Voluntary Bailiff Service

A day in the life of the ‘VBS

Who exactly are the ‘Voluntary Bailiff Service’? All-roundAngler.com‘s Lloyd Rogers spent a day on the bank with VBS workers in Spalding, Lincolnshire to see what an average day for them involves…

Words: Mark Kendall Pictures: Lloyd Rogers

I guess there’s always a trigger for someone to volunteer to do something and my trigger was during a walk along the river Welland in Stamford back in May 2020.   I’d gone for a wander with a friend through the Meadows in Stamford and spotted 3 men fishing in a style which was far from the norm, it was certainly not a quiet afternoon on the riverside.  I watched for a while and they had no landing nets, no unhooking mats and rather than a leisure activity it was more like a frenzied fish hunt. 

I walked away thinking that’s just not right then bumped into an old school friend who happened to be a policeman.  We chatted as he’d seen the men fishing and said to me ‘If I’d had my warrant card handy, I would have spoken to them!’  That’s when I decide to join the Voluntary Bailiff Service, commonly known as the VBS.  I applied that week. 

It is important to understand that the VBS is funded through rod licence income, acting purely to assist the Environment Agency in their statutory role of fisheries enforcement by providing extra pairs of eyes and ears at the water’s edge, trained to report incidents to the EA to a high evidential standard whilst also reporting patrol details on a secure VBS online portal on their behalf. 

Learn about the VBS here – Enforcement – Angling Trust 

Covid was rife during 2020 so the induction process was delayed until 2021, but the communication was always there and once 2021 arrived I was contacted to make sure I still wanted to join.  Induction would normally be face to face but again due to Covid restrictions this process had to be adapted to suit and was completed online in June this year. 

I was introduced to my VBS mentor ‘Roy’ who is the VBS Area Co-ordinator in the area, and I was required to attend three patrols or events to complete the induction process.  My induction included a patrol with Roy along the club rivers he looked after around Whittlesey, attendance to support an Angling Trust event also in Whittlesey where we introduced young children to angling and finally a joint patrol with Lincolnshire Police around Spalding where we were accompanied by a local Police Community Support Officer.   I had then completed my induction and was now part of the wider fisheries enforcement “family.”  

Now fully inducted as a member of the VBS I was happy to get involved in more joint patrols involving the EA/Police and VBS and the patrol featured in this article was centered around the river Welland in Spalding involving a number of new and established Angling Trust voluntary bailiffs and our Regional Enforcement Support Manager Paul Thomas, supported by local PCSO’s, one of whom was ‘Ester’ (pictured below, left) originally from Lithuania whose multi-lingual skills would later prove invaluable.  Although no fishing club runs the fishing along this stretch of the river in Spalding town centre so effectively the fishing is free, anglers still need to be in possession of a valid Environment Agency rod licence to fish legally. 

Buy a rod licence here –  https://t.co/ySlpKyzquK 

During the patrol we’d been walking the river bank in a couple of locations before we eventually spotted two men fishing the river.  We approached the first man who had no formal ID in his possession and who promptly produced his rod licence but unfortunately, it was slightly out of date.  This chap was Lithuanian and his English was poor but this hurdle was easily overcome as Ester translated.  He was advised that he was breaking the law, but as it appeared to be a genuine mistake, Ester used her discretion in this case to educate him and to help him buy a rod license there and then online to resolve the issue.  

Mark Kendall and Ester check a Lithuanian anglers Rod License

As we finished the online process, the second fisherman was walking towards us but with no fishing rods.  Ester again used her language skills to translate as he spoke no English, asking him why he had left his rods on the bank partially hidden, giving the appearance that he might have been doing something wrong? 

Unable to give a reasonable explanation to Ester or to produce any formal ID it turned out that again, this angler had an out-of-date rod license but unfortunately did not have the ability to buy a license online. Ester explained that she would be seizing his fishing tackle as he had been observed fishing with no rod licence and had no means of paying for a licence, to prevent any further fishery offences. It was clearly explained that his seized fishing equipment could easily be collected from the local police station on production and verification of his ID and production of a valid rod license.    

An anglers tackle is seized until he can prove he has a valid rod license preventing further offences

Joining the VBS has been so rewarding not only introducing young people to fishing, ensuring fishermen have the right to fish and reporting fishing incidents but meeting some great people who also have a vested interest in preserving the waterways and fish for the enjoyment of everyone.  I know new recruits are always being looked for so I’d encourage everyone to join.   

Join the VBS here – Voluntary Bailiff Application Form – Angling Trust