Tuesday, 2 December 2008


Whilst fishing last Sunday’s D&WAA beach and pier festival in an attempt to win a turkey (well Mrs Boatman expects at least one hot meal a year), I was approached by a Kent and Essex sea fishery officer. On enquiring what his business was, he stated that he was educating the anglers about the short comings of retaining undersized fish. I explained to him that this was an angling match and none of the anglers would want to keep undersize fish. Also all the fish they had was of NFSA sizes, which is above the DEFRA size limits. What’s more, these match men knew the size limits off by heart!

I challenged him on the damage that the fishing fleet has done to the stocks. He then informed me that he was once a commercial fisherman and the commercials are having a tough time of it at the moment. I suggested that they have earned lots of money in the past; sometimes as much as £2,000 a day. His answer to that was ‘you cannot catch them twice’. Exactly says I, that’s the whole anglers v commercial argument.

He quickly changed the subject and informed me if I had any peeler crabs (what’s my name ‘Rothschild’ I’m only a poor pensioner) then they have to be of legal size. Velvet’s and edible crabs must not be gathered in peeler form unless they conform to DEFRA size. Again I enquired did he know where any of these crabs are shedding at this time of year as it would be of great interest to us all. His reply was that he would sooner educate us to the rules as opposed to prosecuting us.

As we discussed quotas and days at sea as the only solution to the commercials lack of fish (or finance), he was joined by three more of his fellow officers. I enquired why they were mob handed and the reply was ‘It’s quite a dangerous job as a couple of Kosovans had knifed each other over a dispute about mackerel on Dover Pier recently’.

So there you have it. Is this a look into the future, when we all have to have licences? These guys in their navy blue trousers and jumpers with Kent and Essex Fishery Officer on them (possibly earning double time on Sunday) prosecuting us anglers with the gusto of traffic wardens. Surly if they want to educate fishermen, it would be a lot more helpful if they kept a better look out on the commercial fish landings, to help conserve the stocks – as opposed to monitoring the paltry catches we get.

See you all in Jail.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008


The Deal Boatman was spending yesterday evening in Hastings with Mrs and Miss Deal Boatman (don’t ask why, but it was expensive). We went to the White Rock Hotel, on the seafront and next to Hastings Pier. As we had booked two rooms, and one had been upgraded to a seafront view, it was agreed that Mr and Mrs DB should have this room (or the diminishing inheritance of Miss DB’s would no longer be viable and could end up in a cats home). We moved to the Hotel’s restaurant and bar where three bottles of house wine and dinner was served (those who know me, know that I’m TT, or just call me Pinocchio). On retiring I looked out of the third floor window at the beach; all was calm and high tide was up against the promenade. I suggested to Mrs DB that perhaps if we left the window slightly ajar it would bring some romance back to our ageing souls with the gentle sound of the sea lapping against the shore. As I climbed into bed humming ‘I’m in the mood for love’, snores greeted me from the duvet (well I recon she did at least 2½ bottles of that wine. Although thinking about it she always has her eyes tightly shut when I sing that song).

However, after a good nights sleep I awoke early with severe dehydration; must have been something I ate (Pinocchio’s nose has just lengthened). As an early riser (another foot on Pinocchio’s nose) I decided to make a cup of tea and look out of the window from our upgraded room. First thing I did was to close it, as the calm seas had turned into a mass of white and a very cold easterly wind sent shivers through the old Deal Boatman. As my eyes tried to focused on the incoming tide and beach (again must have been something I ate; the nose is over balancing me now) I noticed a lone angler.

Mesmerised I watched him as he cast into the surf and reclaimed beach as the tide rose. For two hours I watched in my PJ’s, slightly jealous that I was not that man (hang on, the nose is so big now it’s almost in the next room). By this time the window had misted up and vision was impaired. I considered the appeal of going back to bed, however, Mrs DB’s snores told me it was not worth trying to listen or watch ‘Morning TV’ from the set that was mounted on the opposite wall of our king-size bed – that she had now claimed the full length and breadth.

