Angling column: Otters present a big risk to fishing stocks

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Suffolk Free Press angling correspondent Roger Fleming reflects on the last month by looking at a creature that is certainly not a fisherman’s friend.

THERE have been some concerns about the lack of eels in our waters. Well, I have one good reason for that: otters!

In one of our local lakes an otter has surfaced twice with a large eel in its mouth. Eels are one of otters’ favourite foods.

This lake is about two miles from the River Colne and to get there it, or they, must have travelled up tiny streams, passing through an even larger lake, and the connecting stream, to the lake in question.

I shudder to think of the specimen fish that have been eaten by these otters. On the bank of the Stour at Henny I’ve seen large fish skeletons, along with scales and otter droppings, known as spraints.

One swam under my rod while I was fishing the Stour at Nayland and another one calmly slipped into a lake from the far bank when I was at a lake at Assington – to get there it must have travelled about three miles from the River Stour.

Perhaps they’ve eaten all the eels in the rivers and are now searching for their favourite food in the lakes, and I’m not the only person who has had otters surface near them. This has happened at Liston Mill and Henny, according to fellow anglers.

Another problem for anglers are the spread of signal crayfish. If dead baiting for pike, one can have run after run and if you leave it long enough before striking, up comes a crayfish hanging on to your smelt, sprat or mackerel dead bait.

I finished off the river season with some good pike fishing but didn’t have much luck general fishing.

I went to one of my favourite end of season swims downstream from the Rookery in Bures.

The first trip I fished for about three hours without a bite, then I had one small chub which is unusual as I can at least expect some nuisance small perch on maggots.

The second time I had a chub of about a pound-and-a-half on my first cast. I was using a small feeder packed with maggots and casters fished off a quiver tip.

A short time later I had another one, so I thought I was in for a good session as the swim in question often attracts large bream.

However, it went dead, and all I got was a few little twitches on my tip then a very slow short pull. I’d seen that before elsewhere and when I brought in my end tackle sure enough the maggots were squashed and torn.

The signal crayfish had moved in and they were on to the bait each time I cast out so I packed up fishing. I could have beaten them by trotting a float but I wasn’t in the mood for changing my tactics by then.

I’ve not seen crayfish that far down the river before, only upstream at Henny, Sudbury, Long Melford and Glemsford.

The London Anglers Association have told me they are not increasing their membership fees this year. They have lakes at Bures and Glemsford and long stretches of the Stour in our area.

I usually have a few sessions at Bures Lake during the river close season as there are some nice size rudd to be had on the float or pole, and there’s also the chance of catching an early tench.

To get an annual permit ring LAA HQ on 0208 520 7477. There are no day tickets available for the LAA’s Bures and Glemsford lakes.