Illegal live baiting crack down by Irish fishery officers

Irish fisheries chiefs have this week stepped up their hard-line defence against rule-breaking anglers by including secret raids on holiday homes and guesthouses in their armoury to beat the cheats.

Last month officers in the Shannon region ­ which includes Loughs Derg and Ree ­ caught a group of French pikers using live imported carp for bait. And now they have intensified their no-nonsense approach to maintaining fishery rules, catching two English pikers illegally using live roach as bait in the same week, and raiding another holidaymaker's accommodation to check on his bait supply. In that case, no illegal bait was discovered, but the swoop sends out a clear message that the bailiffs are 'on-the-case'.

As well as policing waters against the high-profile removal of stocks by Eastern Europeans, the fishery officers are clamping down on tourists flouting new regulations.

Minor offences ­ like the two recent roach livebait misdemeanours ­saw 90 Euro on-the-spot fines meted out in a bid to keep low-profile cheating away from the cluttered courts.

But more significant flouting of the laws ­ like those that threaten the ecology of a water through the movement of species such as carp, chub and dace ­will be directed to a higher level, where substantial fines and even prison sentences can be handed out.

Eamon Cusak, CEO of the Shannon Regional Fisheries Board, said: "It is correct to say patrols are intensifying as we police new regulations regarding coarse fish. Under our powers, we are at liberty to board boats or enter holiday accommodation to ensure nothing illegal is being carried out." There are currently 50 field staff in the Shannon region covering loughs and rivers, with up to eight operational boats.

The high-speed RIB boat, seen recently on Derg, has also apprehended large cruisers rented by European fishermen and discovered dead pike onboard.

However Mr Cusak warned that a similar focus would be placed on waters such as Ree during Mayfly season, in the Leitrim area around September, and the Suck Valley in winter.

"The team is mobile and the question of where we will focus our efforts depends on where angling is the busiest," added Mr Cusack.