A 61-year-old angler has pleaded guilty to a fishing offence after Environment Agency officers caught him leaving the River Eden carrying a bag containing a large female salmon.
David Hitchon, of Vallum Place, Monkhill, was fined £260 and ordered to pay £953 costs along with a £26 victim surcharge at a court hearing held at Carlisle Magistrates Court on Wednesday 1 May.
The court heard how on Wednesday 10 October 2012, Environment Agency Fisheries Officers were carrying out patrols along the bank of the River Eden at Long Pool, close to the M6.
At around 1.20pm Hitchon was spotted leaving the river carrying a fishing rod and large white bag that appeared to contain a large fish. Hitchon looked over at the Fisheries Officers and began to walk briskly to the nearby car park.
After the officers intercepted Hitchon they discovered a dead female salmon weighing approximately 12lb. The fish contained thousands of eggs and typically a female salmon of this size would be capable of depositing between 7,200 and 11,000 eggs into the river system.
The salmon was seized and the Environment Agency prosecuted Hitchon for catching and retaining a female Salmon during the prohibited season – between 10 September and 31 October female salmon must be returned immediately to the water with least possible injury.
In mitigation Hitchon said he had mistakenly thought the salmon was male.
The Environment Agency brought the prosecution under Byelaw 4 of the River Eden and Solway Firth Time Limited Byelaws that aims to protect the species to help sustain salmon stocks in the river for the future.
An Environment Agency spokesperson said:
"We have publicised this Byelaw widely to ensure anglers and the public are aware of the need for female salmon to be allowed time to reach their spawning grounds and deposit their eggs to sustain future generations.If you have witnessed an environmental crime, report to us on our 24-hour hotline 0800 80 70 60
"The death of this salmon resulted in the loss of many thousands of eggs from the River Eden system. As a result of Hitchon's actions, the loss of this fish and eggs will result in a reduced number of fry from eggs that would have been hatched and as a consequence, fewer adult salmon returning to spawn with further loss to the river system."