Barbel and Otters – Some ‘inconvenient truths’

Are otters really eating all the barbel?

One of the advantages of having been around a long time is that I have seen the slow cycles of life that impact on our rivers and streams.
Like most anglers, when it first became apparent, in the early 2000s, that the UK otter population was on the way to recovery, I was pretty concerned. It stood to reason that any additional predator arriving on the scene could pose a further threat to riverine fish populations, already under stress due to existing factors such as poor water quality and low flows. And surely few species are as vulnerable as barbel to an apex predator such as the otter? This, we reasoned, is because large barbel have no reason to be afraid of much and indeed are known to remain perfectly stationary when approached by scuba divers. Our worries were backed up by pictures of half eaten barbel dragged up onto the banks of the Wensum. Ouse, Kennet and other rivers and a marked decline in barbel populations in once prolific rivers like the Bristol Avon. Barbel fishing would be finished within ten years we were told.

otter barbel
This Dorset Stour barbel was comprehensively ‘ottered’. Thanks to Phil Nixon of Ringwood & District AA for the photo.
Barbel clearly do suffer from otter predation but to what extent are otters responsible for the decline of barbel fishing in on some of our rivers?

Well here we are in 2017 and the pages of the angling press are still showing numerous captures of big barbel that should by rights have long been consigned to the digestive systems of the ‘otter plague’. Whilst it is undoubtedly true that the barbel fishing has declined markedly on a number of rivers, including my beloved Kennet, it has also improved in places like the Trent, remained excellent on the Wye and Severn and is showing healthy signs of recovery on the Hampshire Avon.
There is no shortage of otters in the middle Thames area where I live yet my friends and I have enjoyed some great barbel fishing during the final few weeks of this season from a river where multiple catches were never commonplace. And whilst I did witness the sad sight of a five pound plus chub lying dead and half munched on the bank I think it’s fair to say that overall the chub fishing has never been so good as it is right now on the Hampshire Avon. This winter I’ve had two hauls of of chub from the river exceeding 80 lbs and several of my friends have been catching a serious amount of six pound plus fish. So the otters can’t be eating them all as some of our well known ‘superstar anglers’ were predicting.

There have been some huge chub and barbel caught from the Hampshire Avon in recent years despite regular sightings of otters

In my time in politics I learned that is sensible to try and base opinions on credible, objective evidence and sound science rather than prejudice and emotion. As an angler I know what I and my friends catch, I can draw conclusions from catch and match reports from the rivers I don’t regularly fish but I’m not a fisheries scientist and I don’t have a detailed knowledge of the stomach contents or eating habits of otters. Luckily there are those that do and I’m writing this piece to give prominence to an interesting piece of work by Professor Rob Britton and his colleagues from Bournemouth University who were also assisted by Pete Reading of the Barbel Society.
Rob, who is one of the UK’s leading fisheries scientists, collected otter spraint from the middle sections of the Hampshire Avon over an 18 month period. In the lab they analysed the various remains of the fish (and other animals) that were in the spraints, which revealed a true picture the species and size ranges of fish that the otters had been eating.
And guess what? There were precious few barbel bits to be found. Now stop reading right now if all this science and evidence makes you feel uncomfortable but if you want to know more you can find the full report here:
What do barbel eat?
Rob has kindly set out, in layman’s terms, the key findings of the study which were:
– the main fish species taken were those generally considered ‘minor’ species by anglers, such as minnow, bullhead and stone loach. Of those species of more interest to anglers, only pike were relatively prominent, although these tended to be relatively small pike (<45cm, usually smaller).
– we found that other than in winter, the remains of non-native signal crayfish were present in a number of spraints from all sections of the river, indicating they are now established in the river. This is bad news overall, as they have a lot of negative impacts. However, they might provide a food source for larger perch, chub and barbel.
– although we expected to find some remains of larger chub and barbel, we did not find any of their remains (scales or bones) in the spraints. It is important to note that this does not necessarily mean otters never take chub or barbel in the river. But we have no evidence from the spraint analysis to suggest they do.
finally, eels were taken by otters but never in high proportions. As eels are often taken by otters, their low proportion in otter diet might be a reflection of eel abundance being relatively low, given the plight of eel at present.
So, not a lot of evidence here to support the claims of the doom-mongers for whom this study might be regarded as a rather ‘inconvenient truth’. I also thought it would be helpful to hear from a guy who knows more the Hampshire Avon barbel than most

Hampshire Avon barbel expert Pete Reading.

