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What's your honest assessment?

Julian Griffiths

Active Member
I spoke to our local EA man last week and he has collected for autopsy 3 road kill Otters from the lower Colne valley this season, Denham downstream to Wraysbury all inside the M25 . They are rarely seen unless after midnight but for 3 to be road kill in an area about 8 miles means there are a lot more about than people realise. Our fish are just holding on, numbers are seriously down and some areas devoid its only a matter of time before a complete crash
Well I guess the more road kills the better, in respect of our fish and wildfowl then.
 

Stephen Crowhurst

Senior Member
I think that there's a chance that a natural balance may have been reached 20 years hence (sooner if sense is seen and 'the otters problem' is actually recognised as a actual problem, by the 'powers that be'). But consider those that have retired in the last 5 years, and those that are about to ... those that planned to do a lot more fishing after stepping down from their labours.
I do sympathise, but if nothing occurs, as is the trend at present I don’t think there will be enough left to find such a balance. Otters aren’t an aquatic organism, they aren’t obligate feeders but very opportunistic and to put it simply will survive regardless of the environment. The only threat to an otter is man, without that (rightly or wrongly) they are pretty free to decimate already precarious fish stocks.

I’ve said it before but the angle on this process is off kilter. We can see a problem, the otter, but the problem is larger and that is that our natural stocks of fish in our water ways are under threat. That has to be proved and then the ball thrown back at policies makers and environmentalists “you tell us our rivers are the healthiest they’ve been, if so, why are the fish not reflecting this.” This question must be answered.
 

Alex Dalton

Senior Member
The River Dearne still has some good fish, but since the river authority allowed some sub contractor's to hack down many fish sheltering trees /roots a few years ago it gave less shelter from birds such as cormorants and goosanders to plough up and down in often gin clear water. I remember catching 30 odd chub from Christmas till the start of the closed season a number of years ago and some good sized ones as well as a smaller stamp of fish . The river used to contain some good dace, trout , numerous perch, bream , gudgeon , the odd grayling as well , I even caught a tench once in a weir pool !
 

Neil Smart

Senior Member
I do sympathise, but if nothing occurs, as is the trend at present I don’t think there will be enough left to find such a balance. Otters aren’t an aquatic organism, they aren’t obligate feeders but very opportunistic and to put it simply will survive regardless of the environment. The only threat to an otter is man, without that (rightly or wrongly) they are pretty free to decimate already precarious fish stocks.

I’ve said it before but the angle on this process is off kilter. We can see a problem, the otter, but the problem is larger and that is that our natural stocks of fish in our water ways are under threat. That has to be proved and then the ball thrown back at policies makers and environmentalists “you tell us our rivers are the healthiest they’ve been, if so, why are the fish not reflecting this.” This question must be answered.
As far as clean rivers equating to higher fish numbers, well that is not the case, coarse fish especially Roach actually seem to thrive in water that is not gin clear and free of 'pollution' ie sediment. As a kid we caught loads of Roach good one's too from the lower Bristol Avon in and around Bath city centre, the rivers then were regarded as 'dirty' but many species thrived. It might be just down to clear water and sight predators having easy pickings, not sure , but I do know that since 'cleaner' Rivers we have seen a decline in coarse fish numbers.

But the public are reassured that the EA and river trusts are doing good work as far as fish stocks, there will be a new 12 million pound viewing gallery installed at Diglis weir on the Severn at Worcester soon, so the public can view the dwindling Shad make it's way upstream to breed. These initiatives are bound by similar thinking to those who lobbied for the re-introduction of Otters, and now Beavers.

No mention in their blurb at all of the Barbel or Chub of course.
 

