Kent Coast Sea Fishing Compendium
Deal Inshore Fishing Marks
Deal Sea Fishing Forecast
This section of the east Kent coast includes the following 14 inshore fishing marks:
- Goodwin Sands
- Walmer Castle area (about ¾ mile offshore)
- Marne Rocks (¾ mile off Walmer Lifeboat Station between Deal Castle and Walmer Castle)
- Bank Buoy
- Trawler Buoy (½ mile off Sandown Castle)
- Sandhills Area (shallow area of Sandwich Bay)
- No 1 Buoy (1½ miles off the Sandhills shore)
- Trinity Bay
- South Brake Buoy
- Pier Area (½mile off the end of Deal pier)
- "North-Eastern Victory" (51.206111, 1.523333 - 5.3 miles east of Wellington Parade)
- Kingsdown (CT14 8AG)
- "S.S. Patria" (51.216944, 1.434166 - ¾ mile north east of Bank Buoy and 2.4 miles north-east of Wellington Parade, Kingsdown CT14 8AG)
- "Adjutant" (51.203333, 1.4375 - 1.8 miles north-east of Wellington Parade, Kingsdown CT14 8AG)
"Goodwin Sands"C. Stanfield R.A. (in the winter exhibition)
Illustrated London News, 1859
The South Eastern Gazette, Tuesday 3 November 1863
A few days ago a conger eel of unusual size, measuring 6ft. 1in. in length and 23 inches in circumference, was caught in the Downs by a fisherman named Outridge.
"Sea Fish & How to Catch Them" (1863) William Barry Lord at pages 101 & 102
Too much importance cannot be attached to this subject, as much of the fisherman's success or otherwise depends on his practising his art where a sufficient number of fish are to be found to be deluded by it. Some particular spots are kept profoundly secret by their fortunate discoverers, and much art and cunning are made use of to deceive as to the whereabouts of such places. Fishing grounds, as they are called, are formed by carefully noting on the shore such conspicuous objects as points of land, high rocks, buildings, or trees. Bringing them exactly in a line by a third object, and then finding the offing by getting particular headlands on the coast "just peeping" as it is called, or "wide abroad". Great numbers of these combinations are handed down from generation to generation, and are known to every man, woman, and child in a fishing village. What are the marks for Hobbs' Hole you may, for example, ask any urchin within the range of the discoverer Hobbs, long gathered to his fathers ? "Gull rock, and flag-staff over public-house chimney, eastern land peeping, to be sure; pretty fellow you must be not to know that. Where did you come from ?
This or some answer very like it, would in all probability be given. A plan I strongly advise all my brother fishermen to adopt is, whenever a good set of marks can be discovered, follow the advice of honest Captain Cuttle, and "make a note of it" at once, as of the particular day of the month and state of the tide when unusually good catches are made. All these things are worth logging down, depend on it, as fish are very apt to change their places of resort with the season and tide.
"Deal Lugger Putting off in a Storm"
George Henry Andrews (1816 to 1898)
(circa 1826 to 1828) Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775 to 1851)
"Sea-fishing as a sport" (1865) Lambton J. H. Young at pages 195 to 199
History of Sea-Fisheries
… A Select Committee of the House of Commons was appointed in 1833 to inquire into the state of the British Channel Fisheries …
The appointment of the committee in 1833 arose out of the distress which was at that time said to affect the several Channel fisheries, and, in its reports, the committee stated that these fisheries were generally in a very depressed state and on the decline; that they appeared to have been gradually sinking since the peace of 1815; that the capital employed did not yield a profitable return; that the number of vessels and of the people to whom it gave employment was diminished; and that the fishermen who formerly could maintain themselves and their families by their industry were in a greater or less degree pauperised. The cause of this unfavorable change, to which, as being in its opinion the most readily susceptible of remedy, the committee gave its principal attention, was the interference of the fishermen of France and Holland; but the principal cause of the distress was stated to be "the great and increasing scarcity of all fish that breed in the Channel" compared with what was the ordinary supply forty years since; operating prejudicially to the fisherman, at the same time that a continual fall of prices has taken place in the markets. This fall of prices could not have occurred in consequence of any scarcity in the supply. That there was a diminished quantity taken by the English fishermen might possibly have been true; but considering that the supply in our markets was actually increased, so as to provide our growing population at progressively decreasing prices, I can only account for the facts adduced by the committee by supposing that the foreign fishermen, of whose interference such grievous complaint was made, were better skilled and more persevering in their calling than our own countrymen; a supposition which seems to be borne out by the circumstances of our having, since this report was delivered, been still more abundantly supplied with fish for our tables; while the cry of distress on the part of the fishermen has passed away, doubtless owing to the greater degree of skill and industry which they have since exerted.
