PDA

View Full Version : Otters


silvercreek
08-18-2009, 09:05 AM
Ok I did a little research on Wikipedia. They have a good discussion on the Northern Otter. Otters eat about every type of fish including carp. It simply depends on what is available. Supposedly they do not pose any special harm to trout. However, they do target larger fish, so if trout are the larger fish you can figure out the rest. The article did say they can pose a threat where fish gather to spawn which takes us back to the trout issue. An adult otter eats 2 to 3 pounds of fish per day. Looks like otters taking out the larger spawners could surely work on trout numbers.

Jim Casada
08-18-2009, 06:09 PM
Silvercreek--You've hit the nail squarely on the head, and any way you want to look at it, two to three pounds of fish a day, when the main item of diet might well be trout, translates to a tremendous loss in any Park drainage if you do the math for say half a dozen otters over the span of a year.
Also, guess when big browns are by far the most vulnerable? When they move upstream into tiny headwaters. Anyone who has spent much time in the Smokies in late fall and winter has seen big browns in water scarcely deep enough to cover their backs. Easy pickings for an otter. Now you begin to get a hint of why I'm so darn concerned, and I've had at least 10 real old-timers tell me of their otter concerns in the last two years. To a man they have observed otter depredation first hand, and anyone who says they eat nothing but crayfish and trash fish is, to put it bluntly, out of touch with reality. Jim Casada

Rebelsoul
08-19-2009, 08:48 AM
There ain't no way they won't eat trout....they taste better.:frown:
It's a bad move from what I've heard y'all talking about.
Once they do start devastating trout populations,it's going to be somebody's job to figure out who is more important...trout or otters.
Since I'm new to Smoky Mt. trout fishing,I hate to see this,and I'm sure the oldtimers hate it more.
I've seen many streams messed up around here for a number of reasons,I hate to see the mountain streams become barren.

dalerio
08-19-2009, 10:21 AM
as much as i LOVE fishing in the park, i say otters. between a native and a transplant i pick the native. they an't alot of places i could take my son and see an otter in its native habitat. i am 37 years old and just seen my first mink on the creek i fish the other day. my son is 2 and thought it was a cat. we have elk and bear and coyote around the our house now. while i wish the coyote's would disappear an leave my turkeys alone they are natives to this area. my pappaw never got to see an elk or turkey or deer in our yard but my son has. i say OTTERS. the herons take a toll on the creek i fish but its there creek too.

sorry

my 2 cents........

silvercreek
08-19-2009, 10:48 AM
The brookies are native. There are a lot of places where otters can be found and to which they can adapt. Witness this by the fact that they are in the Stones River 15 miles from downtown Nashville and right smack in the middle of the suburbs. However, there are precious few places in the southeast where brook trout, or any trout for that matter, can reproduce. I can find otter within 2 miles of my house. I've got to drive 200 mile to find a streamborn brookie.

Rebelsoul
08-19-2009, 11:27 AM
I don't know for sure but I'll take a "s.w.a.g." and say coyotes might have been native to the mountains in the eons they've been in North America.
One thing I do know for sure,is that they won't disappear and leave the turkeys alone,or the small pets and even small children.
They are extremely adaptable,and if there aren't that many there...there soon will be.
I can definitely say I vote for the trout on this matter.There ain't many places left for wild ones to stay wild...and otters,that's a different thing like the above poster mentioned.

Crockett
08-19-2009, 11:58 AM
If the otters are native then they should be in there. I wouldn't eradicate a native animal even if it has been reintroduced. Now that may mean that someone only catches 5 trout in a day versus 40, 50 or some of the numbers I see on here at some point years from now but in the end it will be just as satisfying. Really could be more satisfying and sporting to think you are catching them under the same conditions and odds that existed a hundred and some years ago. Anyway there are plenty of trout out there right now and not too many otters as I have never seen one and I am in the park all the time. I think it will be some years before we have to wring our hands too much about this one.

silvercreek
08-19-2009, 12:17 PM
Love to see the otters when I walk the greenway. Have never seen a brookie in the stones river though. Hopefully this pic of the Stones river Otters will post.
http://i589.photobucket.com/albums/ss334/silvercreek_01/otters009.jpg

ChemEAngler
08-19-2009, 12:27 PM
Folks let's look at what the common denominator here is...... humans.

