By Dilip Sarkar – Angling Trust Fisheries Enforcement Manager
Well the coarse fishing close season is now upon us (15 March – 15 June inclusive). Many river anglers, me included, feel that this legislation is now inappropriate and requiring review, but, be that as it may, it currently remains the law of this land. Enforcement, of course, must be delivered impartially, with integrity, and without fear or favour – regardless of personal opinions.
Last year, the Voluntary Bailiff Service (VBS) and Environment Agency (EA) ran ‘Operation CLAMP DOWN in SE England. This was the first opportunity for VBS to show its mettle – and that it certainly did: 165 patrols, 14 groups of anglers reported for illegal fishing, two pollution incidents reported – and the shock discovery of three firearms hidden on lines in the Thames!
We all know that criminal activity goes on in remote, rural, areas, and the police increasingly appreciate that those involved in poaching are frequently engaged in a much wider range of criminality. The National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU), in fact, has five priorities, one of which is poaching. Late last year, the England & Wales Poaching Priority Group, on which I sit, launched, via the NWCU, Project TRESPASS . This is aimed at encouraging all forces in England & Wales to properly understand poaching and mount local initiatives accordingly.
TRESPASS also sits within the new Rural Crime Strategy, two key features of which are increasing public confidence in the police and the intelligence reported in the rural area. We have also provided an Impact Statement, accurately contextualising the financial and environmental effects of poaching, for use by the Crown Prosecution Service and courts. Further, to start educating police officers, our ‘Elementary Guide to Angling Law & Fisheries Enforcement’ has been uploaded to the Police Online Knowledge Area – so is available to every police officer nationally; when reporting incidents, such as fishing without permission, which is actually a criminal offence under Schedule 1 of the Theft Act, 1968 (Theft of Fishing Rights), anglers should refer officers to this information. This Guide, together with our new ‘Best Practice Guide for Angling Club Bailiffs’, can be downloaded, free, here: Best Practice Guide
So, this coarse fishing close season, the VBS is running Operation CLAMP DOWN 2 (OCD2) in partnership not only with the EA but also – and significantly – the Metropolitan Police, and the SE forces of Thames Valley, Hertfordshire, Surrey, Kent, Essex, Hampshire and Sussex. This is a massive step forward. The EA’s responsibility, really, concerns rod licensing and local byelaw offences – the police come in to deal with the criminal offences, such as fishing without permission and theft of fish. Over the last few months, many meetings with the various police forces and EA have been ongoing; as I write, joint police/VBS/EA patrols are being organised in every force area concerned. This partnership approach, and sharing of intelligence, can only mean one thing: very bad news for offenders.
Before departing enforcement, although OCD2 focusses on SE England, simply because that is where VBS is operational, all anglers throughout England can contribute to this process by reporting information and incidents to the EA on 0800 80 70 60, or, if appropriate, the local police via 101. An immediate response may not always be forthcoming, resources being what they are and incoming calls having to be prioritised, but the crucial importance of making that call simply cannot be over emphasised. This is all part of a huge intelligence picture – so make that call! Without these statistics and information, we will get nowhere – and it’s as simple as that.
On the fishing front, being a river pike and zander angler, I lost the majority of my winter to floods. Exasperatingly, for weeks on end all of my local rivers were in the fields. My wife, Karen, did manage a few good upper doubles from the Wye, but it was hard going and we failed to improve upon the 25.00 I took last December, and the Severn was unkinder still, my November 20.08 remaining the best fish.
Then, we arrived to fish the Severn one morning, the seal was in our swim, so no option but to go home and get the boat out – only to find the Teme colouring the river further downstream. Fortunately Steve Watts, who had recently taken a massive pike of 26.04 from the nearby Warwickshire Avon, came to the rescue and suggested that we might still find the ‘Wavon’ fishable. Now I’ve not fished the Avon for 34 years, but was glad I did: first cast I had that very fish, which was clearly feeding hard, at 26.10 – a lucky fish indeed! We think that this is the third or fourth biggest pike from the ‘Wavon’, which was pleasing, especially as it completed my tally of twenties from all four local rivers. Unfortunately, the last few days of our season were disappointing, and the season went out like a lamb. Still, plenty of maintenance required on the boat during the close season, and plans to make: have got half an idea, involving a non-predatory species, which will make a refreshing change…
Anyone requiring further information concerning fisheries enforcement or the VBS, should contact Dilip Sarkar, Angling Trust Fisheries Enforcement Manager, on email@example.com.