A complaint, the opposite to that brought forward by the committee, was preferred against our fishermen by the owners of the boats, who alleged that, having advanced all the capital necessary for the undertaking, and having probably also contributed to the support of the men during the dead season, under the faith of an agreement to receive at stipulated prices all the produce of their nets, the men so bound to them sold a considerable part of the fish which they had taken to boats dispatched from the coast of France. 
These circumstances have been mentioned because a great and it is thought a groundless impression was created by the result of the inquiry of 1833, which inquiry, it has been alleged, was undertaken to satisfy the desires of certain interested parties, who wished to make out a case for the interference of government.
One branch of fishing wholly different in its objects from all the other branches has been described by the committee of 1833 under the title of the Stow Boat Fishery. This fishing prevailed principally upon the Kentish, Norfolk, and Essex coasts: was the catching of sprats, not for food, but as a manure for the land, for which there is always a constant demand.  This branch of fishing was represented by the committee to have much increased, and to have given employment on the Kentish coast alone to from 400 to 500 boats, which remained upon the fishing grounds frequently for a week together, and until each had obtained a full cargo of dead fish. The facility which the pretence of employing these vessels in fishing gave the smugglers led to an Act of Parliament, 6 Geo. IV, c. 108 , under which vessels and boats of certain descriptions required to be licensed by the commissioners of the customs. The licenses thus granted specified the limits beyond which vessels were not allowed to be employed: this distance was usually four leagues from the English coast; and it was affirmed that our fishermen were injured by this restriction, because some valuable fishing grounds laid beyond the prescribed limits, and were thus abandoned to foreigners.
 Editor's note: The first of the two scams - Kentish boatmen would sell their catch twice; firstly, to their onshore investors before they set sail and, secondly, to French fishermen before they returned to shore all the while complaining that overfishing by the French and Dutch was causing stocks to dwindle.
 Editor's note: The second of the two scams - Kentish boatmen, at sea for five days fishing for sprats to sell as fertiliser, would hide contraband under a boat-load of five-day old rotting fish in the reasonable expectation that the smell would deter customs officers from carrying out a thorough search of the boat.
 Editor's note: 6 George IV, chapter 108 - An Act for the Prevention of Smuggling (5th July 1825) can be viewed here. The statute came into force on 5th January 1826. Section 2 provided for the forfeiture of any British-owned vessel with contraband on board found within (a) 12 nautical miles of the coast between North Foreland and Beachy Head, (b) 24 nautical miles of any other part of the coast or (c) found to have been within said distances "not proceeding on her voyage, wind and weather permitting", and section 20 provided for forfeiture of unlicensed British-owned vessels ("not square-rigged") found within those distances.
"The Sea-Fisherman" (1884 - 4th edition) James Carrall Wilcocks at pages 253, 262 to 265
Boats and Boating
Beach-boats should never have an iron band on the keel, as it causes them to drag heavily in launching and hauling up, but instead of this a false keel or shoeing, as it is called, of holly or African oak, with a crooked piece for the fore-foot and heel. This shoeing is to be fastened on with oak pegs (by shipwrights termed tree-nails, vulgo trunnels), as they will wear away equally with the shoeing, and offer no impediment in passing over the ways, which for small boats consist of pieces of flat oak, holly, or beech, five feet in length, by four inches in breadth, and with a little grease lighten the work of launching and hauling up very considerably.
Launching from a Steep Shingle Beach
In calm weather with a smooth sea you may launch stern-foremost; but when there is much swell, which is frequently the case even in fine weather, prefer the bow, as your boat will not ship nearly so much water going off head against the sea.
The beach-boats of Yarmouth and Deal have always been celebrated for their sea-going capabilities, and their crews, known as beachmen, are a fine hardy race of fellows, accustomed to launch in all kinds of weather to assist vessels in distress. In the west of England there are also very good beach boats, particularly at Chisel, Portland, Beer, Sidmouth, and Budleigh Salterton. At the last named, I saw in 1866 some of the best boats of a medium size, eighteen to nineteen feet long, and from seven to eight beam, I have met with anywhere. These boats are built for the offing crab-fishermen, by Exmouth builders. Their chief fishing-ground is from six to ten miles at sea.
