Two anglers have been banned from holding a rod licence for 12 months after being caught using illegal fishing methods.
Dean Heseltine, 32, of Braunespath Estate, New Brancepeth, Durham, and Michael Scotter, 28, of Byer Street, Hetton-le-Hole, Houghton-le-Spring, also had their equipment forfeited following an Environment Agency enforcement operation last year.
At Peterlee magistrates’ court, both admitted a charge of using a banned fishing method, known as stroke hauling, in the River Wear at Framwellgate, Durham, one night in September.
Heseltine also admitted a charge of resisting a fisheries enforcement officer, after he tried to avoid being caught by hiding in bushes before attempting to escape up the riverbank. Both were given a 12-month conditional discharge, and ordered to pay £250 legal costs and a victim surcharge of £15.
Stroke hauling, or snatching, is a technique where the hook impales the fish about its body or head rather than the fish taking the hook in its mouth out of choice.
Not only is this an illegal method, but fish that are caught in this way can sometimes break free from the hook or snap the line and become susceptible to disease and may die before reaching spawning grounds.
The court heard that having seen the defendants stroke hauling in the water, the enforcement officers found bags, nearby containing seven salmon and one sea trout.
Kevin Summerson, fisheries enforcement team leader at the Environment Agency, said: “We shall continue to police this area for as long as is necessary to bring a halt to this illegal activity.
“Members of the public need to be aware that these poachers are not taking one for the pot.
“They are taking frequently high numbers of fish that are often sold on for monetary gain.
“It is not a victimless crime. The methods that are being used can have a dramatic impact on wildlife, cause serious damage to already threatened fish stocks, and ruin the sport for legitimate anglers and future generations.
“If anyone has any information in relation to where these fish are being sold I would be pleased to listen to them. Information can be provided anonymously and any information received is treated in the strictest confidence.”
If anyone thinks they have seen any illegal fishing, they should phone the Environment Agency’s 24-hour incident hotline on 0800 807060 or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111. National and regional byelaws can be found on the Environment Agency’s website at www.environment-agency.gov.uk/fish.