Humans eliminated otters from the park in the mid 19th century. During the time that they thrived here there were other predators here that kept the otter population in check, such as the red wolf and cougars. Guess what happened to those two species.....

From my limited research on river otters, I have found that most studies show that they typically locate their homes along slower and deeper bodies of water. When I think of brookies, I don't think of deep, slow pools, but instead of plunge pools and pocket water. Since most sightings of river otters is found along Abrams Creek and Little River, I think this further supports that claim.

I would expect the non-native brown and rainbow population to be much more negatively impacted by the presence of river otters.

Nature has a delicate balance, and sometimes we as humans think we can do a better job of determining how nature should operate. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it backfires. Not to mention we as a whole have a tendency to over-harvest our quarry. The fact is that for every group out there pushing for trout habitat and protection, there is another group pushing for reintroduction of native species, and another group pushing for the introduction of something else that they think would be nice to have. Sorry to disappoint, but you can't please them all, and somebody ends up losing at the end of the day.

David Knapp
08-19-2009, 03:46 PM
Nature has a delicate balance, and sometimes we as humans think we can do a better job of determining how nature should operate. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it backfires. Not to mention we as a whole have a tendency to over-harvest our quarry. The fact is that for every group out there pushing for trout habitat and protection, there is another group pushing for reintroduction of native species, and another group pushing for the introduction of something else that they think would be nice to have. Sorry to disappoint, but you can't please them all, and somebody ends up losing at the end of the day.


Well put Travis. Additionally, we as anglers often want to restore native species (Yellowstone cutts, west and east coast salmon runs, etc.). To accomplish that goal, organizations such as TU lobby for the removal of dams (such as on the Snake River) or assist with the removal of invasive species (lake trout in Yellowstone). I see it as inconsistent to work for the restoration of historic salmon runs but not support the reintroduction of species that were native to an area before being eliminated by humans. Does reintroduction always work out the way we hope? Probably not but while creatures like the otters may be making a small nuisance of themselves, there are still plenty of fish, at least on the Tennessee side streams I fish. If you want to see big browns in Little River then join me for a fishing trip sometime and I can show you plenty. They are still there but are largely nocturnal now do the heavy fishing pressure and hordes of tubers that descend on park streams throughout the day. Do otters eat large fish? Undoubtedly but they are much less of a threat to the park's fish as compared to the stresses we ourselves are placing on the environment. Instead of getting concerned about the otters, maybe we should all work to reduce industrial emissions to the west of the park that are responsible for acid rain. Maybe we should be worrying about the alarming disappearance of the native hemlocks and other evergreen species that used to carpet the mountainsides throughout the park. .

As Travis was saying, the otters are NOT going to be the end to brookies. They coexisted for many years before any of us were around and will continue to do so barring changes in the natural habitat caused by us humans. As much as we all enjoy catching the browns and rainbows, they are just introduced species...

tennswede
08-19-2009, 04:15 PM
David,

As always, common sense from you. I know that scat studies done on otters through the decades show a preference for non game fish as well as frogs, amphibians and the occasional trout. It looks like the biggest threat is during the spawn of trout. Anyway, a lot of the talk about otters is myth like it always seem to be when it comes to wildlife management. I'm with you that the real threat is civilization not Otters.

Jim Casada
08-19-2009, 04:37 PM
ChemEAngler--I certainly agree on the human factor; we have an endless propensity to mess things up. I don't agree with you, however, on otters being confined only to the lower end of big streams in the Park. You are looking at things from the Tennessee side of the Park while I've seen more otters and otter sign on the N. C. side (although I've seen plenty of evidence of them on the WPLP, and it is neither large nor comparatively slow moving.
Otters have been stocked on a dozen or so Park streams, including small ones such as Chambers Creek. They are also plenty of documented cases I know of, albeit outside the Park, far up the drainage of small creeks in N. C. I'll offer two recent examples--major depredation on the headwaters of Armstrong Creek above Marion, N. C., including devastation in the N. C. Wildlife Resources Commission hatchery there and secondly, on the headwaters of Burningtown Creek and its feeders in Macon County. I've already mentioned what they've done in Graham County, and a fellow whom I consider the best mountain fly fisherman I've ever seen (and I've seen a bunch of great ones), Marty Maxwell, told me that the last time he and a friend who is also an exceptional hand with a fly rod, fished the headwaters of Big Santeetlah they caught zilch, nada, nothing, zero. This is a stream which was once, in its upper reaches, a brown trouth paradise and I've had 100 fish days there more than once (and we are talking elevations in the 3000+ foot range). I don't have concrete evidence it was otters, but I feel confident that is the case.
Let's all hope nothing like this happens in the Park, and I hope I'm a misguided alarmist. Having said that, I've seen nothing even approaching this in my almost 60 years of fishing the Park. Jim Casada

