Angling: Furry killer causing havoc to rivers

At that time some of the rivers were filthy and were unable to sustain aquatic life.

In our area the Aire around Leeds, the Calder at Brighouse and the Don at Doncaster were in a poor state with the Calder, in particular, changing colour daily due to the discharge given from the various dye works situated on its banks.

But such rivers as the Ouse, Swale, Nidd, Ure and Wharfe were all frequently producing some fabulous catches and were in good health.

Over the years all our rivers are now of the highest quality thanks to the efforts of the Environment Agency and the European Union. However, since then we have had an invasion of predators whose main diet is our fish and in recent years stocks have suffered enormously.

The first on the scene was the mink and these creatures have created havoc, not only amongst the fish but also the native wildlife. For example, the eel population is down by over 90 per cent and water voles and other bankside wildlife have almost been wiped out for these mink will eat not only the eggs but also the young chicks.

Then we had the dreaded cormorant invasion where a flock of these birds would decimate a fishery virtually overnight and it took years to get permission for a change in the law to control them. By then the damage had been done.

Then came the Canada geese and the goosanders who feed on the small fish known as fry as they tried to hide in the weeds. Another predator was the seal who made an appearance after they followed pre-spawning salmon up the Humber estuary and then the Ouse as they attempted to reach their spawning grounds,

They then became sidetracked to other rivers such as the Lower Aire and the Wharfe and killed only the larger species of fish such as the bream, barbel, chub and even pike.

The latest menace to our fish stocks is probably the worst of them all and I refer to that lovable furry creature with the big appealing eyes, the otter.

Make no mistake about it, this creature is a vicious killer and there has been an explosion of them in just a few short years.

To suggest a cull on them would result in public outrage for they are regarded very highly by most people. But hang on a bit, don't rabbits come into the same category, furry and cuddly? They are being slaughtered in their thousands every week.

Only last week on the Countryside programme a gamekeeper admitted that he averages around 500 rabbits a year, so why is there no outcry about their slaughter? It is because the damage that rabbits do to crops can be seen by all,

The damage that the other predators that I have mentioned do is never seen for it all takes place below the surface of the water.

More on this subject next week when I will tell you my explanation for this sudden increase in the otter population.