A SEAL has is frustrating anglers after finding a new feeding ground up to 20 miles swimming distance from the open sea.
While proving a hit with people visiting the River Wear in Chester-le-Street, County Durham, anglers claim the errant animal is wreaking havoc on their catch.
The seal is believed to be the same one spotted as far inland as Durham City, following record flood levels last September. Since the waters subsided it has become a regular visitor to Chester-le-Street.
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Chester-le-Street and District Angling Club secretary Alan Horniman club said: “The seal has been quite amusing to people visiting the park, where it can be seen swimming with fish in its mouth.
“But it is bad news for river fish and anglers are not amused.
“We are not happy to see it so far inland, as it can be really destructive. It takes mainly sea trout and salmon. They are very predatory and can eat up to 100 lb fish a day.”
Amateur wildlife photographer Rob Wells, of Great Lumley, near Chester-le-Street, who managed to snap the seal, said its eating habits were nature and anglers should “get over it.”
He said: “A woman who feeds the ducks and swans first mentioned the presence of a seal to me after the big floods.
“It has been coming from Sunderland to Fatfield at Washington and then to Chester-le-Street where there is a little waterfall.
“It knows the fish cannot get above that so it catches the salmon every time it comes.
“And it is very nimble. When I managed to take its photo it had caught a fish and was swimming downstream at a rate of knots.
“I had to really sprint along the riverbank to photograph it. I have lived in this area all my life and have never seen a seal so far inland before.”
Mr Wells added: “The seal is quite timid. He is popular with local children, but when they spot him and shout, he dives underwater.”
Anglers are waiting for the waters to recede further, forcing the seal to return to its traditional feeding grounds.
Common - or harbour seals –are the most widespread variety on Britain’s coast.
They can survive in fresh water for several weeks and usually return to the sea on their own accord.
Seals have been reported upriver in other parts of Britain following heavy flooding.
One was spotted 50 miles from the seam in a marina in Worcestershire, while another had made it a similar distance upriver in Cambridgeshire.