My attention was once more drawn to this lone angler who defiantly was on a mission as he waded, cast and then walked up the beach as the tide flowed up over the sand (low tide up at Hastings has a range of around three hundred yards). By this time I had turned up the Hotel’s radiator, therefore I had some consolation glued to the window in my PJ’s (possibly becoming a new tourist attraction for Hastings)

My vigil was not unrewarded, as at two hours before high tide he caught a bass. Initially it looked like a ten pounder, but perhaps it was a 6 pounder, my bloodshot eyes were still trying to evacuate my face. Either way, by now this man had got my respect as I doubt if I have ever caught a bass that large from the beach. He packed up five minutes later and left the foreshore.

Eventually I managed to persuade Mrs DB to get up as the Filipino cleaners wanted to reclaim the room for the next guests. On leaving the Hotel at 11 A.M., I noticed two more anglers converge on the very same spot. Not wanting to discourage them by saying that the fish of the week had already been caught, I considered: … has news travelled that fast, or have I accidentally discovered Hastings’s beach hotspot?

The sights you see when you have not got your rod in your hand!!!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Deal, Mecca of sea angling

Throughout the 1950s and 60s boat fishing festivals and competitions were always popular and well attended. Deal was well known as the ‘Mecca of Angling’ and people from all over the country entered such events. At times, prospective competitors had their entrance fee refunded as there were not enough places for them in the many charter boats that plied for hire on the beach.

The festivals were always held in winter, as it was considered that this was the best time to exploit the vast shoals of cod that frequented the area. Cod did make up the majority of the catch, however, whiting, pouting and dogfish also filled the anglers bags. The event would be run over a three day period, which included the weekend and Monday, although this was later cut down to just the Saturday and Sunday. Unfortunately the weather often took a turn for the worse in those months of October and November and it was hard pushed to get the full amount of fishing days in.

For the officers and committees of the two main angling clubs – Deal (1919) AC and Deal & Walmer AC – it was a busy time to cater for all those wishing to participate. Firstly, the clubs’ vast amount of silver cups had to be retrieved from the year before winners. These, along with the prizes, were then placed in a local shop which had a large enough window space to display the trophies. The main prize was for the greatest aggregate of sizable fish with different classes for separate species. Second and third prizes were also awarded for each class. It seemed a never ending job for the committee to get everything just right, and very few anglers realised how much work went on behind the scenes.

On the day of the boat festival, it was up to the clubs officials to consult with the boatmen on the weather prospects. If it was deemed fit, then the rowing boats would be allowed to go afloat half an hour earlier than the motor vessels. At the end of the six hour competition the anglers were allowed thirty minutes to get their catches to the weigh-in; which was usually held in the Royal or Queens’s hotel car park just off the sea-front. All the fish had to be measured and then weighed and recorded. This procedure would take hours if a large catch was encountered; in an early 1960s boat festival over two tons of fish were caught by anglers.

The evening’s prize giving was always a grand affair. Normally the Mayor of Deal, after a speech, would have presented the trophies to the winners. Each cup won then had to be signed for and the angler’s address noted for collection the following year. Hopefully, for the angling club, everything had gone smoothly and a small profit had been attained – although the hard work that had been put in by the committee could never be evaluated financially.

Monday, 15 September 2008


Way back in 1961 I acquired my first boat and beach plot. In those days the annual fee was 30/- (£1.50) a year and my boat, Sea Hawk, was situated on Central Parade (north of the Royal Hotel). The old salts on that patch were: John (nutty) Revell, Frank Preston, Terry Harris, Bill Bailey, Tommy Upton, Bert Tookey and others. I can even remember a young Dave Skardon!

Boats lined the beach and there was a waiting list to hire a plot. Almost every day the charter fleet would be out with anglers – and bookings for the boats had to be done a year, or even two, in advance. All of the boats were made from wood; and Hilary Able’s boat building business in Middle Street, did a roaring trade. He specialised in 18 to 24 ft craft constructed from mahogany on oak – nice little beach boats and always popular with the locals.

It was this year that I retired from the beach and also as the Deal & Walmer Inshore Fishermen Association’s president. After 47 years I have seen a lot of changes. Needless to say all the ‘old fellas’ have long gone (apart from young Dave Skardon), and I wonder what they would have made of the present situation. Knowing them, they would have somehow exploited it to their own benefit! However, even in their wildest dreams, or nightmares, they would never have expected the lack of boating activity that has occurred.

