Too many Otters worse than not enough
PUBLISHED: 15:01 04 November 2010
Years ago, I used to enjoy roach fishing on the River Culm during summer evenings. The roach ran up to a pound in weight. There were also delightful little water voles fussing across the river at dusk and munching on the reed stems.
Then my good friend, Chris Yates, persuaded me that life was too short not to fish the Hampshire Avon and Dorset Stour for the big chub and barbel that do not exist down here. So I spent much fishing time in my camper van in Wessex and caught three chub over 6lbs, several barbel over 7lbs, the two biggest 11¼ and 12½lbs plus several roach over 2lbs and a 3½lb crucian carp.
When I returned to fishing mostly down here, I found the roach fishing had deteriorated and the water voles had disappeared. An old friend Paul told me that, in my absence, the riverside trees had been black with cormorants and that he had seen mink footprints in muddy areas. He reckoned that between them they had decimated the stocks of small fish.
More recently my friend Paul had seen Otter footprints in the mud on the Culm and later saw two adults and three cubs trotting up the bank. He fears for the bigger chub and pike stocks.
Two of the carp lakes I fish have, at great expense, had Otter proof electric fencing erected around them after a 37lb carp was found half eaten on the banks of one.
Three years ago seven of us negotiated permission to fish a beautiful four acre Edwardian estate lake which the previous owner had stocked with fast growing carp of the same strain that went into Redmire Pool and grew into one time British record carp of 44lbs and 51½lbs.
We knew “our” lake had grown a 36 pounder already. We had high hopes and planned to convert a brick built shed for long weekend fishing trips. We put locks on all the gates, installed a calor gas stove in our “shed”, put carpet down on the concrete floor and rigged up an old generator to provide electric.
Auction rooms were scoured for two sofas for sitting and sleeping on and we just had enough space for two bunk beds and a small table and chairs. In 2007 things were coming on well. There were groups of 20lbs to 30lbs fish sunning themselves on the surface with occasional fish that literally took our breath away.
Throughout 2008 things continued to go well, except that the carp were proving very difficult to catch. There was so much natural food for them they did not need to eat our strange, unnatural , offerings with hooks in! We planned a large scale ground baiting programme for 2009 but heartbreakingly, Otters got in up the outlet stream. By the summer all the big fish had been killed.
We never dreamt of this happening. But, even if we had forseen it, because of the shape and nature of the banks, it would have cost many thousands of pounds to erect Otter proof electric fencing that may have proved ineffective. Now we have lost our dream and thousands of pounds worth of irreplaceable fish. Even if we could afford to restock the lake we would just be buying more Otter food!
The problem now is that there are more Otters about than the natural environment can support, yet in 50 years fishing I have only ever seen one!
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