Drastic steps urged to beat fish thieves


“Ban keepnets from our rivers.” That’s the stark message being delivered by prominent figures within the sport who feel the drastic measure is needed to stop fish thieves decimating fish stocks on our rivers.

Angling Times columnist Keith Arthur is one of those pushing for the introduction of the ruling, which would give bailiffs grounds to expel anglers who break laws from fishing clubs.

The call comes after concern over the future of fish stocks in the River Wye following serious poaching problems in the Hereford area, leading some anglers to vow to take matters into their own hands.

But Keith argues that a keepnet ban is a much better short-term measure to tackle the loophole in the law which allows coarse fish to be taken in many of the country’s regions.

Any ban, he argues, could be reversed once next year’s Marine Bill is passed, when it is hoped the taking of all coarse fish will be outlawed.

“A lot of clubs cannot prevent fish poachers from joining their organisation due to discrimination laws. By implementing a law that these people break, it has grounds to remove them from the waters and the club. I’m calling on clubs to ban the use of keepnets and other methods of keeping fish, such as bags and buckets. I never use a keepnet when pleasure fishing anyway, unless I need to peg one upstream to temporarily give a barbel time to recover,” he revealed.

The manager of the Welsh International team, Eric Humphries, has seen the effects of illegal fishing on his local rivers Dee and Taff and agrees with Keith’s sentiments.
“We’ve got to look at things like this which will prevent people removing fish and also give clubs some control over what is happening. But I fear we are punishing our own anglers for problems brought in by foreign nationals. I know lots of pleasure anglers who like to use nets to admire their catch at the end of the day,” said Eric.

Chris James, chairman of Hereford AA which controls the troubled stretches of the Wye, said that catching the culprits in the act would be the biggest problem.
“On the Wye they have spotters who get on their mobile phones and spread the alarm as soon as club officials appear on the bank.

“Some fish poachers are very abusive and, as reported last week, we’ve had two incidents with knives so I have to protect my bailiffs. But Keith’s idea is something I will take to the next committee meeting, even though we introduced a rule last year prohibiting anglers from taking any coarse fish,” he said.