Although the river fishing closed season starts on March 15, there are still plenty of canals, stillwaters and fisheries where anglers can try their luck. But one place not to try your luck is the local magistrates court, just because you forgot to buy a new rod licence.
The reminder comes as more than 600 anglers appeared in front of judges across England and Wales in February for fishing without a valid rod licence. They paid nearly £84,000 in fines and costs. In addition two anglers received cautions from the courts.

Fishing for salmon, trout, freshwater fish and eels in England and Wales and the Border Esk in Scotland requires a licence from the Environment Agency. Failure to have a licence is an offence. Those caught fishing illegally face tough penalties, including fines of up to £2,500 and a ban from fishing.

“With current full licences set to expire on March 31, it is very important at this time of year for all anglers to ensure they have a valid licence before heading out to fish,” explained Environment Agency Head of Fisheries Dafydd Evans.
“The rod licence fees are essential in improving and maintaining our fisheries in England and Wales, which is why our enforcement officers are out there checking for those who try to cheat the system. This year we expect to invest nearly £34m in fishing across England and Wales, with £23.4m of this coming directly from anglers, and another £9.4m coming from DEFRA and the Welsh Assembly Government. The money raised through rod licence sales is invested directly in fisheries work that benefits all anglers.” 
Rod licences expire on March 31, 2008. Buying a new licence couldn’t be easier – around 15,000 Post Offices and other outlets sell them; a direct debit can be set up, and they can be purchased over the phone (0870 1662662) or on-line at <BLOCKED::>  any time, day or night.

Region           Defendants prosecuted      Total fines     Total costs     Cautions

Anglian                        65                                £4,805             £4,630            

Midlands                      144                              £8,190             £9,605            

North East                   56                                £3,320             £3,390             1

North West                  71                                £5,222             £4,845                        

Southern                     77                                £5,870             £4,735                        

South West                 35                                £3,023             £2,430            

Thames                       149                              £11,954           £10,859           1         

Wales                          5                                  £385                £375               

Total                           602                              £42,769           £40,869           2