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Clamping down on illegal fishing

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Fisheries and biodiversity

One of the questions we get asked a lot is "where does my rod licence money go?"

Darren Wakenell, is one of our bailiffs. Here he explains more about his role.

Fisheries enforcement officer
Fisheries enforcement officer


I've been a fisheries enforcement officer for 13 years and it’s a job I'm both proud to do and enjoy. I love working outdoors (in all weather) and being an angler myself I'm lucky to be working in a job I care so much about.

I've seen lots of different evasion ‘techniques’ over the years from someone eating a licence in front of me to someone running away with their brand new chair but leaving all their equipment. A lot has changed since I've been doing this job; it's not just about rod licence‎ checking and close season patrols any more. We work much more closely with police and local authorities in joint operations and are trained in specialist areas such as mobile and rural surveillance. These skills are crucial when we receive reports of fish theft, illegal nettings and traps. It's not a 9 to 5 job – we work evenings and nights trying to catch offenders.

Being seen by anglers in a big part of the job – anglers pay their money for the rod licence and deserve to see us out and about. We often hear complaints that it's the first time we've been checked their licence in years, or ever, but the Environment Agency’s work is intelligence-led, meaning that work is targeted on areas where there are reports of evasion or are known illegal hotspots. Plus, we do lots of other things besides licence checking.

I have a great rapport with all the fishery owners, angling clubs and tackle shops in my patch. I have often been called when they have people taking fish from their lakes and we have successfully prosecuted the offenders. Only recently a local club called us and we helped retrieve a 150 m illegal gill net from their lake, we safely released a 20llb carp caught in it and we are currently carrying out a follow up operation.

Last year, Environment Agency officers up and down the country checked more than 70,000 licences and prosecuted more than 2,100 licence cheats. To help crack down on unlicensed fishing we urge anyone to report illegal activity by calling 0800 80 70 60.

This article was previoulsy published in the Angler's Mail.


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  1. Comment by Roy Collier posted on

    I am a gentleman of sixty five years young my grandfather and father worked on the Thames and many others they used to work for the Thames conservancy the river was kept neat and tidy which is not as it is now being a fisherman for some fifty five years I have never seen the banks of the river in my area which is Laleham and Staines there are trees fallen in to the river at chertsey bridge the poor fisherman can't even get to the bank although the river is cleaner the banks have been left to suffer . We walk the river nearly every day which the lock keeper at pen ton hook look will verify .Please can you look into this as the river in this area is also a good income for local businesses . Thank you Mr R.S Collier Laleham Staines upon Thames

    • Replies to Roy Collier>

      Comment by kathrynbooth posted on

      Dear Roy
      Thank you for contact is us regarding the state of the River Thames .
      We have a schedule of works for river maintenance and this can be located on GOV.UK Please use the link However if there are fallen trees and the water flow is being impeded we would need to know about this. You can call our Incident Line open 24/7 to report these problems. The team will be able to advise you further.
      Kind regards

  2. Comment by Mikre Bat posted on

    No illegal fishing patrols here in the south. Chalk rivers are being thrashed by illegal fishing. When you contact the Environment agency they are disinterested.
    The river Avon and its tributaries are hardest hit. No one seems to give a damn about tod licences and owners permission!!! Get it sorted EA or there will be no fish left. What good is a habitat without anything living in it?

  3. Comment by Geoff posted on

    Almost daily on the Leeds/Liverpool canal between Cowling and Adlington; Lancashire I pass a number of illegal persons fishing. They are using rod and lure, do not carry any method of landing the fish all they carry is a rucksack to deposit the fish. These people are Eastern European’s this is not a guess I have heard them speak. They are very nervous when I approach.

    • Replies to Geoff>

      Comment by eileenroffe posted on

      Hi Geoff - if you spot anyone fishing illegally, please report it to our 24hr Incident Hotline on 0800 807060, so that we can pass on intelligence to our fisheries enforcement officers. Thanks - Joz

  4. Comment by Arnie posted on

    Saw two foreign men fishing illegally uner the Kingston end of Hampton court bridge. They were pulling out big fish and have bivvies to sleep in. They have been there at least two days and no one has objected.

    • Replies to Arnie>

      Comment by eileenroffe posted on

      Hello - Hello - please report this to our national incident team on: 0800 80 70 60 - Eileen


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