Fisheries experts at the Environment Agency are urging people to report in if they notice anyone using, carrying or assembling illegal ‘set lines’. 

Set lines are baited hooks fastened to strong lines or powerful elastic that are tethered to the bank, thrown into the water and left unattended. The line, which can stretch across the width of the water often carries several baited hooks. It takes a few minutes to deploy or recover such lines. The victim fish are frequently found alive, but with no chance of recovery, as the hook has made its way into the fish’s stomach.

This barbaric practice is widely condemned by the angling community who fish for sport, but is used by people who want to remove fish for the table. And it’s not just fish that end up victims of set lines; birds such as swans, duck, grebe, moorhens, coot and terns have been found tethered to such lines, and fish predators such as otters may also fall victim.

Environment Officer Roger Ferguson said: ‘The vast majority of anglers in the UK fish for sport and have great respect for wildlife and their welfare.  Unfortunately there are still some people who try to take fish away to eat and use this illegal fishing method. Increasingly we are finding these methods to be used in both urban and rural areas. We would urge anyone who sees a set line in use or being set up to contact us immediately so that we can come and remove it.         

‘The Environment Agency will prosecute anyone found using or in possession of a set line, and any unattended lines will be removed and seized. Anyone caught will be liable to a fine of up to £2,500.’

To report a set line call the Environment Agency on 0800 807060

If you would like to find out more about angling rules and regulations, visit and click on ‘Fish’.