Stephen Crowhurst

Senior Member
Two good points raised there.
How has flood prevention measures such as tree felling etc removed habitat and sactury for fish?
Water clarity is a poor measurement of water quality. A swimming pool is gin clear but a fish wouldn’t live 10 minutes. When we’re focusing on visual cues like this, are we missing the problem. Comparable case, how a fixation on the elimation of petrol cars to drive down Co2 drove up harmful Nox gasses.
Trouble is, if we start focusing on the issue now, with a holistic approach, you’d need what 10 years minimum to paint the picture. At which point, in 10 years time the danage sustained, well...
anybody got any real answers to turn things round. Even blowing the head off every otter as some call for won’t fix the problem, there simply aren’t enough fish in the river.
 

Julian Griffiths

Active Member
I do sympathise, but if nothing occurs, as is the trend at present I don’t think there will be enough left to find such a balance. Otters aren’t an aquatic organism, they aren’t obligate feeders but very opportunistic and to put it simply will survive regardless of the environment. The only threat to an otter is man, without that (rightly or wrongly) they are pretty free to decimate already precarious fish stocks.

I’ve said it before but the angle on this process is off kilter. We can see a problem, the otter, but the problem is larger and that is that our natural stocks of fish in our water ways are under threat. That has to be proved and then the ball thrown back at policies makers and environmentalists “you tell us our rivers are the healthiest they’ve been, if so, why are the fish not reflecting this.” This question must be answered.
What you've said is my sentiment, I was of the opinion however, it was down to loss of habitat, poor spawning grounds crays etc, and the otter playing a part in it. It seems quite alarmingly that the otter introduction has accelerated our fish decline.
I guess also the wildfowl numbers decreasing rapidly have also been down to otters.
I do wonder when anything's going to be acted upon?

Where do we start as anglers, where could I voice my concerns, who do I level this all at?
 

Stephen Crowhurst

Senior Member
Good question, I thought this was the responsibility of groups like the Angler’s Trust.
In my opinion the where to start is to prove to those with the money and power to change things that there is a problem, currently I don’t think they believe there is, far from it. If our waterways got as much attention as terrestrial habitats things would be very different in my opinion. No one seems to care about eels, at least not compared to panda bears.
 

Ian Murfin

Senior Member
Could otters be a red herring? If otters were able to completely clear rivers then how could they have made it through how ever many eons of evolution both they and the fish have had? Surely there would just be population cycles like you see with other predator / prey relationships. What concerns me most is what we seem to be doing to invertebrates, bees, insects etc. Have we tipped the balance without realising? Do the adolescent fish still have sufficient food?
 

Paul Dowgill

Senior Member
Had a young otter in my swim yesterday on the Wye…whatever one might say, they are magnificent creatures. I, for one, think our rivers are better with them, however, not perhaps in the number there are currently. Whether they are the major cause of fish decline is still, I think, open to question, they could well be on smaller rivers given they eat about 1000lb of fisher per annum. It was though not until the 1950’s that the otter decline started so prior to this one can only surmise they were present on all our waterways in similar if not higher numbers than today; was this seen as an issue by anglers back then? I do not know but do not recall having read anything on this. I tend to think that fish populations like that of many creatures does go in cycles. For example, silver fish are being reported in better numbers on many rivers than seen for years yet anglers are concerned about cormorant, goosander as well as otter, so why are numbers increasing?

I think the biggest impact on our rivers is chemical ‘pollution’ and this is seen in many ways. Does anyone really believe that a 20lb barbel for example is a natural state of affairs on a small or even large river…or in human terms is a barbel over 15ib actually obese. I would argue that history indicates that such large fish are a recent phenomenon and is due to the introduction of certain types of bait; why, well the record of 14.6 stood for years (I know there were other claims but these were not frequent). So I think that the introduction of non-natural baits has had an impact on growth and maybe with all the other chemicals, especially oestregens, in the rivers perhaps why also not decline through impact on spawning? Not as sexy or impactful as an otter but as we know it was chemicals that led to the otters decline, why not certain fish species. On a daily basis humans are having an intended and unintended impact on the environment, why are rivers any different? Politically, if anglers try to vilify the otter I fear we will be in a very difficult position, this is why we need to work with groups we are not natural bedfellows with eg RSPB to find a sustainable solution.
 