Hampshire Avon barbel and otters, a personal view by Pete Reading
When I first became aware that the otter population on the Hampshire Avon was on a road to recovery, I was, as many anglers were, a little concerned at the prospect of an additional predation pressure on fish. I am pretty sure that there had always been a small population about on the Avon and Stour, however; I saw my first ever otter on the Stour in 1976, and my first Avon otter 18 years ago.
I took the trouble to do as much research on the matter as possible, to seek advice from fishery scientists and ecologists, and to also give the matter some serious thought.
It seemed to me at that time that there was probably not a significant threat. Otters had been around on the Avon for millennia before their decline at the early part of the century, all previous research evidence showed that they mostly ate small fish, and a range of smaller prey species as the opportunity arose. Amphibians in spring, for example, eels when they were numerous, lots of invertebrates, including crayfish and mussels. Occasional small birds and mammals.
They are foraging opportunists, and it seemed very unlikely to me that they would bother with the effort of chasing and catching large fish in exchange for a small meal when other smaller prey was more abundant and easier to catch. It made no ecological sense for barbel to target and attack a large barbel, although it was possible that the occasional large fish that was moribund, old, sick, weak and an easy target would be recognized and tidied up.
I have now fished the Avon, and nearby Stour, for 46 years, and have not to this day seen a barbel that was apparently killed by an otter on either river, though I have seen two Avon carp. I have found a handful of dead barbel, as well as other species, but they were quite unmarked. Carcases of large fish that look like otter kills have apparently been found, but in very small numbers, but it must be remembered that fish are not immortal, and die on occasion anyway, especially when they get older.
The opportunity to contribute to some scientific research on otter diet on the river was eagerly accepted, and the skills of Prof. Rob Britton and his team at Bournemouth University in analyzing fish scales and spraint are nationally recognized. We had previously collaborated on analysis of Avon barbel scales, which gave some positive indications on the population structure, with a good age range and possible strong year classes.
The analysis of the spraint which I helped to collect with others did not come up with any surprises, with only one small barbel represented, and the few larger fish being quite small pike and chub.
The bones of large fish may not be commonly found in spraint, as noted in the article, since otters seem to only consume small amounts of soft tissue around the gills and belly area, or perhaps internal organs. It seems very likely, however, that lots of scales would unavoidably be ingested as the skin was broken and/or consumed in those areas. Fish are covered in small scales almost everywhere, but the underside of barbel in particular, right up to the gills and fins and all over the belly is covered in small colourless scales, and barbel scales are probably the easiest of all species to identify. I am sure that if a large fish were to be killed and eaten, scales would be ingested in large numbers and could identify and age fish, though ageing could be more difficult than with large scales of course.
I rather think that the main, most patently obvious reason why large barbel did not show up in the results of this study was that they are simply not being eaten very often!
This opinion is backed up by almost no evidence of carcases on the bank, and more importantly, the stable and probably improving nature of the barbel population on the river.
The spraint analysis did show that signal crayfish form a significant part of otter diet, more being eaten in the summer, and also that bullheads are a favourite prey item. This backs up previous work that indicate that otters are great foragers, almost grazing along the river bed and in the margins for small food items that do not involve expending a lot of energy. Hunting down double figure barbel makes no sense, and the evidence that it occurs to any significant extent just does not seem to be there.
I would say that based on my catches, and those of others, and my observations of fish in the river, that the number of barbel in the river has been stable for the last decade, and is in fact increasing.
Recognisable double figure fish are clearly surviving long term, average size is increasing slowly and steadily, and there are good numbers of smaller fish being seen and caught. Not just fish that could be accompanying males of the bigger girls, but fresh little two and three pounders, and huge numbers of tiny barbel in the 4-8 inch range throughout the river. It seems to me that the Avon has a very sustainable population structure in terms of barbel, and indeed most species other than roach, though there are signs of recovery there, as on the Stour.
A couple of years ago I had a catch four doubles in a day, and catches of two or three doubles in a day is not uncommon, but I have also had catches of six or seven smaller fish in a day in recent years, including several fish of less than three pounds this season.
I have spotted shoals of a dozen or more fish at times, and lots of tiny barbel all over the river. Avon barbel fishing is actually on the up, in my view, despite my being told six years ago that the river would be ‘finished in five years’ once the dreadful otters had eaten everything.
I was also told by anglers that the Avon barbel had been ‘decimated’, and that ‘every third barbel was ripped to shreds by otters’.
Total nonsense then, and now.
The chub fishing on the Avon is fantastic, with both large individuals and catches of a dozen 4lb plus fish in a day featuring regularly, and lots of evidence of small chub and strong year classes. Dace have made a huge comeback on the river, along with grayling, and the salmon fishing has made a dramatic recovery in the last three years.
Barbel seem to be spreading further upriver, to Salisbury and beyond into the tributaries.
I like to base my opinions on credible evidence, logic and reason; a scientific training helps with that.
All too often anglers jump to conclusions, seeing simple answers to complex questions, blaming something easy to hate for their perceived poor catches, and bankside rumour and gossip often seems to prevail over common sense and proper fact-finding and research.
It could even be that the otters are actually benefiting fish populations in the long term by keeping down numbers of truly ferocious predators like bullheads and crays, that must both consume untold numbers of fish eggs and newly hatched fry!

