Saturday, 1 March 2014

Deal's largest cod

Deal’s largest rod and line caught cod
By David Chamberlain
The morning of Saturday, 30th December, 1972, started as an overcast cold day, with a gentle north-west wind. At that time, I was working for the Walmer based H&S (Harris and Steytler) fleet of wooden charter boats. Being a neap tide, it did not take too long to get the boats ready for the 10am launch. In those days, the anglers’ charters were for six hours with the boats returning to the beach at 4pm. With a calm sea all of the craft headed out on an easterly course into Trinity Bay, two miles off Deal.  
My boss, Ken Steytler, had asked me to keep an eye on another boat in his fleet, the Meranda.  The Lister air cooled diesel engine in the Meranda had been a little temperamental and in case of a breakdown I would be there, in the Norah, to tow her home. Brian Maidment was the Meranda’s skipper that day and both of us, with our angling parties, anchored up in 10 fathoms (60 feet) of water.
The expected quarry for the anglers was cod. When the weather was fine there had been good catches and many anglers had descended on Deal and Walmer to enjoy the sport.  Trade was brisk and Deal greatly benefited from the anglers revenue. 
At half past three in the afternoon, I requested my anglers to pack up fishing and prepare for the 30 minute journey back to shore.  They had had a good days sport catching ten cod over 10lbs with lots of whiting and pouting filling the fish boxes. With the anchor on board I motored the short distance to the Meranda and enquired if the engine in Brian’s boat was functioning.  Brian told me that he was happy with the situation and would make his own way ashore … and that they had only caught one cod.  However, when he struggled to lift the fishes head and then flank above the Meranda’s gunnels, I realised that this was the largest cod that I had seen in my life.
With all the boats ashore and darkness approaching, I had another look at the cod. Brian explained that one of the anglers on board the Meranda had just eaten their lunch and, after smoking a cigarette, felt seasick.  He asked the skipper if he would like to use his rod and reel until he felt better. Brian baited the hook with lug and squid and tried his luck. Little did he know that he was to capture the largest cod on rod and line ever to be seen in Deal! The fish measured 46 inches in length with a 30 inch girth and weighed in at 50lb 14oz.   
Shortly after I had left, the photographer turned up and Brian gained overnight fame.  That cod won him numerous prizes of rods, reels and even a fishing holiday in Cornwall. Brian donated the cod to Deal Council who sent it to a London taxidermist for a plaster cast to be made. The replica cod was hung in the Goodwins Bar on the end of Deal Pier with an unveiling ceremony conducted by the then Mayor and Mayoress, Alderman and Mrs Phillip Wilson-Haffenden. It was very much admired over the years until it unfortunately disappeared when the CafĂ© was demolished to make way for the new restaurant.