Terry Simner

Senior Member
Could otters be a red herring? If otters were able to completely clear rivers then how could they have made it through how ever many eons of evolution both they and the fish have had? ....
Chickens have survived and prospered for "eons" too, but stick a fox in a hen-house and ...
 

Stephen Crowhurst

Senior Member
I do subscribe to the idea, in principle at least that otters are native and that they should be able to live sustainably within the natural system.
However, is the natural system reflective of what it was?
Let’s be hypertheical, 100 years ago they lived in balance and didn’t have a damaging impact. Today though, if one otter eats 1000lb of fish a year, disregarding the fact that they don’t eat the whole fish, is the impact of the loss of 1000lb of fish per annum per 3 miles of river the same as 100 years ago? I recall being told that the Royality was only home to about 30/40 Barbel, how true... but extrapolate that 1000lb into fish, that’s 125 8lb Barbel, that’s not an impact thats extinction. Of corse these aren’t real numbers, facts or reality but it’s thoery and it’s scary.
Silvers are on the rise, but certainly round here I believe this in impart to focused attempts to achieve that.
A question I’m yet to see an answer to is “What is the current population and the density therein of the Otter.”
 
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Stephen Crowhurst

Senior Member
Just did some digging and quick maths.
Average size of an otter 7kg female 9kg Male.
20% of body weight to be consumed daily.
So based on an 8kg Otter that’s;
1.6kg daily or 10 Roach
584kg annual or 3650 Roach
That’s per Otter.
 

Nick Coulthurst

Senior Member
Although there are still plenty of fish in the Trent, barbel numbers are falling. Planning on retiring myself in 3 years time and not sure where to go. May well have to be the Wye. I think signal crayfish have a very significant impact on recruitment on some rivers - Kennet, Ouse etc
 

Howard Cooke

Senior Member
Although there are still plenty of fish in the Trent, barbel numbers are falling. Planning on retiring myself in 3 years time and not sure where to go. May well have to be the Wye. I think signal crayfish have a very significant impact on recruitment on some rivers - Kennet, Ouse etc
Agreed Nick. Until you speak to the trappers and see them empty their traps into wheelbarrows that groan under the weight of these little shi*bags (the crayfish I mean, not the trappers) it can be hard to comprehend the level of infestation. The numbers that the trappers quote, even allowing for a bit of exaggeration, are as eye watering as having one (a crayfish I mean, not a trapper) attached to your soft dangly parts.

I’m aware of one stretch of the Kennet where the owners have been seriously considering turning it into a crayfish farm. Not remotely difficult I would I imagine- just need to make a sign with the word “farm” on it. Everything else is already in place. Add this to over extraction/pollution and then predation......

We should always be worried when most barbel caught are doubles and yet we tend to get caught up and preoccupied in the glory of their capture. But it’s a sure sign that recruitment is already screwed.
 

Graham Elliott

Senior Member
Although there are still plenty of fish in the Trent, barbel numbers are falling. Planning on retiring myself in 3 years time and not sure where to go. May well have to be the Wye. I think signal crayfish have a very significant impact on recruitment on some rivers - Kennet, Ouse etc
Lovely part of the World Nick
 

Julian Griffiths

Active Member
Agreed Nick. Until you speak to the trappers and see them empty their traps into wheelbarrows that groan under the weight of these little shi*bags (the crayfish I mean, not the trappers) it can be hard to comprehend the level of infestation. The numbers that the trappers quote, even allowing for a bit of exaggeration, are as eye watering as having one (a crayfish I mean, not a trapper) attached to your soft dangly parts.

I’m aware of one stretch of the Kennet where the owners have been seriously considering turning it into a crayfish farm. Not remotely difficult I would I imagine- just need to make a sign with the word “farm” on it. Everything else is already in place. Add this to over extraction/pollution and then predation......

