ANGLERS are flocking to a short stretch of river to catch enormous carp which escaped from a nearby fishery.

The free-to-fish part of the River Frome in Wareham has become so packed with the carp that is attracting dozens of school children on their holidays.

Locals said more than 200 escapees have been caught so far and the biggest was 28lbs.

Usually a permit to fish for such high quality carp in specially-stocked lakes would cost £500 a year.

But ancient laws mean that a three- mile stretch of the River Frome is available to anyone with a basic coarse fishing licence.

The fisheries flooded about six weeks ago and the carp have made their way down river where they are being caught by anglers and otters.

The stretch of river has its own, smaller carp, but is more famous for roach, which can grow up to 3.5lbs.

It is unclear whether any attempt will be made to remove the larger carp.

Dean Watts, 40, from Purbeck Angling, a tackle shop just yards from the water, said: “It’s absolutely running with them.

“I’ve never seen so many happy kids in my life.

“The carp escaped from the fisheries about six weeks ago and have been making their way down the river. It’s impossible to say how many escaped but there have been about 200 caught, but some of them might have been caught more than once.

“The biggest one caught so far has been 28lbs.

“Usually to fish for quality fish like these you would have to pay about £500 for an annual licence.”

He added: “I think it’s great with all the kids here because it means they are not sitting at home in front of their computers.”

Local angler Keith Attfield said: “We’ve had four weeks of mad fishing but some people are saying it will upset the river and they will eat everything.

“The amount of fish is bound to affect the river.

“There were rumours that the Environment Agency was going to do something, but it’s a major job and if they did take the carp out how can they distinguish between the original stock and the new ones?”

Monique Gudgeon, who with her husband owns Pallington Lakes Fishery near Dorchester , said carp had escaped from her lakes.

She said: “It was when we were due to have a jazz festival here last month that the Frome broke her banks and filled all our lakes.

“We lost a few, but most remained and I think that would be the same for many fisheries on the Frome.”

The Environment Agency has so far not commented.