Crockett
08-19-2009, 04:56 PM
First thing we should do is get organized and get funds together to build an Otter crisis center in order to educate non-fishing types on the devestation they are causing. Ok sorry for the sarcasm Jim I know you are really concerned and I appreciate that. Seriously though what can we do write our congressman? I just can't get worked up over this one since I haven't seen any otters up there. Mind you the next time I go out and don't catch anything (which is most of the time lol) then I will surely blame those **** otters...

silvercreek
08-19-2009, 05:17 PM
Otters are mostly out at night according to the Wikipedia article. Wilder than the ones I see on the Stones River, they probably see you and your fly line long before you see them.

dalerio
08-19-2009, 05:34 PM
National Park Service (http://www.nps.gov/) (NPS) is to protect these federally owned lands from development so that future generations can enjoy them. National parks are usually found in areas with something unique to protect. These can be native plants, animals, ecosystems, distinctive geologic features, and/or the protection of biodiversity.

NOT FISHING.......

we are not talking about state controlled fishing areas but parks for EVERYONE to enjoy not just fishermen. sorry but as i see it that is the truth. if it was left up to me i would like to see big cats back in the park. that said. hiking would be interesting and without a doubt someone would get hurt but more of the natives would have returned. the park should be more than just water and fish. it should represent everything and everyone. buffalos, wolves, any thing we can put back.

a bounty was placed on bull trout to help the fishing of i think introduced fish. who has more of a right to be there the bull trout or stocked trout. look at it this way if the otters empty out all the rainbows and browns it will be easier to have the brooks returned to their native waters?

the park is for everyone not just fishermen.

wait why am i making this point.....

just forget everything i have said...........

Jim Casada
08-19-2009, 06:24 PM
Crockett--Obviously you and most of the others posting on this think I am crying wolf, and I actually hope you are exactly right. However, and I suspect I have appreciably more experience in the Park than most, thanks to happy accident of place of birth, longevity, and having a great many marvelously misspent years fishing both sides of the Park, I fear not.
As to what can be done, basically nothing--but don't overlook the process of unintended consequences. Someone else suggested that a lot of this is semi-wild rumor not back by wildlife experts. I would simply note that the folks in the state of N. C. are extremely concerned, and in fact they are the ones who first gave real credence to what to that point had been anecdotal observations by me and a number of anglers I know.
But I'll try to summarize a few things I've stated, perhaps not well, and I'll hush on this since I sense some folks are irritated with me and that doesn't lend itself to useful or civil discourse. All of these are hard facts.
*Browns have totally disappeared from Abrams Creek
*There are appreciably fewer big brown trout than was the case less than a decade ago in a number of streams
*There are documented otter depredations aplenty in mountain trout streams in North Carolina
*Big Santeetlah Creek in N. C. is a pale shadow, at best, of what it was a decade ago
*The steelhead run into Big Snowbird Creek has diminished in recent years to perhaps 20 percent of what it was in 2000 (and you can't factor drought into the equation on this one).
*Otters are present on virtually every major drainage in the Park.
*Otters have a quite high metabolism and consume two to three pounds of meat (mostly fish, crayfish, and minnows) daily.
*There are appreciably fewer red horse and suckers in most Park streams than there were 15 years ago.
*Unless my fishing skills have gone downhill, and I'm pretty confident they haven't, there are fewer fish in some Park streams (Deep Creek is a prime example) than was once the case. I'd love to hear Steve or Matt report on this.
That's all I'll say on this matter, and once again, I hope I'm wrong and that a number of you can say to me, five years down the road, "I told you so." Jim Casada

