On the first day of the New Year, Tuesday 1st January, 1963, there was a strong easterly wind blowing … and by the next day it started to snow. This was to herald the beginning of one of the coldest winters that Kent would ever witness. The sea temperature plummeted to a state where alongshore it started to freeze over. When the sea gets to that situation the fish move out into deeper water where the coldness does not penetrate.
Many people attribute cod to the colder climes, however, in the deep water off Norway and the Artic the temperature of the seas, in 1963, were warmer than at Deal. When the sea gets to below freezing, all forms of life either vacate the area or end up hypothermic.
Against a loosing battle some anglers kept trying to catch fish from the beach, pier and boats (when the weather was calm enough). With the bad conditions and total lack of fish, the pier closed every night – and it would not be until the month of March when a starfish was replaced as the ‘fish of the month’ in the pier’s angling competition.
Eventually the fish famine was forgotten, as in the autumn of that year there were vast quantities of cod caught. The results of the Deal Angling Club (1919) boat festival recorded in a total weight of over two tons – which the anglers brought to the scales. Deal, once again, became the Mecca of sea angling.
In those days the record cod stood at 32 lb and one or two fish from Deal started to nudge at that weight. In the years that followed the record was broken … more than once … nevertheless, it was not from Deal. However, in the late 60s and early 70s there were local cod of over 40lb being landed in the winter months. This was topped by a monster fish of 50lb 14oz caught by Brian Maidment, a mere two miles off Walmer.
Although the record at that time was heavier … it was a fish that was caught off a wreck over 30 miles from shore. It was thought that Brian’s fish should have been classed as the British record – as the other fish was caught outside territorial waters.
Brian Maidment, a local boatman, gained fame with his photograph featured on the front page of Deal Councils fishing guide the following year. He had donated the cod to the council, who had a fibreglass cast made of it which was displayed in the bar on the end of the pier. It was a loss to Deal when the replica of the town’s heaviest ever cod was sold in a local antique shop last year.
The next decade saw many cod being caught, although the larger fish seemed to become harder to find by the mid 80s. However, all is not lost, as last year saw a revival of cod caught from Deal … and combined with the very cold winter that we have just witnessed … who knows!