Not quite what Nigel had bargained for in Irstead

When the float bobbed and slid under the surface Norwich angler Nigel Townshend thought a decent pike had been tempted by the bait.

He was wrong. For the predator that had seized the tasty mackerel was a hungry otter, and one of the hooks was impaled in the side of its lip.

This startled angler was confronted by an awkward dilemma on the River Ant at Irstead.

Should he cut the line to allow the otter to swim off with the hook still impaled in its cheek or take the more humane approach and try to guide the stricken animal to the bank to set it free?

The latter would risk a severe bite from those bone-cracking canine teeth but, he still chose that course. Imagine his relief when this popular aquatic mammal twisted and turned until the hook hold gave way, and off it swam with just a minor cut that would heal in due course.

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Recalling what he described as an ordeal, Nigel said: 'I had only just cast out the bait when the float disappeared. 'I thought it was a pike and I was amazed when this otter broke the surface.

'I just could not allow this animal to swim off with a hook buried in its flesh and decided to try and get it ashore. Because the water was rippling I had not spotted a tell tale trail of bubbles coming up as the otter approached, otherwise I would have reeled in the bait until it had passed us by.

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'I was mighty relieved when the hook came away but still wonder what I shall do if it happened again.'

That question put to the RSPCA this week prompted valued options from the advisor who said: 'I have never come across this before but I would suggest the following:

'Try to get the otter on to the bank in a large landing net, secure it and cover it with a car blanket or overcoat.

'If it is a normal weekday take the animal to the nearest RSPCA branch or a local veterinary surgery where the hook will be removed free of charge.

'If such an incident occurred out of normal working hours the only course is to telephone our emergency number 0300 1234 999 and we would take it from there.'

To reduce the chances of a repeat incident anglers are advised to use barbless hooks.

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