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Cormorants - the supreme fishing machines

While waiting at the end of the Cobb for a one hour Lyme Regis mackerel fishing trip or a three hour Lyme Regis deep sea fishing trip, keep your eyes open for a cormorant swimming nearby.

This conspicuous large black water bird is very common around Lyme Regis harbour. Although it is hated by anyone with anything to do with inland fisheries because of its ability to consume huge amounts of fish, those of us at sea do not really have much idea about just how much sea fish they consume.

We can however get some idea just by standing on the end of the Cobb and watching out for these long necked primitive looking birds because one or two regularly hunt very close to people right in the harbour mouth and even inside the harbour itself.

Cormorant with eelThe cormorant is usually under water for between 20 and 30 seconds and if you see one of these birds surface and then dive again, stand still and keep looking. In no time at all they will reappear with a fish, usually an eel but often with a small flatfish. That is the beginning of a battle royal.

Eels have boundless energy and while the cormorant tries to get the eel in a straight line for a split second to swallow it the eel does everything but get in a straight line. A common sight is to see an eel completely wrapped around the bird's neck or manage to break free and disappear back underwater with the cormorant hard on its tail only to reappear back on the surface where the life and death game carries on. It's only fair to say the eel never wins.

Photo courtesy of Richard Austin ©

Published on 04/12/2012.

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