Carp in stillwaters are especially vulnerable to otter predation which is why the Angling Trust is getting more money for otter fencing.

Angling Trust and Predation
Here at the Angling Trust we have to address the impacts of predation on more than just rivers and barbel stocks. There is absolutely no doubt that otters have been doing immense damage to a lot of stillwater venues which is why we have been active in levering in rod licence income to support the installation of otter fencing for affected fisheries.
Carp waters are especially vulnerable, particularly those near to rivers which the otters use as a highway. We have produced an action plan on otters and our full position on the problems of otter predation can be found here:
For what it’s worth my personal view is as follows:
Anyone who thinks there will ever be any public or political support for a widespread otter cull in response to anglers concerns needs a serious reality check. That said the legal protections introduced when otters really where an endangered species are now disproportionate for a species that is fully recovered.
Otters are apex predators and need no help from us in re-establishing themselves beyond no longer being poisoned by DDT or hunted for sport. They can have a very negative impact on fisheries, particularly stillwaters, if artificially introduced into the area in unsustainable numbers and any such introductions are irresponsible and must be opposed.
Natural England should put an end to any releases of rehabilitated otters which have been injured fighting with other otters, or through other causes. In these cases otters appear to have less fear of humans and can cause greater damage to fisheries. They are also highly likely to fight with other otters when they are released into their territories which makes the whole process somewhat self-defeating.
There are a host of reasons for the decline of barbel in some rivers and its revival in others. Destruction of habitat and spawning grounds is one. Poor recruitment exacerbated by the presence of signal crayfish is another as are low flows and poor water quality.
Of course otters have had an impact in some rivers, particularly on smaller streams but they are not, as the science shows us, by any means the whole story.

36 thoughts on “Barbel and Otters – Some ‘inconvenient truths’

  1. What a joke, you state and agree the damage otters do on still waters so you want fencing put up then where do the otters go to feed ? RIVERS AND STREAMS !!!!! I would draw your attention to the lack of waterfowl on long stretches of my river, Dorset Stour. Natural England have in the past released otters that have no fear of man in numbers that the rivers cannot sustain.
    Once again the powers to be will bury their heads and hope the problem just goes away !

    1. I think the fact the otters eat things other than fish, like waterfowl, is rather the point of the piece!

      1. That’s a poor response Martin. If the point of your piece was to highlight the fact that as well as consuming valuable fish, otters are killing a lot of other wildlife, it’s hardly an advert for co-existence as I thought your piece was alluding to.

  2. I’ve only read this thread and not the full report as I don’t have the time right now, so maybe this issue is covered within the report, but surely any survey on the contents of otter spraint is completely pointless without also having an in depth survey of the fish stocks (as well as other prey species) of the river? I mean you’re not going to find any evidence of large barbel being eaten if there are hardly any there for the otters to eat in the first place!
    If the river fish population currently consists mostly of micro species like bullhead, then of course that’s what you’re going to find the otters eating the most, It doesn’t prove anything as to the effect the otters have had on barbel stocks as the reason they aren’t eating them now may be because they’ve munched through most of the stock already!
    Again sorry if this is covered in the full report but I feel it should have been included in the article as without it it means nothing. Also I mean a real survey, not some anglers observations as they are always dismissed as being anecdotal or emotional when it goes against whatever propaganda the AT or CRT is trying to push, and as such should be treated the same in this instance.

    1. No propaganda here Jacob. Just an interesting piece of research that anglers might find informative. The river in question is the Hants Avon – home of a fair few large barbel.

      1. Care to post a link to this official survey that has been carried out regarding fish stocks on the river, or is this just another opinion with no scientific evidence to back it up at all? This was kind of the crux of my whole argument here, but you appear to have missed it.

