The Environment Agency is reminding anglers that today (Thursday 31 October) sees the start of the close season for salmon and sea trout fishing in Hampshire.
This means that rivers such as the Lymington, Meon, Test and Itchen will close to anglers who traditionally fish for either of these species.
The fishing season for salmon runs from 17 January until 2 October and the season for Sea Trout from 1 May until 31 October. The closed seasons are in place to ensure as many salmon and sea trout as possible return to our rivers to spawn and do so in peak condition.
Sadly salmon numbers on the Test and Itchen are currently below their conservation limit and sea trout across the south coast are considered at risk. The conservation limit is the minimum number of fish required to return to a river and spawn to sustain the population. Therefore every single fish is vitally important if we are to ensure survival of both of these species for future generations.
Specialist Environment Agency fisheries enforcement officers will be actively patrolling the areas rivers day and night over the coming months to ensure as many of these fish as possible reach their spawning grounds. Illegal exploitation is one of the biggest threats to both species particularly when they are ascending their natal river systems to spawn. A single female salmon can carry between 450 and 750 eggs per pound of body weight; removing a single ten pound fish from a fragile stock can have long term consequences for the species.
Tim Sykes, Solent Fisheries and Biodiversity Team Leader, said: “We know that the vast majority of anglers who enjoy our rivers abide by the rules and take great care to protect fish. We all need to play a part to secure angling opportunities for the future.
“However, we take any reports of poaching very seriously and all efforts are being made to protect these fragile populations of salmon and sea trout. Anyone found to be fishing for them illegally could face prosecution, up to a £50,000 fine and have their equipment, boats and vehicles seized and forfeited.
“Our team has recently launched our successful Salmon Watch campaign and we urge members of the public to report any suspected poaching incidents to us on our incident hotline 0800807060. If a salmon or sea trout is hooked accidentally it must be returned immediately to the river where it was caught.”
Launched in August this year, the Salmon Watch campaign is part of the Environment Agency’s ongoing crackdown against fish theft and illegal angling. Since a previous anti-poaching campaign was launched across Hampshire in October 2012, Environment Agency Fisheries Officers have arrested or cautioned several poachers who were caught fishing illegally as a direct result of reports we received from the public. This is good news, but there is still much more work to do to clamp down on fish crime, particularly involving the theft of salmon.
The start of these closed seasons does not mean that fishing is completely unavailable for anglers who wish to try some river fishing at this time of year. With the correct Environment Agency rod licence fishing for coarse fish is available on some stretches of river until 15 March, and from 3 April until 31 October fly fishing for brown trout is available.
If anyone thinks that they have seen any illegal fishing, or trade in illegally caught fish, they should phone the Environment Agency’s 24-hour incident hotline on 0800 807060 or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111 with information on environmental crime. National and Regional byelaws can be found on the Environment Agency’s website: www.environment-agency.gov.uk/fish