A Spalding “countryman” has branded attempts to stamp out illegal fishing in private waters on the edge of town as a “joke”.
The man, who asked not to be named for fear of reprisals, accused Welland and Deepings Internal Drainage Board (IDB) of not taking action over reports of illegal fishing between Spalding Common and Pode Hole.
According to the man’s own records, seen by the Lincolnshire Free Press, about 40 acts of illegal fishing took place in waters along North Drove, South Drove and Vernatt’s Drain between September 27 and October 21, 2016.
The man said: “Welland and Deepings IDB has signs up which say “Private Waters: Strictly No Fishing.
“I’m a countryman who’s lived here for 50 years-plus and fishing goes on right in front of the IDB works, usually at the weekend.
“Last year, I saw two people climb over a fence and come down here to fish.
The Board has for some time suffered from illegal fishing on several of its private waters, mainly the North and South Drove drainsKaren Daft, Chief Executive of Welland and Deepings IDB
“They said ‘you can’t stop us coming down here’, so I rang the the IDB and a foreman eventually turned to move the pair on.
“But sometimes, they move further down to Pode Hole and start fishing because the police say they can’t do anything unless the IDB do something.
“It’s a joke so I’ve written to Welland and Deepings IDB and said ‘either take the notices down and let people fish or police your waters and stop people doing it.’”
A joint attempt by Lincolnshire Police, the Environment Agency, the Angling Trust and the Government’s Fish Health Inspectorate to tackle illegal fishing was launched in November 2014.
Operation Traverse also involved fisheries enforcement officers from Poland to inform people fishing illegally that they were breaking the Theft Act 1968 which makes fish in private waters the property of the water owner. Karen Daft, Chief Executive of Welland and Deepings IDB, said: “The Board has for some time suffered from illegal fishing on several of its private waters, mainly the North and South Drove drains.
“‘No fishing’ signs were repeatedly removed and fisherman were abusive when approached by IDB employees.
“In 2016, the Board contacted Lincolnshire Police for assistance in dealing with this problem and during June 2016, two action days were held when officers patrolled waterways in an effort to reduce illegal fishing.
“If a member of the public witnesses illegal fishing, they should ring 101 and report the problem to police, quoting ‘Operation Traverse’.”
Adam Basham, enforcement team leader at The Environment Agency, said: “We take illegal fishing very seriously and work hard to bring offenders to justice, as well as protect the future of the sport for legitimate anglers.
“These particular watercourses are privately owned, so some of the byelaws we enforce do not apply and our powers are more restricted.
“In these cases, preventing fishing from taking place is the land owner’s responsibility, usually in partnership with the police.
“Enforcement work is intelligence-led, so we would encourage anyone who spots potentially illegal activity to contact us.
“We targeted these specific watercourses last summer in response to reports we had received, resulting in two anglers being caught without a rod licence.”