  3. i think its wrong to expect to find barbel scales in otter spraint as proof of barbel being killed and eaten by otters. we can clearly see that the skin of larger fish is cut and peeled back from otter prey fish. there will be no scales present, so thats why you dont find any in the otter spraints.
    otters may eat the whole head end of smaller fish and mini species, but its quite plain that larger fish are having the front flank section and a small part of the front belly area peeled back.

      1. Just to answer a couple of points; evidence from my catches and others indicates no decline in large barbel in the Avon, and as I said in my article they seem to be increasing if anything. Again, as I said in the article, Avon otters have a wide range of fish species to feed on, as shown in the report.
        Not noticed any decline in waterfowl on either Avon or Stour.
        All the pics I have seen of dead barbel show skin has been removed and undoubtedly eaten, so scales would be very likely to be taken in.

  4. I have seen a reduction in water foul on the stour Pete, and also witnessed signets being taken from a nest.

  5. wrt the reply from Pete Reading “All the pics I have seen of dead barbel show skin has been removed and undoubtedly eaten, so scales would be very likely to be taken in”…
    i think this is a contradiction, as you say barbel scales are not found in the spraints so this proves barbel are not being eaten by otters, yet you then say that as skin is being removed and eaten then scales should be present. the skin isnt removing itself, the barbel are not ‘self harming’ so if the body of a dead otter if found, the skin is peeled back and some flank flesh and soft internal organs [heart and liver] have also been eaten, you just write it off as a proven non otter kill as no scales are present in the spraint… what a load of rubbish, pal.
    you are just moving the goal posts to suit your own agenda here.

    1. In reply to dave mez; I did not say that barbel are never eaten by otters, just that the evidence from the study indicated that they were very few judging by the content of the spraint..
      It is impossible to analyse every alleged otter kill or relate the content of any spraint sample to any particular fish or otter, so no kills have been investigated or written off.
      Simply trying to use the available evidence and reasonable logic to draw a tentative conclusion is simple science, not rubbish.

      1. im afraid you are incorrect. you try to back up the evidence of no barbel scales in the otter spraints as evidence that barbel are not being eaten [in this test evidence] by otters, but you have also agreed that otters will peel back the skin of larger fish species (barbel, carp, chub, etc) and eat the flesh and internal organs.
        there is little point looking for barbel scales in the otter spraints as you know they will not be present, so you are kind of chucking up “scientific theory” but with no basis for it as its clearly shown to be guess work at best…

      2. Dave. I think you and Pete have done this one to death..All I would say is that Rob Britton’s report refers to “scales and bones” not just scales. See here: ” – although we expected to find some remains of larger chub and barbel, we did not find any of their remains (scales or bones) in the spraints. It is important to note that this does not necessarily mean otters never take chub or barbel fish in the river. But we have no evidence from the spraint analysis to suggest they do. ” Thanks for your comments.

  6. As secretary of Ringwood and district anglers association I feel that I have to reply to this topic. We have many miles of fishing on the Hampshire Avon and Dorset Stour. If anyone thinks that fishing is not being affected by the numbers of otters now present on these waters then they are wrong.
    This topic has been put on the ANGLING trust website and that is the clue it is there to represent angling. Whilst having great respect for Martin and Pete my job is to represent the views of the 2000 members in our club. I would say that 95% of these members believe that the otters are having a detrimental effect on these rivers and that isn’t mentioning our stillwaters where we have had to otter fence Rockford lake to protect the carp. We purchased Rockford over 3 years ago and the cost of the otter fence was £65000, clubs cannot sustain outlays like this.
    Even if it was possible imagine the cost of fencing our 60 miles of river bank. and I’m sure the EA and Natural England wouldn’t give permission.
    Like Pete I first saw an otter on the Dorset Stour and thought it was wonderful but now there are too many to be sustainable without effecting our sport.
    Recently our Lower Stour manager saw an otter dragging a 14lb barbel along the bank in the middle of the day, NOT a natural thingn to happen.
    Regarding birdlife our stretch of the Avon at Severals/Avon castle is over 3 miles in length and up to 5 years ago had 6 or 7 breeding pairs of swans but in the last 5 years none. Moorhens and coots are now a rarity on our river stretches not plentiful as they used to be.
    The manager on Throop was present when a swan was chased off its nest just above school bridge and the otter went in the nest and ate the eggs.
    You can produce all the “facts” that you want but the anglers who spend their times on the waters know that unfortunately otters are an issue, talk to them you will learn a lot.
    As the angling trust you guys are there to represent the views of anglers not your personal thoughts.

