Otter question divides anglers

Members of a newly-formed action group to tackle what they claim is a serious fish predator crisis appear to have taken a dive into murky waters of controversy stirred by the Angling Trust's stance on otters.

The Trust's CoE Mark Lloyd agrees there is a need to address cormorant predation and the destructive alien signal cray fish.

But he also asserts that any initiative to curb otter numbers would result in fishing losing a defining battle against public opinion.

The Predator Action Group whose members includes Norfolk angling celebrity John Wilson, top anglers Tim Paisley and Tony Gibson and Salmon and Trout associate John Slader, called for the Trust, the sports governing body, to support their predator culling campaign.

But Lloyd stuck to his well documented argument that any drastic action against Britain's most popular mammal would never be forgiven by an angry general public – a view that is shared by the sensible majority.

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'Fishing will not triumph in a fight involving control of otters,' he warned, as Wilson declared that cormorants and otters had led to a dramatic decline in roach and dace in Norfolk's river Wensum and carp losses in lakes.

By contrast, veteran Norfolk-born rod men who have fished the Wensum for many years believe the indigenous silver fish species did not suffer a decline until alien chub and barbel were introduced.

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Keith Sutton, a respected octogenarian who has been secretary of the Aylsham and District Angling Society for most of his adult life, had no doubts, nor had Lyng veteran roach expert Jim Sapey.

'My club was forced to give up a stretch of the river Wensum when the chub wiped out the roach and dace and ruined our match fishing,' recalled Sutton.

'It was certainly the chub that did it for me,' declared Sapey when his beloved specimen roach dwindled.

This analysis is demonstrably supported by the vast numbers of silver fish species in the tidal river Wensum below New Mills in Norwich where a match record of 98lbs 1oz was established early this month.

'Tony Gibbons, tthe Norwich and DAA chairman, said: 'This river is teeming with roach, bream, perch, dace and pike even though we have cormorants and otters in the city, but significantly few chub and barbel.'

And the Angling Trust's solution? Push hard for more funding for otter fencing waters that are suitable and seek other means of protection for larger venues.

A scheme inviting fishery owners and angling clubs to apply for a licence to remove troublesome otters humanely and transportthem to other suitable habitats is already in force.

Details from Natural England, 122 Thorpe Road, Norwich (01603 674920).

It is worth noting that other mammals and birds preying on fresh water fish in the UK are the mink (alien), common rat, heron, bittern, great crested grebe, red necked grebe, kingfisher, gooseander, merganser, osprey, marsh harrier, black headed gull, little tern and various diver species.

• Fresh water match records were smashed to smithereens again on the prolific Bergh Apton fishery on Sunday when it was in with the new and out with the old following a tremendous dual between two Romany club men.

Terry Smith was keen to protect his figures of 218lbs 4oz, established last month.

However, he reckoned, without his club-mate Simon Denmark, who put in a telling late burst to leave four keepnets bulging with 281lbs 7oz while his opponent in the adjacent swim weighed in a 193lbs 3oz.

'We were neck and neck until the final hour when Simon heaved out several double figure carp,' said Smith 'He fished a stormer.'

The winner made his catch on paste and the runner-up used soft pellet.

Romany secretary Steve Read said: 'At this rate fisheries may invite us to visit their waters free of charge because of the publicity we generate for them.'

On the river Thurne the NDAA event produced an 18lbs 8oz winner for Tony Gibbons above Potter Heigham Bridge while at Martham the talking point was the number of quality perch in the river when one of 2lbs 7oz was weighed in.

• Fewer specimen anglers were seen on the banks of the carp waters, but quality fish were reported.

Taverham lake produced its best of the autumn, a common of 32lbs for season permit holder David Broomhead, who swept the board with a brace of mirrors over 20lbs.

Fish of the week at Taswood was a mirror of 31lbs 6oz and a common of 28lbs 4oz for Ross Leamon of Norwich while at Hall Farm, Burgh Castle Bradwell's Darren Turner recorded a venue and personal best common and 19 other specimens that included a linear and a leather over 20lbs.

Others were Gorleston rods Robin Waters, Steve Howe and Lee Rowland who between them netted 32 carp to over 20lbs.

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