Coarse fishing season ends on high note

Impressive catch returns from the nation's rivers leading into the end of the coarse fishing season and further encouraging evidence from the Environment Agency should have reassured anxious anglers that the otter populations are not as threatening as the culling campaigners and vested interests claim.

All over the country the angling press highlighted the indisputable fact that quality coarse fish had been caught under headlines such as 'Rivers go out with a flourish', while highlighting what was described as a huge chub and barbel season.

Following the Wensum Valley Freshwater Championship result at Lenwade and individual anglers' reports elsewhere from the river in March, the remnants of the doubtful argument in favour of reducing otter numbers were left smouldering on the banks having been peppered by the catches of small roach, dace, perch, gudgeon and minnows, as well as huge chub.

This was deadly ammunition as was a new British record chub of 9lb 5oz heaved out of the River Lea by London angler Neill Stephen, the fourth British river record of the species since 2003.

Important barbel venues also came up trumps, including the much maligned Great Ouse, where, as Chris Bishop revealed last Wednesday in the EDP, six giant barbel that were specially tagged by the Environment Agency had not fallen foul of otters but were very much alive and kicking.

In the national weeklies, there was page after page illustrating massive barbel and chub as well as hefty perch from the rivers while the match results reported better than average nets of roach and dace.

Claims by letter writers in the EDP that fish numbers in the River Wensum have been devastated by 70 breeding pairs of otters (the equivalent of one pair every 10 metres rather than the norm of one pair per 100 metres) and black flocks of cormorants did not hold water either.

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A respected Fakenham club member came forward who on a summer evening still catches 50 sizable dace from the free bank at Fakenham, while explaining that cormorants have been ever present for many years.

A recent photograph in an angling weekly displayed a partly devoured carp situated by a gap in otter fencing protecting a club water.

It was claimed one or several of these animals had severed the mesh of brand new galvanised wire netting to gain access.

It is worth pointing out that this mammal would have been obliged to carry a pair of wire cutters to achieve this feat, for those of us who have been around for more than 70 years protecting fish, fowl and domestic mammals from predators simply know that an otter can never bite through brand new pliable wire netting.

In this case the predator either burrowed under the fencing in which case it wasn't buried deep enough, or was a human act of sabotage.

None brought up in the countryside can deny that fish have predators, particularly those who witnessed dozens of great crested grebes gulping down small roach during a recent five hour event on the River Bure and the man whose fish were plundered from the garden pond by a ravenous fox.

This is all part of the natural food chain. Keeping fish too long in a keep net, dying from oxygen starvation or various other careless practices of mishandling such as mauling a specimen waiting for the right camera shot under a blazing sun, definitely is not.

In many instances otters don't have to chase their prey, they can simply feed off weakened fish. And if you don't believe they exist, read and digest the chapter on fish conservation, pages 158-160, in the Complete Guide to Coarse Fishing, published by Marshall Cavendish.

• On the carp waters best of the year and a personal best mirror of 35lb visited the banks of Swangey Lake, tempted by Steve Robinson of Eccles, who also bagged a 25lb fish.

Paul Oxborough of Caston netted a 30lb 6oz mirror and other samples in the twenties were noted by Lewis Archer and Tom Tillet of Lowestoft and Billy Purdy of Weeting.

At Taswood fish of the week was a 34lb common for Adie Revell of Norwich and there were mirrors and commons over 20lbs for other Norwich rods Guy Sherwood, Alan Topley, Mark Chapman, Justin Warnes, Paul Forder, Tim McKail and Jamie Long and for Geoff Benson, Coltishall and Danny Thompson, Thorpe.

• On the match lakes, catch of the week fell to Dave Reeve (Suffolk AD) with 104lb to win the Barford Lake Open. However, with temperatures plummeting this week, weekend match men can expect a sharp downturn in sport.

• Nar Valley Fisheries coarse fish season closed at the weekend with a flurry of big carp catches. They were only one reported 30lb pound plus carp away from their target 40 fish.

Three thirties in the last week were banked from lake Geneva by Tommy Pope with a 30lb common, Leighton Grove a 32lb mirror, and Rob Davies also a 32lb Mirror.