    1. Thanks Phil. As I made clear at the start of my blog the the purpose of writing this piece was to give some prominence to the research on Avon barbel and otters by Pete and Bournemouth Uni. I set out the Angling Trust position on otters and then lastly some personal views of my own. In neither of these last two sections was there any attempt to claim that otters aren’t a problem. The issue, I guess, is how much of a problem and on this views vary as can be seen from the various reactions on social media. For example Kevin Grozier has expressed a very different viewpoint to yours but I would not seek to argue with either of you!

    2. I would fully expect there to be photographic evidence of the 14lb barbel your Lower Stour manager spotted?
      I have heard so many reports of dead and ottered barbel from all over the country, included from members of my beloved Twyford waters but when challenged have not managed to find anyone who took a picture, although they were outraged and everyone has great camera phones in their pockets! Facebook should be covered in pictures.
      In all my years, I have only seen otters on the Wye, a whole family of them, which made no difference to the rally of 12 barbel that evening to 12 1/2lb.
      On of the Twyford bailiffs, walks almost all club the river banks, every single day and has never seen an ottered barbel, this winter was the best in a long time for big barbel on St. Patrick’s Stream.

    3. In response to the comment by Phil Nixon, I am not going to comment on the effect of otters on stillwaters, the recent research was based on spraint from Avon otters and limited to that.
      I would neither be able to say what 95% of any group of anglers think unless I had made the effort to do some detailed research.
      There is no doubt that there is some evidence that otters kill and/or drag large barbel onto the bank; the point I made is that it seems to be very rare, never seen it myself, and very likely, in my view, to be the result of an old and feeble fish being recognised as an easy target, as I said in my supporting article to the study. Old fish dying is perfectly natural.
      In my opinion, the swan population on the Avon valley is booming, they are a nuisance; I had over 50 in my swim one day last summer, and the official bird counts would support that I expect, will look it up for you.
      Similarly, not noticed any shortage of other waterfowl, but again without evidence from official counts it is not wise to make any firm statement.
      We are entitled to our own opinions, but not our own facts as they say!

      1. Wild foul are suffering full stop pete, I am a member of the RSPB and do a lot of birding, they even took the Avocets at Arne from a nest, the emblem bird of the RSPB,and one that was endangered. You never answered my comment before so I don’t expect one now. You seem very blinkered on this

  7. A lot of sense written I cannot speak for other rivers but the River Thames has never been so healthy there are so many specimen fish in the river even I can catch them..I love the fact You can see Otters regularly on the river if they do take the odd big fish so what..fishermen are not the only ones living around this watery world..

  8. MARTINREADINGWEST, you have replied to me saying; It is important to note that this does not necessarily mean otters never take chub or barbel fish in the river. But we have no evidence from the spraint analysis to suggest they do.

    this seems well balanced, except you know you will find no evidence of scale or bone samples in the otter spraint as they are not eating the bones or scales of these larger fish species as otters peel back the skin and scales from the flanks before eating the meat and soft tissues, hence your lack of “evidence” from the spraint analysis…
    you are looking for something that wont be there, then offer it up as proof…
    a joke of a report, and an embarrassment for the Angling Trust…

  9. Pete I have always held you in high regard but you are wrong ,I have been fishing the Wye for the last 35 yrs and have seen numerous otter kills on all of my stretches including the town centres .14 yrs ago one season I had 14 twenties with 4 over 25 lb,the last 3 seasons I have had 1 twenty otter prints everywhere they have devastated the Wye and as like you I know what I am talking about,this statement will put us back 10 yrs as did the lies that came out about Comorants 15 yrs ago I feel sorry for the future of angling on rivers and conservation.a very dismayed steve greenway

    1. I note your comments about the Wye Steve, and I assume you are talking about your pike catches, rather than barbel.
      The report that Martin Salter drew attention to, and my views, that are partly based on it, were concerned with barbel on the Hampshire Avon, so I can not really comment on Wye pike.
      The pike fishing on the Avon however has been as good as ever, as far as I know, and the report from the University only found small pike in the spraint, again little evidence that Avon pike are suffering any more than Avon barbel.
      Wye barbel fishing is rather good at the moment, is it not?
      35 years ago I was fighting to remove rules by local clubs and river keepers to kill all Avon pike, and on some Avon fisheries up to the 1970`s it was also a requirement to kill all chub!
      Anglers and owners then thought that pike ate all their silver fish, and that the chub gorged on their salmon fry and eggs, based on fear and ignorance and no real evidence.
      Thankfully we are rather better informed nowadays.

