TWO young Lake District men have been convicted of fishing illegally following an Environment Agency prosecution.

Benjamin Walton, 20, of Haws Bank, Coniston, and Isaac Thompson, 20, of Torver, pleaded guilty at South Cumbria Magistrates' Court to three offences related to the use of a snare and lights while fishing for salmon without a licence on the River Duddon, near Birks Bridge, on October 3 2016.

Both men received 12 months conditional discharges and were ordered to pay a contribution of £600 each towards Environment Agency prosecution costs and also a victim surcharge of £20 each.

A deprivation order was made for the salmon, snare, lamp, head torch and additional stick seized during the incident, which means they have been permanently seized from the men.

Szandy Vezer, Environment Agency Fisheries Operations Team Leader, said: “The Environment Agency carries out enforcement work all year round. Our job is to protect fish stocks and improve fisheries, and anglers who fish legally rightly demand we take action to catch those who flout the law. 

“We track criminals on an intelligence led basis using information gathered by ourselves, the police and other partners and reports from the public.

“We urge anyone to report illegal fishing as quickly as possible by calling our incident hotline on 0800 80 70 60.

“People who don’t buy a licence are not only cheating other anglers and the future of the sport but run the risk of a criminal conviction and a fine.”

In sentencing, the magistrates stated they had taken into account that the incident had been a joint enterprise involving a level of planning and seriously impacts on legitimate fishery interests.

The court also took into account that both men were of previous good character with no previous convictions, the length of time that the incident had been hanging over them (20 months), which would have been a deterrent in itself, and their guilty pleas entered at the earliest opportunity for which they were entitled to full credit.

The court said this had been a legitimate investigation incurring significant costs and each man would pay a contribution based on means, rather than issue a fine.

Anyone fishing without a licence can expect to be prosecuted and face a fine of up to £2,500. For more serious offences the fine can be up to £50,000. Last year, the Environment Agency’s patrols checked 62,076 rod licences and brought 2,043 successful prosecutions for fisheries crime, like poaching.