FishNHunt
08-19-2009, 07:38 PM
I can remember the first otter I ever saw. My dad had taken me to Gatlinburg once (before he trout fished religiously like he does now) when I was little and we saw one working the bank in daylight right smack in the middle of town. I was amazed and didn't see that many for several years. Now I have seen as many as 13 different otters in one day while fishing Chilhowee Lake. I saw camping once and I kept hearing whistles and chirps and couldn't figure out what it was until I spotted a family group "fishing". Years later I told my wife (fiance then) that I could talk to otters and whistled (mimicing the calls I had heard) to a family group that was "fishing" at the power house and called them right up to the other side of the rock we were on. She was awe stuck at how pretty they were. Very inquisitive critters. I feel that the otters have every right to "fish" right along side us humans. I know it used to aggrivate me to see a 2 lb small mouth head laying on the bank knowing that an otter had just had breakfast. Just like everything in nature there has to be checks and balances. We humans are the ONLY animal that will deplete it's resources until there is nothing left and continue stick around until we starve to death. These otters move around and fish out of many pools in just one night. They aren't going to stay in one spot and continue to fish until there is nothing left even if they could catch all the fish. If you look we only seem to be focusing on the "larger" spawning fish. Well I hate to say this but, 90% of the people fishing these streams will never land one of them. Not because they are bad fishermen/woman but, because they are so darned hard to catch.

Oh before I have the "bunny hugger" hung over my head... I have trapped otters before.

Bran
08-19-2009, 09:55 PM
For what it's worth (probably nothing in the grand scheme) we have otters here in southern VA on our farm. The creek running through the farm is about half the width and twice the depth of the wplp at the top of g-burg. I don't see any appreciable difference in fishing there now from when I was 5 or 6 which, for those of us counting, was about 32 years ago. I still catch good numbers of gills, bass, red horse, and knottyheads there now just like then and I see Otter scat on the banks commonly.
That, as stated earlier, may not mean a thing compared to SMP Trout but just an observation from the flat lands.

pmike
08-19-2009, 10:58 PM
...considerably limited, but I am afraid Mr. Casada may in fact be closer to right than most of us would wish him to be. On my last trip up about a year ago, I was fishing along Little River just beyond Elkmont, toward Metcalf Bottoms. As I fished along a familiar stretch, I noticed there were few if any fish holding in areas I've seen them in, every trip to that area before.

The fishing was slim to non-existent, but i did manage to hook up with a decent Brown, It was about a 12 incher. As I leaned down to revive and release the fish back into the run, it felt like someone or something was staring at me. I glanced up and accross the river to see a furry little face with beady little eyes as I released the fish. No sooner had the Brown left my hand, than the Otter jumped into the same pool to go after it. This all happened in mid to late afternoon.

My best guess is that if the Otters eat all the Browns and Bows, the Brookies will be on the same menu and soon gone as well. I wonder if they, the Park Service, might have to then revert back to stocking inside Park streams in order to supply enough fish to sustain the otters???

Mike

rivergal
08-20-2009, 07:58 AM
I think the Cherokee called Cades Cove "place of the river otter".
The Cherokee probably kept the otter population in check by hunting.
When they re-introduced the river otter, they should have brought back the Cherokee and the buffalo too. Just my hillbilly opinion.

Carlito
08-20-2009, 09:16 AM
Right on, Rivergal. Man's interference with nature is truly a conundrum. First we wipe 'em out, then we are arrogant enough to think that we can set things back into balance. Best intentions, perhaps, but sometimes it all seems like folly.

Rebelsoul
08-20-2009, 10:22 AM
The only thing that will balance nature is the extiction of man.....
or until the earth gets enough plastic to sastify it's needs,according to George Carlin.

18inchbrown
08-20-2009, 10:37 AM
If they put otters back into the ecosystem and don't put the predators of the otters back in, will not the otters increase in population according to their food supply? I am not a wildlife biologist but I suppose it doesn't take a PhD in wildlife biology to conclude that the otters will keep eating and expanding as long as there is habitat to expand into. Just ask the sheep and cattle ranchers around Yellowstone what they think of the wolf introduction program out there. In 30 or 40 years there will be an otter eradication program going on in the Park. Trappers will be allowed in to keep down the population of otters. People are stupid. Let well enough alone.
The Park is for people. The only people who will be down along the creeks and rivers at a suitable time to see the otters will be fishermen and we don't want the otters. If they come back naturally more power to them but don't let some government idiot start something he won't be around to correct 30 years from now.

