Anglers were left horrified after discovering a giant gill net that could have killed hundreds of fish hanging across a waterway.
The deadly and illegal net, which was 75 feet wide and about six feet deep, was found in the waters of the North Level Drain in Tydd Gote, in Lincolnshire.
Anglers say the net would have been put in by poachers looking to catch fish, possibly to eat themselves or to sell to others.
An investigation has already been launched by officials of the Environment Agency to find the people who installed the net.
David Parlett, secretary and treasurer of the Tydd Gote Angling Club, said: “It is very distressing to find this.
“A net like this would have caught and killed hundreds of fish of all types. That would have included perch, roach, rudd and pike.
“Floats were attached to the net to keep it afloat. The holes are only 75 millimetres square and would have held fast any fish just behind its gills. Once trapped the fish would have died.
“It is illegal to use these nets. It is highly likely the net would have been put out late at night. This is the second I have found in two years and I have also found eel nets on three occasions.”
The find comes in the wake of a catalogue of complaints made by anglers over the last few years about poaching of fish and other wildlife on the waterways in and around Peterborough.
Ken Wade, angling correspondent for the Peterborough Telegraph, said: “Unfortunately if one net is spread across the drain there is every likelihood there are more and inevitably fish will be taken from our waters.”
The North Level Drain is several miles long, collects the water that runs off nearby fields, before following into the River Nene.
A spokesman for the Environment Agency said: “We received a report that a large net had been seen in a river at Tydd Gote on January 12.
“We are now investigating, and urge anybody who has any information that could help our investigation to call our 24 hour incident hotline on 0800 80 70 60.
“If anglers find nets, traps, or long lines in rivers, lakes or broads they should contact us immediately with as much detail as possible.
“Nets and traps authorised by the Environment Agency can legally catch eels and fish but those operating illegally have a negative impact on the environment.”
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Illegal fishing is under fire
Determined officials of the Environment Agency will be carrying out a blitz of Peterborough’s waterways to catch illegal anglers.
Officers will visit rivers, drains and still waters on in and around the city on Saturday and anyone caught without a valid rod licence will be prosecuted and fined up to £2,500.
Lesley Robertson, environmental crime team leader, said: “The patrol will give us a chance to gather intelligence for any malpractice.”