We should always be worried when most barbel caught are doubles and yet we tend to get caught up and preoccupied in the glory of their capture. But it’s a sure sign that recruitment is already screwed.
I remember fishing with Graham Elliott a few yrs back on one if the kennet beats, I met the chap you traps Cray fish on that beat, and I was astounded by the amount of crays he'd collected. I mean seriously astounded, when his black wheelie bin was well over half full, and he said I'm still to go to the lower section of that beat.
 

Mike Hodgkiss

Senior Member
Perhaps one way of gaining some insight in to the the problem of declining numbers of barbel on some rivers would be to look at a river where there doesn't appear to be a problem ? The obvious candidate for this would be the river Wye which is a magnet for barbel anglers and appears to have a very healthy stock of barbel and most other species . I am only an occasional visitor to the river so perhaps the barbel regulars amongst us , particularly those who live near the river and fish it very regularly would be best placed to comment ?
 

Stephen Crowhurst

Senior Member
Perhaps one way of gaining some insight in to the the problem of declining numbers of barbel on some rivers would be to look at a river where there doesn't appear to be a problem ? The obvious candidate for this would be the river Wye which is a magnet for barbel anglers and appears to have a very healthy stock of barbel and most other species . I am only an occasional visitor to the river so perhaps the barbel regulars amongst us , particularly those who live near the river and fish it very regularly would be best placed to comment ?
Is that the case though or is it a comparative thing? I’ve heard a few say that it’s not improving.
 

Mike Hodgkiss

Senior Member
Is that the case though or is it a comparative thing? I’ve heard a few say that it’s not improving.
Only basing my assumption on the river reports on this forum and views expressed in the angling press ,both of which indicate that the river is alive with fish of all species , barbel included , the match returns seem to bear this out . The only comments I have read of declining species on the Wye relate to eels , Salmon and Shad
 

Paul Richardson

Senior Member
I think the late great Mr Wilson had it summed up with his predation triangle

Eggs/fry - crayfish
Fry/ yearlings/shoal fish - cormorants/goosanders
Adults - cormorants/otters/seals

And apparently he highlighted this trend decades ago, but it fell on deaf ears.

So the life cycle of fish is under greater pressure than ever, and of course there are still the ' natural' predators.
I like to see an otter, as I do a fox or a badger but I really do think that there needs to be some sensible management of all these animals.
It's us who are managed nowadays. I fished a few commercials last close season and I will never, ever get used to having to go throgh padlocked gates to fish in a fenced compound. So the otters can go where they want, we are locked in the cages.
Don't get me going about seals, or for that matter the AT.
The EA stocked a modest-sized lake close to me with small roach & skimmers and left it to god & providence
I counted 42 cormorants in the winter
I've been seeing more every year and it's like they ring the dinner bell for them. Of course once the flock decimate this lake they have a go at the other ponds, reservoirs and rivers in the vicinity. At least on the smaller club stretches members with the appropriate licences have thinned a few out, but on the larger lake the EA just don't seem to care - good money after bad?? Madness.

Then throw in agrochemicals/ netting/poaching for the table/ bad angling / land management / abstraction etc..
A massive oversimplification but one that is tangible to me.
Fishing might be tough but some really interesting birds about in Yorkshire
This year I've seen Goshawks, Buzzards, Sparrowhawks, Peregrines, Red Kites,Tawny & Barn Owls - least spotted is a Kestrel - all from my seat on the river. Would never have seen some of them ten years ago
But I guess that will upset someone be-it gamekeepers, pigeon fanciers, farmers etc..?

I just get what I can from my fishing and it really isn't always catching. It's just good to be out all year and without an excuse I would probably hibernate. Nothing beats a good moan with your fishing mates, all with our own theories on why we don't catch
And never, ever does anyone ever say - this season has been the best ever, when possibly it has been?
 
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