Tourists plead ignorance of fishing laws

Three "naive" Swiss tourists have blotted what has been a near perfect summer of compliance for Otago anglers.

The tourists were caught at a Wanaka fishing outlet with telescopic spinning sets and pleaded ignorance of New Zealand's fishing licence regulations, Otago Fish and Game operations manager Ian Hadland said.

"That is difficult to believe when a range of permits and licences are required to fish fresh water in their home country."

Fish and Game dealt with "a couple" of non-complying tourists a year and used a system of fines to deal with them swiftly.

The difficulty was that some moved on rather quickly from the scene and if in a campervan, as this trio was, were hard to trace.

"I have spoken to the campervan company involved about putting angling information, including the need for a licence, into their on-board literature, which they are looking at."

The company helped trace the Swiss men after it was explained rangers had the ability to seize vehicles, not just boats and fishing gear, Mr Hadland said.

While the two incidents were disappointing, it was also a great result so far this summer, given the high numbers of anglers out on the water. Rangers had checked more than 150 licences in the Upper Clutha lakes, he said.

"This season has been a massive one for anglers throughout the region, with great fishing conditions, in particular at the popular Central Otago lakes."

Fish and Game's expected compliance rate was 95% and it was sitting well above that for the whole region, which was "awesome, really", Mr Hadland said.

Two years ago the group had one of the worst years for compliance on record, but heavy fines from recent court prosecutions for fishing without a licence, and the appointment of 10 new honorary rangers, had helped "sharpen the focus of would-be offenders".

"There hasn't been much change from $1000 for the most recent offenders convicted for unlicensed angling, and they lose their fishing gear too. Most fishermen have worked out that it's a much better economic proposition to just to buy a licence and get on with some guilt-free fishing."



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