Nearly £610,000 was paid in fines and costs by 4,330 anglers who were caught fishing without a rod licence during 2007, according to the Environment Agency. In addition, 35 anglers received cautions from the courts, a man from Hastings was banned from fishing for one year and a man from Staines was banned for two and a half years.
People caught fishing illegally face tough penalties including fines of up to £2,500 and a ban from fishing, although according to the Environment Agency, the 2007 illegal fishing trips cost anglers an average of £140 each in fines and costs.
A full season coarse and trout fishing licence costs £24.50 and a salmon and sea trout licence £66.50. There is also a range of concessionary, junior, eight day and one day licences. Anglers who receive Disability Living Allowance in England and Wales are eligible for a reduced cost fishing licence.
Dafydd Evans, the Environment Agency's Head of Fisheries, said: "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.
"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.
Last year, we invested approximately £30 million in fishing, with £20 million of this coming from rod licence fees.
"The protection of vulnerable fish stocks and increasing fishing participation are among the
Environment Agency's key environmental objectives. The money raised through rod licence sales is
invested directly in fisheries work that benefits all anglers," he added.
Anglers can purchase their rod licences at around 15,000 Post Offices; by setting up a direct debit; over the telephone on 0870 1662662 or on-line at www.environment-agency.gov.uk/rodlicence.