POACHERS are raiding a stretch of river at Garstang and stealing huge hauls of fish, say angry anglers.
Fishermen are concerned that repeated thefts along the River Wyre, particularly hotspots around Wyre Lane and Scorton, are putting fish stocks at risk.
The area is a popular spot for anglers, but they say they are regularly confronting organised gangs of thieves, who are taking the fish, usually wild salmon and trout.
Andy Moreland, chairman of Wyre River Trust, said the waters were being targeted by illegal poachers, taking anything up to £120 of fish a time.
He said: “It’s a big problem, and unfortunately it’s on the increase. Proper anglers will catch fish then return them to the river, because they want to preserve the sport.
“These people are not taking one or two at a time, and at £4 a fish, two to three times a week, it is costly.”
Mr Moreland added in one of the recent incidents, a 4x4 vehicle had driven into the river at the ford off Wyre Lane and poachers were seen fishing from the roof. The poachers use light, retractable rods, to go unnoticed.
Local river keeper Glenn Welsby said he had suffered abusive and threatening behaviour when approaching a group of suspected offenders.
He said: “Not only do they take a lot of fish, but they are causing a hazard to all wildlife. There are a lot of people involved in conserving the rivers and trying to educate people on looking after the area.”
Mr Moreland and Mr Welsby are calling on people who use the riverbanks, such as ramblers and dog walkers, to report any suspicious activity to police. Signs are also posted around the sites, reminding people of the laws.
Mr Welsby, who works for a fishing club, added: “It’s all the more frustrating because groups have spent a lot of their time and money to keep river stocks healthy to preserve and improve the area, then these people come and steal.
“It’s a crime, we need people to keep their eyes and ears open and report anything suspicious to the police”
Anyone who wants to catch fish from the river should hold a rod licence from the Environment Agency.
PC Dave Shaw, from Garstang Police, said: “We fully support the local clubs, and any calls we receive from members of public will be acted upon.
“Anyone caught fishing illegally will be dealt with.”
Anyone with information should contact Garstang police on 01995 607869.