Officers at the Environment Agency reported 79 illegal fishing offences in the North East during the coarse-fishing close season.
The close season, which ran from March 15, prevents fishing for coarse fish such as barbel and chub for three months to give the fish a chance to breed.
North-East fisheries enforcement officers carried out 72 patrols during the three months with 50 close-season offences being detected and a further 29 accompanying offences, including fishing without a licence, using illegal bait and offences under the Theft Act.
During the three months, officers checked more than 1,500 anglers.
Environment Agency officers work with partners at the police, angling clubs and the Angling Trust, and act on intelligence received to target areas where illegal fishing is suspected.
The Angling Trust and Environment Agency’s Voluntary Bailiff Scheme, which is funded by rod-licence income and sees volunteers help to prevent illegal fishing, resulted in 10 reports to the Environment Agency and police during close season.
Kevin Summerson, fisheries enforcement technical specialist for the Environment Agency in the North East, said: “Our officers work hard all year round to target illegal fishing and ensure those flouting the law are dealt with appropriately.
“But the close season is a particularly important time of year and allows fish the time to breed and spawn. We’ve been vigilant in looking for anglers who have no respect for close season or the sport.”
During the first weekend of close season, for example, officers carried out 248 first-time checks on licensed anglers and detected 13 offences.
“As the number of migratory salmon and sea trout start to build up in our rivers, our enforcement officers will continue their patrols across the region,” Kevin added.
“We take illegal fishing very seriously – it’s not fair on other anglers and endangers the future of the sport. I’d urge people to ensure they have a licence first and foremost, and report any suspected illegal activity to us so we can investigate.”
All income from rod-licence sales is used to fund Environment Agency work to protect and improve fish stocks and fisheries, including improving habitats for fish and facilities for anglers, tackling illegal fishing and working with partners to encourage people to give fishing a go.
To buy a rod licence, visit https://www.gov.uk/fishing-licences/buy-a-fishing-licence
Report illegal fishing by calling 0800 80 70 60.