This is not about a fly angler it must be said but I think important enough to share here as a cautionary tale that buying a valid fishing licence is not optional – it is the law. Furthermore, enforcement officers and bailiffs have a job to do and deserve our support in protecting our sport. – Ed.

Mr Steve Beckett, 30, of Lorna Road, Mexborough threatened and assaulted the Environment Agency enforcement officer who asked to see his fishing licence. He also refused to give his address.

Enforcement officers are considered in law to be the same as police constables. Assaulting and obstructing one – in addition to his fishing violations – has left Mr Beckett with ‘recordable offences’ on the police database, as well as penalties totalling £410.

Mr Beckett was initially approached on 2 October 2016, as part of routine checks on fishing licences. He had been spotted using three rods at Caistor Fisheries in Lincolnshire.

A search of the Environment Agency’s database revealed Mr Beckett had no valid fishing licence, despite him insisting that he did. His refusal to give his address hampered further checks.

He became aggressive when challenged, physically pushing the enforcement officer away – and the police were called.

Strict penalties

Mr Beckett’s case was heard at Lincoln Magistrates’ Court on 5 June. He pleaded guilty to fishing without a valid licence, assaulting and obstructing a constable, using threatening behaviour, and failing to give his address to an authorised officer.

He was ordered to pay penalties totalling £410. At the time of the offence, the licence he required would have cost just £54. Recent changes mean that it would now cost £45, or £30 for concessions.

Other types of licence are available, including one-day for £6, eight-day for £12, and a free one for those aged 12 to 16.

Joanne Kay, Environment Agency fisheries team leader, said:

Not only was Mr Beckett fishing illegally, he also assaulted a law enforcement officer who was doing his duty to protect the sport, legitimate anglers and the environment.

It makes no sense to have the embarrassment of a court visit, a criminal conviction and a bill for potentially thousands of pounds when an annual licence is such value for money and so easy to buy.

Protecting angling

The money from licence sales supports fish, fisheries and fishing, and protects the future of the sport. A small number of anglers refuse to buy one, cheating the sport and their fellow anglers.

For the minority who flout the rules, the most common offence is fishing without a valid licence, which could land them with a fine of up to £2,500 and a criminal record.

Last year in England, the Environment Agency checked more than 62,000 rod licences and prosecuted more than 1,900 anglers for rod and line offences, resulting in fines and costs in excess of £500,000.

Buy a fishing licence

Any angler aged 12 or over, fishing on a river, canal or still water needs a licence. You can buy a fishing licence online via gov.uk, by phoning 0344 800 5386, or from a local Post Office.

Report illegal fishing

To help crack down on unlicensed fishing, the Environment Agency urges people to report illegal activity by calling its incident hotline on 0800 80 70 60 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.


This particularly timely piece was just published today and is worth reading in full to understand more about the complete role of a fisheries enforcement officer….

Protecting Our Fish – new blog from the Environment Agency

My job as a (commonly known as a Water Bailiff) is never dull – there is always something going on in the world of fisheries that needs our attention!

Many people confuse us with angling club Bailiffs (who are also commonly referred to by some as Water Bailiff’s). However, as fully-warranted Fisheries Enforcement Officers, we have a range of powers available to us, including those for entry, search, seizure and even arrest where necessary – whereas club Bailiffs do not.

Part of my job involves checking that anglers have the appropriate rod licence(s) – protecting the funding which is reinvested into improving the environment and fisheries for all to enjoy. These funds are vital for encouraging new anglers into the sport, improving facilities for current anglers, re-stocking following incidents and also preventing the spread of non-native species to name but a few. All of the money generated from rod licence sales is reinvested back into improving angling.

Some people think we just check rod licences, but in fact our role is about so much more. It is my responsibility to ensure compliance by both individuals and organisations with a number of different pieces of legislation, which are intended to protect fish stocks, wildlife and the environment, allowing people of all ages and backgrounds to enjoy the sport of angling fairly and sustainably. The main set of rules for angling come under the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Act and associated byelaws, but we also regularly work with the Eel Regulations, Keeping and Introduction of Fish Regulations.

One day I could be on the bank speaking to anglers and checking rod licences, the next I could be on a night patrol using thermal imaging and night vision equipment to catch criminals illegally netting fish on one of our local rivers. We utilise equipment such as 4x4s and boats to access remote areas where criminals think their activities will go unnoticed – showing would-be criminals that there is nowhere to hide!

We are currently focusing on ensuring compliance with the coarse fishing closed season on rivers and other specified sites, which allows fish to reproduce without the pressures of angling, helping to support sustainable fish populations for the future.

Recently, our team and I have spent a lot of time and effort building partnerships with our Police colleagues. We have given training sessions to Police Officers across the East Midlands, so they can gain an understanding of fisheries and environmental crime, allowing us to undertake joint patrols as well as allowing the Police to independently respond to fisheries crimes. We have also worked with Police call-handlers, so that calls are more likely to receive an appropriate and effective response. We regularly undertake high visibility patrols with the Police, reassuring legal anglers that we take their concerns seriously and catching those who choose to flout the rules. Crime is often linked in unexpected ways – we have had some great results whilst working with the Police on fisheries patrols, including the seizure of vehicles for non-fisheries offences such as no insurance, people in possession of illegal drugs and identifying individuals wanted by the Police for serious crimes.

I often get told of potential illegal fishing that has been previously seen by members of the public whilst on my patrols, which was not reported to us. We rely on calls from the public to highlight areas of concern, focusing our activities on areas we know are a problem for legal anglers. I would encourage everyone to help us tackle illegal fishing and environmental crime by ringing our Incident Hotline on 0800 80 70 60 – you can do this anonymously, or alternatively you can contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

I would also encourage people to try fishing – it’s a great sport and can be very relaxing and is a great way to escape the general stresses of modern life. You can also see some great wildlife and meet like-minded people; the angling community are very supportive of each other and very forthcoming with hints and tips for successful fishing.

For further information on the rules for angling, please visit our .gov website.

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