Tuesday, 4 May 2010

otters & hungry critters

Hi all,
why is that whenever I'm enjoying a bit of something pleasant, some news comes along to spoil it. I, like many hundreds of other sports lovers had been enjoying the snooker for the best part of a fortnight when it was spoilt by stories of suspected wrong doing. To be honest I didn't watch much of the final because the sport had been tainted.

But it isn't just snooker and other sports like cycling that are affected by the rumour mill. Fishing has been under siege for years from one threat or another and it's a minor miracle that we aren't all having to take a couple of Valium before we wet a line.

We've had threats from the anti-blood sports brigade, who, once they'd sorted out the nasty fox hunters were going to move on and fix the naughty anglers.

We've had the threat from Mink who having been freed from fur farms were going to devour our fish stocks. Then if there were any fish left after the mink had done its worst they'd all be eaten by the dreaded zander.

When the ferocious zander had filled itself up to bursting the cormorant would take over and there wouldn't be a fish left in the British Isles. And if there were any small pockets of our finned friends anywhere that were contemplating having a few fry to secure the future of the species, they needn't bother because the dreaded signal crayfish from America would eat all the eggs before they hatched.

I don't know about you but the area I come from must be a no go zone for all of these critters that are supposedly going to ruin our sport. Let me tell you how many of these horror boxes I've seen during the fifty odd years I've been wetting a line.

Mink, I saw one about ten years ago.
Zander, I've never seen a zander in my life let alone caught one.
Cormorants, I've seen one or two flying and one or two drying their wings but I could go for months without encountering one at all.
Signal Crayfish, I've seen just one and I think it must have been a vegitarian because it took a single grain of sweetcorn on a size fourteen.

Now don't get me wrong I'm sure there are places in the country where these beasties are running amok and I feel sympathy for those involved in trying to control them. But frightening people and making wild exaggerations has always been a good way to sell news.

Now you may wonder where this post is going, well stick with it because I'm coming to the point right now.

I have recently read several reports that otters are going to be the ruination of our course fisheries. According to some experts our sport only has 5 years left and then it will be wiped out by these furry little creatures. One labour MP has already said that the otter is responsible for a decline in angling. I won't get all political here but he ought to ask himself if it was the otter or the increased cost of living. My rod licence fee seems to go up by 8% every year, not exactly in line with inflation, and the cost of getting to a water to actually do some fishing is getting silly because of the tax on fuel.

Anyway, let's get back to the threat that comes in the shape of Tarka the Otter. Before you start worrying yourself grey and begin thinking about taking up a new sport like canyon jumping, ask yourself what happened to all the threats I've already mentioned.
You can also ask yourself this question. How may otters have you seen recently? I guess the answer is a big fat zero. The reason for this is because there are still very few otters about, I've seen several but I had to travel to Loch Sween in Scotland to do it. And even if the number of otters was to increase rapidly they would still have to follow the laws of nature. Think of it this way. If Tarka and co had thousands of cubs and their cubs had thousands of cubs and they ate all of our fish, what the hell are they going to eat next, our lettuce crops?

Nature isn't daft, as soon as the population of any animal becomes balanced, its rate of breeding is kept in check by the availability of food for it to eat. If this wasn't true we'd have been overrun by lots of other hungry fellows before now. Quite simply, nature will not allow the otter to eat all of the fish and wipe itself out.

At the top of this post you will have seen a picture from the front of a book written by Gavin Maxwell. It is called "Ring of Bright Water" and is the story of a man who takes an otter as a pet. It is very touching and an absolute classic. Anyway, If you get really upset about these otter stories in the press, try reading this book, I can guarantee you that if you then ever come face to face with an otter, you won't want to kill it you will probably just feel a need to kiss it.

Just a reminder that a free download of a sample of my book Fishing: Learn from the Tips & Laugh at the Tales can be found on my website.Click here to go to my website You can also find here a link to buy Gavin Maxell's book, it's well worth reading.

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