Is predation an issue for you?
This is a subject I've touched on with my newest Fishtec Blog post (http://blog.fishtec.co.uk/is-predation-spoiling-your-fly-fishing). However its something I wanted to elaborate on a lot more.
Let me just summarise how this season is going:
- On my private syndicate lake there were anything up to 6 Cormorants at one time and also Mink.
- On the Rivers Wye and Irfon there are reports of a re-introduced family of five Otters. As well as Cormorants and Goosanders.
- On my Angling Clubs (Builth Wells AC) newly redeveloped Coarse lake we have had to install electric fencing as the Otters (reintroduced to the river) had eaten the majority of fish - after significant loss and cost, the lake now restocked and we're preparing for opening soon.
- Rhayader AC has a Cormorant/Goosander watch record sheet at Llyngwyn, which is regularly updated with sightings.
But what can be done?
I support the Angling Trusts campaign 'Action on Cormorants', which has called for Cormorants and Goosanders to be added to the General License (shoot/kill) making it legal to protect our fisheries. Currently you have to apply for a license, which isn't granted all that often - this takes time and money, something Angling Clubs and Fishery owners don't have. Check out the campaign www.anglingtrust.net/cormorants
Otters on the other hand are a protected species under UK and European Law. Their conservation is paramount or they could be lost from the countryside, something that nearly happened in the early 1980's.
I don't support mindless culls of the birds but we need to be given an option. There are fine lines between conservation and control and you must look at them as one issue. Unfortunately if the Otters are there, there isn't much we can do. However, I was told recently it's better to have Otters than non-native inhabitants such as Mink. With native species, the 'circle of life' will settle down and the fish will thrive once more. Lets hope that's true.
Our rivers have been quiet, we put this mainly down to the Otters as they had been seen on the banks and basking in the sun on some of the exposed stone islands. Recently, the Shad arrived for their yearly spawn run - 8 of them were found dead on one of my favourite fishing spots not 2 days after they were first spotted. To confirm if it was in fact Otter predation, I sent this picture to our club Secretary Lance:
His response made me chuckle:
The prosecution would like to sum up :-
The slash along the side is consistent with an incision to gain access to the roe of the fish. I cannot think of any other animal other than an otter or a fish eagle which is capable of catching a Shad and inflicting such a wound. I believe that the presence of a fish eagle would have been noticed and commented upon and, in the absence of such observations, the weight of evidence supports the theory that an Otter, or Otters caused the mass fishicide. The little swines!
Despite the comical nature of his response, he was quite right!
But with fish stocks under threat and people's lively hood potentially under threat, it's doesn't look like there is anything 'legally' we can do. With bird numbers booming and Otter reintroduction seemingly apparent, what is the next step? I'm at a loss.
Despite these issues, I have been catching plenty of juvenile fish.
Could it be they are simply too small for the predators? Or are things not as bad as they seem? Only time will tell I think.
Until next time...