A TV angler and a journalist from a national magazine have been caught illegally fishing on the River Wye.
Bob James, who found fame presenting Passion for Angling on the BBC in the early 1990s, and Steve Martin, deputy editor at Total Coarse Fishing, were working together on a magazine feature when they caught chub near Madley on June 14 this year.
It is illegal to coarse fish on Britain’s rivers between March 15 and June 15.
Anyone caught doing so faces a maximum fine of £50,000.
Speaking after the case at Hereford Magistrates Court on Tuesday, Al Watson, leader of the Midlands fisheries crime team, said: “It is disappointing that such popular and respected anglers and journalists chose to flout the law.”
James – who is one of the most respected professionals in angling – pleaded guilty on Tuesday to fishing out of season.
The 63-year-old told the court he went to the riverbank to pose for photographs, but did end up catching fish.
“We had arrived at the river with the intention of taking pictures for a magazine article,” said James, who lives in Downton, Wiltshire, but regularly fishes on the Wye.
“Martin did get carried away and he put the rods out. I did express my dislike at that. I didn’t intend for it to happen.
“I think it’s a grey area that went wrong and I should apologise but I feel I have no option but to plead guilty.”
At the time, and again in interview, James claimed he was fishing for shad that day – something he did not know was illegal. EA officers, however, found halibut pellets and a cage feeder, which are commonly used in coarse fishing.
James told the court he had never read the Countryside and Wildlife Act which contains the byelaw making shad fishing illegal.
Martin, of Daventry, Northamptonshire, did not appear in court but pleaded guilty by letter.
In it, he said this “extremely naive” decision had cost him dearly. It meant he could not apply for the job of editor at the magazine.
Explaining what happened on June 14, Martin said: “The morning was spent taking images. James was in the water so I could take an action shot which made it look as if he was playing a fish.
“I asked him if shad would take bait and he said the best place for shad was in the shallows.
“I realise now this should never have been allowed to happen. I let the pressure of the job overtake me. In 45 years of fishing I’ve never fished out of season.
“I’ve let my publisher down. I’ve let my work friends and colleagues down. In truth, I’ve let angling down.”
James and Martin were fined £200 each and ordered to pay £150 court costs plus a £15 victim surcharge.
When told that the two fishing rods he used on the day were to be forfeited and destroyed, James said: “I don’t want to speak out of turn but those rods are worth more than the fine.
"They are my livelihood.”