  10. Here is the photo of the otter with the 14lb barbel in its mouth after it got back in the water Ian:


      1. Firstly,i have to be honest and say i have not read all the above reports yet,but i can offer a few observations..I used to help run a local river club on the River Severn 600 yds or so below the Ironbridge in Shropshire from about 1976.We had 36 pegs on the river of various depth,pace etc.From June 16 th.we usually had at least 1 competition booked each week-end to about October by ‘outside ‘clubs,including St Helens and Deeside A/C.However,gradually the numbers of competitions booked dropped off,including our own club who,if i remember correctly had 19 competitions 1 year and not one on our own stretch of river..The signs were there that long ago that something was wrong,but we mostly assumed people preferred to fish ‘holes in the ground’ to be sure of catching.I have not got the records of the club weights etc,but i can deffinitely say that their is not the number of fish that there used to be.As in any Town or built up area it is not possible to cull the predators,which again have increased in numbers,all haveing a detrimental effect on fish population..Gooseanders take small fish,cormorants larger fish and otters apparantly any size.Larger fish taken mean there are less fish to spawn,add in the fact prolonged floods and polution doesn’t help either..Another local club,Bridgenorth,has also seen the average numbers of barbel caught in their competitions reduced and the aggregate competition weight hugely reduced.I wonder how many other local river clubs have similar statistics?

  11. Thanks to Martin for adding the photo of the otter with a barbel near the top of this blog, there you are Ian Crook, you have seen one now, the photo was taken this year.

  12. Well the comments here have done little to dispel the myth that all anglers hate otters, cormorants and anything that eats fish. Another own goal.

  13. Just a quick reply to Phil and Ian about swans; I have taken the trouble to become better informed about swan numbers on Avon.
    Mute swans have been counted monthly for decades, and the numbers counted by BTO/RSPB show a “steady and continuing increase”. There is no decline. Look it up.
    Opinion is best based on all available evidence, along with logic, reason and scientific principles, not just a few observations that suit a preconceived and apparently prejudiced view.
    One photo of a dead barbel, or an otter seen chasing a cygnet, does not mean that all fish and swans are being exterminated!
    Wetland birds surveys show a mixed picture, with some species in decline, some increasing, some stable, as is the case with woodland/garden birds.
    Predation is a long way down the list of possible causes of any declines, according to the research I looked at.
    More likely causes were seen to be loss of habitat, pesticide use, climate change and other man-made problems, an argument that I would support for trying to explain riverine fish population changes too.
    Pointing the finger at a single predator, and seeking simple answers to very complex problems is not the way forward.

  14. Disapointed somebody as respected as pete reading is continuing to have his head in the sand over the issues of otters .I have lost £250’000 worth of carp to otters over the last 10 years and seen hundreds off otter spraints and never once have I seen scales from my carp in otter spraints .The only scales I have seen is that of small fish .that dosent mean they haven’t eaten my carp as I have seen the body’s .The whole report is floored and not worth the paper it’s written on .

  15. After reading all the above comments , I am keeping an open mind on Otters.Too be honest I am far more worried about Signal cray fish and Cormorants.I fish the Kennet on a regular basis and often walk the banks looking for Barbel that have been attacked by Otters, and I am yet to find one.I was fishing a stretch of the Kennet recently, and I was told by several anglers that there were very few Barbel present as the Otters had eaten most of them .On my first session on that stretch I had 6 Barbel , and on my 2nd session 10 Barbel including 4 doubles.I went on to catch over 60 Barbel on this stretch ,although there were a number of duplicates.None of these Barbel had any sign of otter damage.I believe the main problem on the Kennet is signals, and the Otters are helping to keep their numbers down by eating them.In my opinion if a river is healthy and the balance is right otters are not be a problem.

    1. I have seen otters turn up on very good Wye stretches and the chub fishing drops off to the odd fish. Otters seen eating chub on the bank.
      On stillwaters I believe big carp attract otters like a magnet. I am involved with a club running a mixed fishery but we dont stock mirrors/commons only crucians as carp species, after our original carp were eaten by otters between 2007 and 2011. Since then we have otters each winter, spraints found and the odd pile of scales but the fishing is not adverselly affected as our bream and tench stocks have been okay. In my experience far worse on our water than otters are cormorants from the nearby estuary. A protected predator that increases in numbers year on year and is an ongoing issue. Plus fish thefts by anglers!

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