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Dogs & Otters

I do not want to re-open a debate on otters and their impact on fish populations in UK rivers. But I've made the following observations and wondered about other forum members experiences. Do you think the amount of dogs which have access to a stretch has an impact and reduces the otter activity there?

I say this because on one stretch of the Stour which is private/club with a no dogs policy, I see lots of otter activity. On another where their is public access for dog walkers I rarely see otters! On the public access stretch there are literally dozens of Labs,Spaniels and Terriers from dawn till dusk in and out of the margins rooting around and leaving their scent. This must be off putting for an otter who has no natural predators and is looking for a place to buid a holt and raise young?

I know from my own experience of owning a Cairn Terrier how inquisitive and aggressive even a small dog can be when coming across our furry and feathery friends of all sizes when out walking in the wilds.

I'm not saying otters wont and don't frequent (or pass through) areas of river with lots of dog activity, I'm just interested in others observations.


Hi Greg,
From my observations I do not think dogs put otters off a stretch. I fish the Yorkshire Ouse and Derwent and one bank or the other has a public right of way. There are dog walkers all the time, but I still regularly see otters. I think, like all wild creatures they get used to a regular disturbance.

Mark Swaby

Senior Member
Its probable that if dogs get access to both banks for a large area then otters will probably avoid those areas because they will get disturbed sleeping.Most normal wild Otter action (not the tame ones now seen all around the country)takes place during the hours of dark.On the Colne in west London the Otters seem to be almost totally nocturnal(apart from one that walked up to a mate ).They seem to pick/sleep in very quiet areas during the day but at night,when its quiet, are very mobile.They are often seen in very busy day time areas/housing backing onto the river at night
If your referring to the Dorset Stour and the free stretch is the muscliffe stretch? Then I hate to say it but there are just as many Otters there as any where else. Indeed the first otter I ever saw was on Muscliffe free stretch. Thier behaviour is more natural though and I’ve only seen them at dawn and dusk.
I think it’s generally activity that puts them to ground, not spefically dogs. I saw an Otter on the Stour about half an hour ago, it was eating a silver fish in front of me.

Neil Smart

Senior Member
Otters are not timid creatures, I believe they will just tough it out until the dog or whatever passes on by. Of course they have no recollection of a Otter Hound, perhaps now would be a timely reminder? If we can't get a Otter Hound we have a great pic and mix of all sorts that could form an alliance in giving Mr O a bloody nose griffon.jpg
Like my dear old Amy a Belgian Griffon sadly no longer but a worthy adversary.;)
Thanks all for your comments. Stephen, you're correct, I am referring to the Dorset Stour and Muscliffe as the stretch with lots of dogs present. It seems at best the presence of dogs during the day may make the otters more cautious and nocturnal, but not displace them onto quieter 'no dogs allowed' stretches.
That would be my evaluation Greg. I no longer fish the free stretch due to some bad experiences with the public and tbh the last few years it’s looking more and more like moors valley, it pretty much says “No Fishing” with the banks fenced off etc. Not a nice place to fish anymore. I do however fish the opposite bank, Bounds/Parley I sit there often out of sight from the opposite bank and the otter issue is equal. The dogs don’t even push them to the non public bank.
Some fantastic Chub but challenging Barbel fishing.
On the main part of my local Bristol Avon stretch you'll only get otter activity late at night very early in the morning it's heavily dog walked. A few miles down and up stream otters are spotted during the day. I definitely think the otters prefer the quiter bits of my local river.
Hi Stephen it could be because their is more cover (weed, reeds and trees) in summer. I'm not qualified to comment as only started fishing again after a long lay-off in Oct 2017.

As an aside, I fished (for Chub) a quiet stretch of the Avon around the Avon causeway on Wed (which I'd never fished before). Cracking weather, Sunny a cool westerly breeze, water temp 45 degrees. The river was rising very slightly but no weed coming down. With colour, but you could see a lump of flake in 18" of water. There were more Mr Crabtree swims than you could shake a stick at. In some swims which allowed I fished two quiver rods (cheese paste on one and an open end feeder with a big lob-worm on the other) Nothing all day. I had to leave at 3pm so I decided to walk back towards the car and have one last chuck in a pretty featureless swim, before packing up. Bang! a 5lbs 2oz chub on paste. My first fish from the Avon in 27 years! My previous best being a thin emaciate 4lbs 4oz one in 1986 (when the Avon chub population were decimated by a parasite).

The reason I relay this story is because earlier in the day something caught my eye on the far bank. The river at this point was quite narrow and I climbed a short height up a tree to get a better view. It was a barbel of about 6 to 7lbs laid on the grass with its gills and part of its stomach eaten. No doubt an otter, just a coincidence that I posted about them here a few days earlier.

I walk my dog along the Thames at Port Meadow most days along with hundreds of others dog owners. It is very close to the centre of Oxford and has a number of rowing clubs that use it as well during the day. I have never seen an otter there during daylight but they are nocturnal and use the stretch after dark, as they have been seen by friends who fish there after dark. A family of four were seen last year.
Yes I’ve drawn a similar conclusion, that the lack of cover and harder conditions force them to become more visible during day light hours in winter.

Good news on the Chub, sad on the Barbel. Are you a RDAA or CAC member Greg? The Avon Chub seem to be rather nocturnal. I’m not on the river much at present as I prefer to stalk.