More than 500 licence dodgers were netted in an Environment Agency swoop last weekend.

The offenders were caught during a two day blitz on May 25-26. In total 740 waters across England and Wales were hit and 7,971 anglers checked.

Dodgers made up 6.5 per cent of those quizzed – a drop in the evasion rate of almost 2 per cent on a similar blitz last year. They now face fines of up to £2,500.

Dr Dave Clarke, Head of Fisheries, said: “It gives us no pleasure prosecuting offenders. It means we’ve failed to make them realise that when they fish without a licence they aren’t just cheating the Agency, they’re cheating their fellow anglers out of money that would have been ploughed back into the sport.

“However, the drop in the latest evasion rate is very encouraging and shows that, through extensive campaigns, we are getting through to increasing numbers of people.”

The Agency has now launched an extensive national and local media advertising campaign urging anglers to buy a licence.

Soccer legend Jack Charlton is fronting a series of radio adverts encouraging anglers to keep within the law.

Jack, a member of England’s 1966 World Cup winning team and a keen angler, also stresses how easy it is to get a licence. There are around 17,000 Post Offices and other outlets which sell them direct; and for a small additional charge they can be purchased over the phone (0870 1662662) or from the EA’s web site.

Dr Dave Clarke said: “We’re using TV, radio and national and local press to get our message across. We’d rather people learned this way than through enforcement. But for those who are hearing our message and choosing to ignore it, we’ve arranged further national and regional blitzes throughout the summer.”