Could otters kill the next record barbel?

This picture shows what's left of one of the country's biggest barbel after it was killed and partly eaten by an otter.

The River Wensum specimen, last caught by Phil Spinks at a summer weight of 17lb 12oz, was discovered by Norfolk Anglers¹ Conservation Association bailiffs on the bank at Sayers Meadow.

The gruesome carcass raises concerns about otter predation of barbel and carp on specimen fisheries throughout England, a growing trend that has so far been ignored by Government agencies and conservation groups.

But the reintroduction of the UK¹s biggest indigenous mammalian predator is causing increasing financial damage to both fisheries and anglers' sport, as proved by the dramatic decline of the country's premier big barbel water, Adam¹s Mill on the Great Ouse.

It is now feared otters will kill The Beast, the 20lb-plus barbel touted to set a new British record, and destroy two decades of hard work by NACA ­ one of the most conservation-minded angling organisations in the country.

"This fish, probably the second-biggest barbel in the Wensum if not the UK, would probably have weighed over 19lb when it was killed by an otter," explained local specimen angler Phil Spinks.

"What was left when the bailiffs found it weighed 15lb and measured 33ins in length. Myself and others are dreading that The Beast could be next," added a concerned Phil.

Local anglers have long been worried about the overall number of fish in the river, the result of poor habitat for successful spawning and fry survival.

The predation of 15lb-plus specimens has now added further cause for concern and a renewed call for support from those Government agencies responsible for angling and protecting otters.

"At the moment, there¹s nothing you can do about otters, you just have to live with them. Apparently NACA has lost three barbel from the Sayers Meadow stretch this winter out of a population of probably less than 30 adult fish. That's very worrying," said Norfolk angler Chris Turnbull.

"The fishery isn¹t as prolific as it was five years ago. The problems on the Wensum revolve around poor recruitment, predation and barriers to fish migration. The river needs regular restocking to maintain the river as a financially viable barbel fishery," added Chris.

And he warns that many other UK rivers will need regular restocking in order to maintain them as viable recreational fisheries.