With the new fishing season set to begin in just two weeks' time prospective fishermen and women are being encouraged to fish legally. In the right place, using the right tools and with a current licence. Reporter Zizi Sparks finds out how many people were caught breaking Fish & Game rules last season, how this compares with the previous year, and if the trend is anything to worry about.
Almost 70 people were caught breaking Fish & Game rules in the Eastern Region in the 2018/19 season.
In the season, which ran from September 1, 2018 to August 31, 2019, 69 people were caught committing 97 offences.
The number of offences is up almost a third (32 per cent) on the previous year when 50 people were caught committing 73 offences.
Of this year's offences, 81 were fisheries-related and the other 16 were related to game bird hunting regulations.
Fish & Game officer Anthony van Dorp said the most common offence in the 2018/19 season was fishing without a licence. It made up 27 of the 97 offences.
That was followed by disturbing spawning grounds which had 14 recorded offences. There were 12 offences of fishing closed waters and 11 of taking spawning fish with a net, spear or implement.
"Mostly this relates to persons fishing in areas which are closed over winter during the spawning season," van Dorp said.
"This year we had a spate of offences involving poaching or attempting to poach spawning trout. The majority of these offences were committed by youth."
Van Dorp said while the number of offences was up, it wasn't concerning.
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"Sometimes you get seasonal variations. That can depend on what's happening in stream mouths in summer.
"Over spring and summer we had a bunch of juvenile offenders last year and that starts to push the stats up a little bit," he said.
"Overall it's up but we're not concerned, we'll keep doing what we're doing and try to convince people to do the right thing and fish legally, in the right place and with the right equipment."
The Eastern Region covered centres such as Rotorua, Taupō, Tauranga and Gisborne, and van Dorp said officers checked more than 2830 people for fishing and hunting licences in the region in the past year.
Breaching Fish & Game regulations carried a broad range of punishments.
The maximum penalty for fishing without a licence or using illegal methods or fishing in closed waters was $5000 or community work.
Offences involving poaching spawning trout or obstructing a ranger are punishable by up to two years' imprisonment or a $100,000 fine.
Of the offenders, 27 were dealt with through the courts and others were given warnings over minor matters or reached other resolution processes such as education.
In February van Dorp said staff had been "actively checking" the anglers congregating at local stream mouths, especially on Lake Rotorua.
He said this had been a direct response to a local issue over summer where warm lakes caused trout to flow into the stream mouths, attracting people using illegal fishing methods.
Between five and 10 offences were recorded for fishing with illegal tackle, hunting using lead shot ammunition and hunting with an unpinned shotgun magazine.
Fewer than five offences were recorded for exceeding the game bag limit, fishing with an unattended rod, fishing with more than one rod, giving false details to a ranger, possession of net/spear/implement at a spawning stream, shooting protected or not permitted species, spin fishing in fly only water and hunting without a licence.
The 2019/20 Fish & Game season in the Eastern Region starts on October 1 and fishing licences are available online or at certain stores like Hunting and Fishing.