Almost 95 per cent of anglers had successfully renewed their licence in time for the new river season, an unannounced crackdown on illegal fishing found this week.
The new season started on Sunday, and the Environment Agency organised a three-day river blitz to check if people enjoying the first day had the correct licences to fish.
Officers from the Environment Agency focused on rivers in Cambridgeshire, Northamptonshire, Lincolnshire and Norfolk. They were also joined by the police and the Angling Trust’s “Building Bridges” Project during the patrols in Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire.
The areas targeted were ones with a reputation for having a high evasion rate and were chosen thanks to intelligence supplied to the Environment Agency.
The officers checked 285 people for licences, and found that 268 (94 per cent) had renewed in time for the new season. The 17 who did not have the £27 annual licence were given Offence Report Forms.
In total 39 anglers were checked in Lincolnshire, with two found without a current licence.
Lesley Robertson, an Environmental Crime Team leader for the Environment Agency, said: “We were very pleased with how the operation went.
“The first day of the new season is traditionally one of the most popular fishing days of the year, so we decided to patrol some of the areas identified as possible illegal hot-spots in case people were out without having the correct licence.
“From the Environment Agency’s perspective, it was encouraging that the vast majority of people had the correct rod licence. The law-abiding anglers were very happy to see our officers out on the ground and were encouraged by our continued stance against illegal fishing.”
The licencing money goes towards Environment Agency projects for local lowland rivers, chalk streams and man-made drains.
All anglers need a valid Environment Agency rod licence which allows them to use up to two rods. Rod licences run from 1 April to 31 March and fishing without one can lead to a substantial fine.
Every spring, there is a three-month long fishing close-season that begins on 15 March to allow banks to recover, fish to spawn and wildlife to go undisturbed.
Children under 12 do not need a rod-licence. All anglers aged 12 or over need a valid Environment Agency rod licence before fishing in England. Annual rod licences for trout and coarse fishing cost £5 for 12 to 16 year olds, £18 for senior and disabled concessions and £27 for non-concessions.
To buy a rod licence, call the Environment Agency on 0844 800 5386, visit any Post Office branch or visit the Post Office website.
Anyone caught without a valid rod licence can expect to be prosecuted and face a fine of up to £2,500.
To help crack down on unlicenced anglers report illegal activity to 0800 80 70 60. You can also contact Crime Stoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.