Nevertheless, if this is progress, then so be it!

I have taken pleasure, in my time trying to make a living from the beach and have no regrets. From the many people, that I have met and worked with, I have enjoyed the banter and camaraderie.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

The Winter of '63'

The first two days of January 1963 started with strong easterly winds. This trend was to dominate the rest of the month bringing in bitterly cold weather. Deal pier was closing most evenings because of lack of anglers.

Folkestone pier was the only venue that produced any fish; and they were dabs. Lugworm became hard to get and Brazils of Dover was selling 3 salted lug for 2/- (10 pence) as opposed to 2/- a score. Diggers used to get 5/- (25 pence) a hundred in those days.

On the 7th only four anglers turned up to fish the Deal Angling Club 1919 pier comp, therefore it was cancelled. Also cancelled was the beach comp on the 21st when only one angler turned up (OK so I was a glutton for punishment).

With the cold easterlies, snow and sea-ice, things started to wash ashore. Quite a few congers, lobsters and a porpoise were found in a frozen state. I heard that some were taken, thawed and eaten, I won’t say by whom, but he’s still alive and still fishes Royal Marine comps. On the 19th a mine also washed ashore at the top of Brewer Street.

There was not one fish caught on Deal pier throughout January and the ‘Fish of the Month’ was a 2oz starfish. It would not be until 13th February that the Pier staff recorded a fish being landed and the boats would not see a fish caught until March.

Tackle shops only just survived and diverted angling business by selling shotguns when some of the anglers turned to wildfowling and pigeon shooting. In those days it was easy to acquire a shot gun licence for about 10/- (50 pence) from the post office.

When the novelty of shooting wore off we decided to practice long distance casting. Duncan Finn (anybody remembers his tackle shop in the High Street) made a magnificent cast of 120 yards at Walmer Green. Duncan always said it was his technique and not brute force, however, believe me, you needed brute force to cast those rods.

The only decent production rod you could buy in those days was a 12 ft hollow glass monster made by Modern Arms of Bromley. It was mellow yellow in colour, had a fully corked handle with a chromed brass screw winch fitting. The rings were made with ‘Regalox’ eyes, supposedly unbreakable (strange why the tackle shop sold so many replacements), and it weighed a ton. The only way to enhance your cast was to use a Penn 150 Surfmaster, complete with 30 lb line.

So there you have it, the grimmest ever January for fishing at Deal and also for the local angler. Shortly after, the Celocant went out with the tackle shop owner’s daughter. I suppose that was combining pleasure with pleasure, anyway that’s another story.

Friday, 15 August 2008

The dogfish skinning contest

Many years ago fellow skipper, Allan Booth, owner of the Ramsgate based charter boat ‘Bonaventure II’, came around for a couple of beers.

On the sink unit in the Celocant's abode were two un-skinned dogfish that I had brought home to eat. The wife was going out for the evening but made me promise that I would not make mess of her kitchen.

A couple of beers turned into a session and as skippers do, we started to ‘swing the lantern’. A friendly argument arose on who was the better boatman and who was the most professional with a filleting knife.

To decide the best man, a dogfish skinning contest begun. My timed attempt was 28 seconds – although I did have a problem when its head parted from its body. Nevertheless, this was the winning time with Allan three seconds behind me.

By this time, all of the beers had been consumed and the task of cleaning up the kitchen had to be attempted before the wife came home. Between us, I thought that we did a splendid job. Not a bit of mess could be seen.

However, when Mrs Celocant entered the kitchen, she went berserk. Bewildered we asked what was wrong – the sink unit was spotless. It was then she beckoned to the ceiling. There was a red streak of blood and guts hanging above the sink. Needless to say, I blamed Allan.

Morale of the story – make sure the head stays on the dogfish when you skin it!!!!!!

Before anyone brings any dogfish around for me to skin – the answer is NO.
After the many thousands of dogfish and skate that I have had to skin for anglers in the past, I now have arthritis in both my thumbs.