Members of the public are being praised after a high-profile joint Fish & Game and police operation to intercept poachers spotted in a stream.
A local person reported seeing four men last Friday afternoon, one with a rod, in a closed trout spawning area of the upper Utuhina stream.
Fish & Game officers who responded spotted two men holding a gill net "stretched from bank to bank", while a third was attempting to drive fish into the net. A fourth man appeared to be acting as a lookout.
Eastern Fish & Game manager Andy Garrick said the officer called immediately for police assistance and officers "swiftly turned out to the scene".
He said all the officers were grateful to a passing motorist who spotted two of the men fleeing, and directed the pursuing officers. "This quick-thinking motorist allowed us to intercept the offenders - still dripping wet from the stream - and interview them," Mr Garrick said. Two other men were intercepted as they attempted to make off across a nearby reserve.
"The member of the public who alerted us at the outset did exactly the right thing by phoning 0800 POACHING (762244)," he added.
Those who set out to poach spawning trout are liable for prosecution with penalties of up to two years' jail. "All reports made to Fish & Game are investigated, and we are grateful to vigilant members of the public who alert us to suspicious behaviour," he added.
"We extend our thanks to the police too for turning out so quickly. Poaching on such as scale if unchecked is a drain on the Rotorua economy in the damage it can cause to fish stocks.
"Sports fishing, that's worth many millions in local income, depends on our ability to protect spawning and maintain a healthy fishery."
Fish & Game officers seized a gill net at the scene of last Friday's incident and are continuing to investigate, with a number of charges being considered.