Anglers could win Environment Agency funding to fence off lakes to protect the fish in them from otters.

 

Fisheries along the Waveney and Wensum valleys have lost large carp to the animals, particularly when nearby rivers are running high and coloured in the winter.

 

Specimen carp, which are worth thousands of pounds each, are particularly vulnerable to otters, because the pits they inhabit are clear in the winter and the large fish become torpid and easy to catch in cold weather. But pike, tench and other coarse fish are all taken by otters.

 

Some fisheries have been ruined by such predation and anglers claim they are unable to prevent fish being taken, because otters are fully protected by law and may not be moved, disturbed or harmed in any way whatsoever.

 

Mark Casto, bailiff for the Bungay-based Cherry Tree Angling Club, said it had lost large numbers of tench to otters.

 

“We’ve had several days of otters being seen in the Broome Pits and the remains of a dead pike and tench found and photographed,” he said.

 

“One evening it was reported to me that a club member who was fishing at night caught a large tench about 8-9lb in weight, a fish to be proud of indeed.

 

“However as he was about to land it a large otter attacked it and nearly took the club members rod out of his hands. He told me how the poor tench was dragged into the bushes by the otter and he could hear it crunching the fish as it ate it.”

 

The Specialist Anglers’ Alliance (SAA), which has been investigating the problem, believes surrounding lakes with otter-proof fences can protect fish stocks.

 

Last night it said it had financial backing from the EA to help angling clubs and fishery owners meet the cost of the specially- designed barriers, which otters can not climb over or burrow under.

 

“A carp in a Stillwater in the middle of winter is like a belisha beacon saying McDonald’s,” said the SAA’s Chris Burt. “Fencing isn’t cheap, the probable cost of a fence is £20,000 for a 10-acre water.

 

“But those waters now suffering fish kills from otters must face the reality of an ongoing problem and either install fencing or face long-term fish kills.”

 

In a letter to the SAA, EA fisheries official Adrian Taylor said: “There is no reason why otter fencing schemes should not be considered for our project bid funding.

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