Rebelsoul
08-20-2009, 01:29 PM
I would figure there's bobcats in the park already...I don't know if they would kill an otter,but maybe....but yeah,when people start thinking they can control nature it winds up being a mess.
My granny used to say,it's a good thing people can't control the weather,otherwise we would have a really big mess....nobody can agree on everything.
All this talk has made me want to learn more about the otters.

Hatchie Dawg
08-20-2009, 01:57 PM
I for one have trouble buying the argument that just because otters were once in the Smokies that they should be there now. The fact that brookies and otters coexisted for who knows how many thousands of years may mean little today. At that long ago time the environment was pristine. I don't think anyone would argue that it is now.

As has been stated the habitat of the Smokies is degraded for multiple reasons including pollution and the ongoing attack from exotics. The ability of the fish, char plus trout, and the otter to coexist cannot be the same as it once was. The land is not the same and therefore the balance point between the prey and the predator will not be the same.

What that balance point will be is at best an educated guess.

Carlito
08-20-2009, 08:13 PM
The Park is for people. The only people who will be down along the creeks and rivers at a suitable time to see the otters will be fishermen and we don't want the otters.

Although I agree with the sentiment that perhaps it was an error to reintroduce otters to the Park, it is our privilege to be able to enjoy it at all. IMHO, the Park is meant for that which it is: wilderness in and of itself. That's what it's keepers strive for, but it is hard to keep up with everything going on up there. The irony is that river otters have always been one of my favorite animals. Doh.

BlueRaiderFan
08-20-2009, 08:37 PM
The species that prey on otters are well known and few in number (bobcats, coyotes, birds of prey etc). All of which exist in the park (maybe not the coyotes, but give them time). I doubt the eco system has changed that much since they were eliminated. You can be certain that several people with phd's made this decision and know what they are doing. I don't think otters are that invasive. If they lived there in harmony in the past, they will be fine now. I doubt we see a sudden upsurge in otter population. I have a BS in biology and know a little about stream ecology. If you think that otters are going to cause an issue, you are wrong. There are plenty of fish for the otter population that will develop and us. I wouldn't worry about it.

BlueRaiderFan
08-20-2009, 08:40 PM
They are putting it back THE WAY IT WAS. In other words: It works with otters in the mix. They've only been gone a few decades. That isn't even a tick on the time scale to those mountains. ALL of their natural predators are still in place. It won't change a thing except for the fact that we will get to see the mountains the way they are supposed to be before we came in and screwed it all up.

BlueRaiderFan
08-20-2009, 08:44 PM
If they put otters back into the ecosystem and don't put the predators of the otters back in, will not the otters increase in population according to their food supply? I am not a wildlife biologist but I suppose it doesn't take a PhD in wildlife biology to conclude that the otters will keep eating and expanding as long as there is habitat to expand into. Just ask the sheep and cattle ranchers around Yellowstone what they think of the wolf introduction program out there. In 30 or 40 years there will be an otter eradication program going on in the Park. Trappers will be allowed in to keep down the population of otters. People are stupid. Let well enough alone.
The Park is for people. The only people who will be down along the creeks and rivers at a suitable time to see the otters will be fishermen and we don't want the otters. If they come back naturally more power to them but don't let some government idiot start something he won't be around to correct 30 years from now.

Brown, the predators never left. They just changed their eating habits. Now that have otters on the menu as well. Worst case scenario; We get a couple extra bobcats out of it because the otters provide an extra meal now and again. They didn't leave naturally and the only way to put it back the way it should be is to manually introduce them. Have elk taken over the mountains? No, and they won't. They will reach their natural population limit and will either starve due to lack of food, or they will be eaten. Worst case scenario after that is a few hunters get to shoot some elk. Same goes for the otters. Sorry about the multiple posts.

tennswede
08-20-2009, 08:49 PM
And yes, coyotes are all over the park. I had one following my truck one early morning at Chimney's. Another time we were camping at campsite #23 and I had to listen to coyote howling all night long.

