River manager says sport improving despite otters

THE fisheries manager at one of Britain’s best angling clubs has explained how he thinks otters aren’t killing the rivers he controls.

Otters have risen in numbers across Britain but they should not be made scapegoats for rivers, according to two men close to top club, Reading DAA.

Del Shackleford from Berkshire’s Reading DAA insists that fishing on the association’s rivers is largely better today than it has been for many years.

And he believes that anglers moaning about the damage done by otters, and calling for culls, is detrimental to the sport.

Del has been Reading DAA fisheries manager for 13 years.

Del explained: “Emotional outbursts on social media about otters are largely based on nothing more than exactly that – emotion.

“No fact, no science, in fact nothing but ‘well, it used to produce big barbel’ type of thing.


Speaking up – Del Shackleford, seen here with a barbel, is close to Reading DAA venues and shared his opinions.

“The facts are that our rivers like the Kennet are fishing well, better than they have for many years, with a good mixture of species and the odd specimen sized fish.

“The water quality is also better than it has been in 50 years, all of which can be proven with science.

“Our rivers are pretty much as they should be – a river full of specimen sized fish is not a healthy sustainable eco-system.

“Otters are part of that eco-system within rivers and from an environmental point of view they are better for it.”

Lakes are different, said Reading DAA man

Del continued: “Lakes are a slightly different matter and can be manipulated to what the angling ‘customer’ wishes it to be.

“Part of that ‘manipulation’ has to take predation into consideration as part of any business plan and not to do so, is foolish.

“However, as in our case, big gravel pits are particularly difficult to manage to that level.

“So we have to err on the side of low stocking numbers in order to make them less attractive to predators.

“Otters are one of the most protected species in the country and as such you cannot legally interfere with them or their habitat.

“This is how things stand at present and no amount of pontificating on social media will change that.

“In fact, some of the comments and grandstanding that goes on social media platforms will only serve to reinforce the idea that anglers aren’t the ‘guardians of the waterways’ as they have always been viewed as, but just self-serving and only interested in their own needs,” Del concluded.

Reading DAA controls long stretches of the River Kennet.

“Blame otters if it makes you feel better” says Salter

Martin Salter, head of policy at the Angling Trust and a Reading DAA member shared his views on the current situation in his area.

Martin said: “The Thames is clearly a river in resurgence – just look at the match weights over the last three years and the huge head of roach now present throughout the middle reaches. “

“I believe the Kennet has declined steadily but that is since the re-opening of the canal and the accompanying increase in sedimentation which has clogged up the spawning gravels making them unproductive.

“Witness the decline in gravel spawners such as chub, barbel and grayling compared to fish that lay sticky eggs in weed like roach and perch.

“However, as Del says – the signs of recovery are there with good numbers of silver fish coming back and small barbel and chub now showing too, which is evidence of some successful recruitment, possibly following our gravel jetting efforts.

“Yes we lose a few fish to otters, but we lose hell of a lot more due to signal crayfish and loss of spawning habitat.

“By all means blame the otters if it makes you feel better. Alternatively, you could think about all those factors that need to be in place to deliver a productive fishery.

“You will soon realise that otters are well down the list of things we need to be worried about and they eat crayfish in abundance,” added former MP Martin.

Key Reading DAA info

Berkshire-based Reading DAA controls 25 miles of the River Kennet, River Thames, River Loddon and Kennet and Avon Canal, plus 14 lakes.

The association has around 1,500 members,and cater for all kinds of coarse anglers. The daylight membership option for adults costs £80, £60 for OAP/RDP and £15 juniors.

There are various other options, including night fishing, and coaching for juniors, too. Find out more, or buy a ticket, via the Reading DAA website

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