Natural Resources Wales takes robust action on anglers caught flouting fishing laws

Following the convictions of four anglers for a series of fishing offences, Natural Resources Wales (NRW) is issuing a warning to other anglers considering flouting laws to think again or face convictions.

Two men from mid Wales and two men from south Wales were caught in illegal fishing practices last year by NRW’s enforcement officers. They were fined a total of £1,879, including investigation costs and victim surcharges.

NRW has taken this action to uphold the byelaws that are in place to help protect fish.

Nicholas Bonham, of Heol Daniel, Pontarddulais, Marc Andrew Davies, Williams Street, Pontarddulais, Paul Hughes of Lluest Newydd, Llanbadarn, Aberystwyth, and Mark Williams, of Dol y Pandy, Capel Bangor, Aberystwyth, recently appeared before Swansea Magistrates’ Court and received significant fines for their offences, which included fishing without the correct rod licence, using barbed hooks and fishing an illegal bait.

Alun Thomas, Senior Enforcement Officer, of NRW, said:

“We will continue to pursue offenders and will not hesitate to take enforcement action against the small minority of anglers who commit these offences.
“Illegal fishing such as these cases on the rivers Loughor and Rheidol undermines NRW’s efforts to make fishing sustainable and enjoyable for most anglers in Wales who fish legally and responsibly.
“Action taken against those such as these four anglers in these cases who seek to exploit wild stocks of fish such as Salmon and Sewin which are in, or entering our Welsh rivers has to be robust to deter others carrying out illegal angling methods.”

NRW enforcement officers and a Dyfed-Powys Police officer caught Nicholas Bonham and Marc Andrew Davies fishing illegally for salmon and sewin on the river Loughor on the night of 6 October 2022.

They were both knowingly fishing without a valid migratory rod licence and fishing with a Rapala fishing lure equipped with multiple barbed treble hooks.

Both pleaded guilty to the offences at Swansea Magistrates’ Courts on 23 March 2023.

The two offences cost Bonham a total of £547. He received a discount for early guilty pleas and for buying a migratory rod licence after the incident. Bonham was fined £105, ordered to pay the NRW investigation costs of £400 and was made to pay a victim surcharge of £42.

Davies was given several opportunities by NRW to purchase a rod licence, but he chose not to comply with those requests and did not reply to a court summons. He was found guilty of both offences and must pay a total of £790. He was fined £220, must pay NRW investigation costs of £400, £82 compensation to NRW for the loss of the rod licence revenue and a victim surcharge of £88.

On the River Rheidol in Mid Wales on 5 October 2022, Paul Hughes was witnessed by an NRW Enforcement Officer deliberately fishing for migratory salmon and sewin with barbed hooks and fishing with an illegal bait, namely ‘bunched worms’ when only single worms are permitted.

Hughes pleaded guilty to the offences at Aberystwyth Magistrates’ Courts. He must pay a total of £317. He was fined £166, made to pay £85 NRW investigation costs and a victim surcharge of £66.

Also on the River Rheidol on 5 October 2022, Mark Williams of Dol y Pandy, Capel Bangor, Aberystwyth, was witnessed fishing for migratory salmon and sewin without a valid rod licence.

Williams pleaded guilty and was fined £100, ordered to pay NRW £85 investigation costs and a victim surcharge of £40.

Mr Thomas added:

“All anglers need the correct valid rod licence to allow them to fish for any freshwater species of fish, be it in rivers or Stillwater fisheries within Wales. The funds raised through from the sales of a rod licence are re-invested back into fisheries and fishing.                             
“Byelaws are in place to protect depleted salmon and sewin stocks and from the damage caused by barbed hooks. Using barbless or debarbed hooks protect the fish from damage and it makes the practice of catch and release much easier, allowing anglers to release fish as safely as possible back into their natal rivers, so that they can carry on their migrations upstream to spawn successfully.”

NRW aims to increase the leisure fishing activity in Wales, whilst ensuring that all fish stocks are protected for future generations to come. Promoting legitimate angling requires the creation of a level playing field for those who buy rod licences and comply with any fisheries byelaws. 

Preventing damage to even singular potential numbers of fish is crucial to having successful future fish stock populations. These illegal fishing activities can also impact the local angling communities within Wales, which is worth tens of millions of pounds a year to the industry.

For information on fishing in Wales and Byelaws visit the NRW website:

Natural Resources Wales / Angling byelaws (fishing rules)