Do Otters Eat Fish?

Otters are members of the weasel family. All members are known to be adept hunters. This is not a surprising fact, since otters will spend up to 5 hours hunting each day. These critters are known to be opportunistic feeders. They will basically eat whatever they can find.

But what about fish? Do otters eat fish?

Yes, otters do eat fish. Otters are carnivorous animals, and fish is the main food source for most otter species. Although baby otters are not great at catching fish, they practice this skill from a very young age to master it. Besides fish, otters eat different variety of aquatic animals, such as crabs, crayfish, and frogs.

In this article, we’ll explore everything about the otter’s diet based on fish. Let’s dive right in!

How do otters catch fish?

Otters are voracious predators and very skilled hunters. They are at the top of the food chain in almost every environment they live. These highly intelligent mammals will use different tools and tactics in order to catch the prey.

Giant otters and river otters use their vibrissae (hair around the mouth) to detect their prey. Usually, otters will eat smaller fish in the water, whereas larger fish are consumed on the land.

Handling a live fish takes practice. As a result, a nursing mother will teach their pups how to catch the fish until they are one year old. Otters are very agile water hunters. After fish is detected, an otter will quickly seize it with its sharp teeth. The biggest otter family member, a giant otter will hold its prey with paws while devouring it.

How many fish do otters eat in a day?

Compared to other similar-sized mammals, an otter’s basal metabolic rate is much higher. In addition to that, they will burn calories much faster compared to humans or other animals, to maintain their body temperature. As a result, otters will eat big amounts of food.

For example, North American river otters need to catch 0.2 pound of fish hourly, in order to sustain themselves. That being said, these semiaquatic creatures will eat close to 1 pound daily.

Depending on species and water temperature, otters will eat from 10% to 25% of their total body weight, daily!

Do otters eat the whole fish?

After capturing the fish, otters will eat whole fish by consuming their heads first. Although otters usually eat the whole fish, sometimes they will leave bones at homeowners’ properties, who keep fish in ponds.

What size fish do otters eat?

North American river otters will usually prey on smaller fish. If they get the chance to choose between game fish and slow swimming fish, they will pick slow ones every time. Sizing from 0.7 inches to 19 inches long.

As for the giant otters, favorite fish include characins, catfish, and cichlids. Nevertheless, if fish are nowhere to be found, otters will eat ducks, rabbits, rodents, snakes, smaller caimans, and even anacondas.

Do otters kill fish for fun?

No, otters do not kill for fun. Yet, during winter times, when fish is easily acquired, otters sometimes catch and kill more fish than they can actually eat. But once they finish eating, they will stop killing more fish.

According to Wikipedia otters are not known to be surplus killers. Meaning they will not kill more prey than they cant immediately consume. Some surplus killers include jaguars, honey badgers, orcas, lions, spiders, hyenas, bears, among others.

Otter fishing

In some parts of the world, otters are also known to cooperate with humans. Otter fishing is a fishing technique where otters are trained to help people in catching fish. This method has been practiced since the 6th century.

Otters do not actually catch fish by themselves, instead, they chase fish move towards the fishing net. It is still unclear if otters are playing or working. However, this old technique is still used in today’s modern world, and it is part of the Bangladesh people’s life.

How to stop otters from eating fish

During winter times, pond fish are at significant risk of being eaten by otters. Trapping otters seems like the most reasonable way. Yet, capturing these smart animals is not an easy job.

On top of that, in many states trapping otters is not allowed. This action can be done only at a specific time of the year since otters are protected species.

On the other hand, there are couple more ways to stop otters from eating fish:

  • If there is already dead fish in the pond, move all remaining fish to a holding pond
  • Strong outside lights may discourage otters
  • Place heavy mesh over the pond
  • Some high-frequency sonic devices may scare off an otter

However, if otters are constantly making you pond problems, consider contacting wildlife removal companies.


Otters eat a lot of fish. For the majority of otters, fish is the primary nutrition. All otters are expert hunters and in addition to fish, they will frequently dine on different wildlife.

If you liked this article, you may also be interested in similar otter articles. Here are some recommended ones: Do otters eat turtles?, Can otters breathe underwater?