BlueRaiderFan
08-20-2009, 09:46 PM
Coyotes are so invasive. They should be shot on site for the most part. They can and do breed with domesticated dogs. I've seen coyote/sheppard mixes and there is hardly anything quite as scary as a 90lb coyote. At least in Tennessee. They will eat everything they can get their paws on. They've ruined our wildlife management areas in Middle Tennessee for small game. It was bad enough when all we had were the falcon to contend with for small game.

Hatchie Dawg
08-20-2009, 11:02 PM
This arguement has been going on a while...


"Viat. Why Sir, I pray, of what Fraternity are you, that you are so angry with the poor Otter?
Pisc. I am a Brother of the Angle, and therefore an enemy to the Otter, he does me and my friends so much mischief; for you are to know, that we Anglers all love one another: and therefore do I hate the Otter perfectly, even for their sakes that are of my Brotherhood."

from

"The Complete Angler"
Pub. 1653

Izaak Walton

GrouseMan77
08-21-2009, 06:33 AM
I'm scheduled to help out with some electro shocking on the NC side next week. Hopefully we will shock up a mess of otter. I may try to tie bells to their necks.

I really liked rivergal's suggestion of the reintroduction of Indians and buffalo.

Rebelsoul
08-21-2009, 08:13 AM
They are putting it back THE WAY IT WAS. In other words: It works with otters in the mix. They've only been gone a few decades. That isn't even a tick on the time scale to those mountains. ALL of their natural predators are still in place. It won't change a thing except for the fact that we will get to see the mountains the way they are supposed to be before we came in and screwed it all up.
That will never be,as has been noted there ain't gonna be any buffalo herds roaming around,and if what I've read and seen signs of,there were thousands,you can't put it back "the way it was"....you even agree with that about the coyotes....the balance is off nowadays.
I think we can all agree to disagree...our hearts seem to be in the right places and so it seems to be with the folks who want it the way it was by reintroducing species that were eliminated.
We were born in the wrong time to see the real pristine wilderness.
Man has royally screwed up things and still will because he plays God.

silvercreek
08-21-2009, 08:16 AM
We can use some of that stimulus money to hire people to put bells on otters. People employed. Fish protected.

Brian Griffing
08-21-2009, 10:52 AM
Hey everyone, I haven't been motivated to post anything since I moved to eastern NC in June. But this one got me. Even though I'm sure some will wish I'd kept my opinion to myself.
I grew up fishing mountain streams in the Rockies. There were otters, mink, and big old fishers. I still caught fish. Big fish. Big cuts.
The otters will not kill all the fish. Three years ago I caught a fish in Abrams from a stretch of river that had freshly chewed crawdad legs on the shore. I could see otters downstream as I landed the fish. Saying that the existence of otters will mean the destruction of fishing would be like claiming the existence of bears would mean the destruction of deer hunting. It just doesn't pan out.
Besides, I like having all kinds of critters running around the woods.

Crockett
08-21-2009, 01:00 PM
You are being way too reasonable Brian. Don't you know you probably caught the last fish in that pool on lower abrams. I bet if you went down there today you wouldn't catch anything ;)

By the way your location tag still says Maryville, TN. Wherabouts in easter NC are you living now? Just wondering cause I live in Maryville and my mom lives in New Bern.

Brian Griffing
08-21-2009, 03:17 PM
Crockett,
I think this may be the first time ever someone has accused me of being reasonable. I'm a little south of New Bern in Cape Carteret. I haven't done any fishing here yet, but I'm butted up against the Croatan National Forest, and there seems to be a good number of deer in there.

nvr2L8
08-21-2009, 09:00 PM
Brian,

Good to hear from you after so long, Bud. Look forward to when you can get back to this area on a more regular basis.

Carlito
08-21-2009, 09:27 PM
We can use some of that stimulus money to hire people to put bells on otters. People employed. Fish protected.

This is obviously a man of vision. Perfect solution. Now if we could just design an air rifle that will hurl non-lethal otter bell shot we'll be in business. Possible modified paintball gun.:biggrin: