthless individuals who are slowly emptying our venues."