Stretches of water rich in wildlife are one of the northern state of Brandenburg’s defining features, as are the fishermen who have made it their home and business.
But the state fishing association says theft is on the rise as poachers swoop in at night to steal valuable fish from traps – practically swiping the fish from the anglers’ dishes.
“On some long expanses of water there is just one patrol boat, which can make fishermen feel really alone,” said Lars Dettmann, head of the Brandenburg and Berlin fishing association.
And citing a lack of police presence in the area, some anglers have taken matters into their own hands.
Some fish are being chipped in an attempt to keep an eye on how many there are in the lakes – with eels being the most common subject of such tactics.
Other fishermen have employed professional security guards with special training in anti-poaching methods to keep an eye on traps during the night.
The stakes are high for the state’s fishermen, as it is thought that poaching costs them around €100,000 in losses each year.
Poachers have been seen taking advantage of the ‘rest period’ in the autumn, when fishing is stopped to enable stocks to regenerate. Carp seem to be a favourite among the thieves, who some local fishermen believe are coming over the border from nearby Poland.
Eels are also a target for the poachers, as falling numbers are pushing up prices – particularly in Germany where smoked eel is a delicacy.
“As long as anglers are using traps, fish theft is going to be a problem,” head of Brandenburg’s association for fishery protection, Ronald Menzel said.
He added that while some thieves run off with the whole trap, others try and re-set it after they have emptied the fish out to cover their tracks.
“This rarely works,” Menzel said. “Fishermen know their own equipment and can tell if people have been meddling with it.”