Otter-torn fish farms shut down

A top-secret group of lakes used to grow some of the nation’s biggest and most sought-after carp has been lost to fishing.

The three waters nestled deep in a private estate near Dorchester, used by one of UK’s main producers of thoroughbred British carp, were a breeding ground for specimens that now weigh in excess of 50lb and reside in some of the sport’s most prized venues.

But Angling Times can reveal this week the heartbreak suffered by respected fish-farmer Mark Simmonds after otters recently entered the lakes in Dorset and savaged £12,000 of his prized stock.

During the last two years the Hampshire-based businessman has been powerless to stop the predators, which have killed countless fish up to 30lb. In total Mark has lost an estimated £140,000 worth of carp to otters, and he has described the latest spate of attacks as ‘the last straw’.

Consequently, Mark has now had to turn his back on his cherished lakes after 20 years of hard work.

“I cried my eyes out when I had to give up the waters because they have produced some of my biggest and most beautiful fish. I still cannot believe that they are gone,” Mark told Angling Times.

“This is the second site I have had to close this year after losing £30k worth of carp in January alone. All I want to do is rear big, healthy home-grown carp for fishery owners to be proud of, and that give anglers the chance of catching a fish of a lifetime.”

“I have other sites to use, but the otters are making my life a misery ¬ they are ruining my business, not to mention the future of specimen carp in this country.” Carp fishing legend and tackle company owner Kevin Nash stocked two of his Essex specimen fisheries with fish from these ‘otter-torn’ waters. These carp have now grown on to over 50lb, and Kevin is well aware of the importance of businesses like Mark’s.

“The sport desperately needs people like Mark,” said Kevin. “I wouldn’t have fish of the calibre that I do if it wasn’t for people like him and the waters that allow him to grow his fish on. The fact that fish farmers have no  legal protection for their sites and stocks is a complete disgrace. What will we do if fish farmers are forced to give up?” Respected carp angler and co-founder of the English Carp Heritage Organisation (ECHO), Ian Chillcot, is of the opinion that the increasing difficulties in producing home-grown carp because of otter predation will ultimately play into the hands of the illegal fish trade.

“It’s becoming so hard and expensive to rear and stock big carp because of predation that I’m convinced it will force the sport underground to find cheap alternatives just so fishery owners can keep their businesses afloat.

It’s a bleak prospect,” said Ian.