If the beach be of shingle and steep, heave your boat down until the water nearly reaches her, having previously placed in her track three or four greased ways, upon one of which she is supposed to be resting at the water's edge, and if the swell runs along the beach from either one side or the other, point the head of the boat a little to meet it, and watching for a smooth, as the water runs up, away with her, and tumble in over the stern, shoving off with an oar to get clear of the breaking wave with all despatch. If you have a companion, let him get on board before you heave afloat, and stand prepared to shove off and pull immediately the boat moves. Your ballast will of course have been placed on board at the water's edge; but if you have tanks for ballast you will fill them more readily after you are afloat, for which you should provide a funnel tub, with a couple of inches of gutta-percha tubing, one and a half inch in diameter.
Beaching or Landing
In landing under sail keep your boat straight before the sea, and if she steers wild take in the mizen if you carry one, or bring a little more weight aft; let your companion be ready with the painter, (Painter, three fathoms of two and a half inch rope spliced into the ring bolt inside the stem) sitting on the middle thwart (not further forward), and the instant before the boat strikes put down the helm and sheer her up against the beach aground. Your friend should by this time be over the bows, holding the boat by the painter, to prevent her listing out towards the sea, and you will get rid of your iron or stone as fast as possible, casting it out of the way of the boat up the beach, when you will leap out, and having thrust a way underneath the stem, will be able to haul the boat out of the reach of the water. It is customary to have a hole bored underneath the stem, by passing the painter through which you will be able to lift and pull at the same time.
The fishermen generally use a single block, making the rope fast to a post driven into the shingle high up the beach, which is a very good plan; but still better is a small capstan and chain having a hook at the end, which can be easily attached to a loop of iron bolted low down on the stem. When running ashore under sail do not lower the canvas until the boat is out of the water, as the sails will materially help in keeping the boat in against the beach, to ensure which the main sheet is often belayed on the weather side. In rowing ashore, watch for a smooth and pull sharply in, and having the painter ready act as above directed.
I have been induced to enter into beach boating somewhat at length, as there are many places on the coast without harbours, such as Brighton &c, where much boating is done during the summer months; but at the same time I should not advise visiting these open shores specially for the sake of boating or fishing, which can generally be followed much more agreeably where there is a good harbour.
"Sea-Fishing on the English Coast" (1891) Frederick George Aflalo at pages 72, 77, 99, 100 & 107
Of late years some very large skate have been taken off our shores … I was told at Deal of an amateur having taken one (1887) weighing ½cwt.
The red-rubber eels are very killing for large pollack. Hearder makes them in various patterns: "Jim Crow" and "Capt. Toms" being among the best known. A piece of parchment (Fig. 48), cut in the shape of a small fish, is successful at Eastbourne and Deal. It is worked rise-and-sink fashion like the fly. At Deal, two small triangles are often hung on the gimp. Evening is the time for this sport.
Although used from a pier built on sand and not rock, these lines are very apt to foul in the piles or in strong weed. This is a source of constant annoyance. There are many methods of freeing the hooks. Very often this can be done by merely exercising a gentle pressure from different directions, or, better still, by using a boat-hook lever fashion. About five years ago, however, I saw a trick described in the Fishing Gazette, which I have successfully performed ever since. I quote it here to the best of my memory: To a large stone securely fasten some stout line, then loop the stone round the line that is caught; pull hard at the latter and release the stone, which will run down the line and generally free it. Mr. Hudson has quoted Mr. Suffling's "Circus line" at great length in his book on "Sea Fishing for Amateurs", to which I would refer my readers for this useful line, as it would be obviously impossible for me to re-quote it here.
Besides cod and codlings, large pollack and bass are also taken in October. The best proof of what a good month this is for fishing may be gathered from the back reports to the fishing papers, some of which I now quote: … In October, 1889, "C. J." and a friend had very fine sport with Marsh of Deal, where, baiting with lug and fresh herring, they caught 80 whiting, 6 cod, 6 dabs, and some pouting in three hours. It will be seen from the above that October affords more varied fishing, perhaps, than any other month; and it is for this reason, together with the fact that it is the conclusion, as a rule, of fine weather, that I have specially selected it as the last of my six months. It is a favourite month everywhere … The Lowestoft shore-fishing does not begin till October, Deal is not up to much from July to September, and October is the favourite month for the south-west fisheries. Moreover, the weather is, as a rule, much milder than would be expected, and I found Bexhill in October, 1889, far milder than London. The boatmen, too, have relapsed into their old moderate spring prices, and the angler will be able to choose from double as many boats as he could have done in August, and at half the price.
At Deal, and other places with a strong tide and sandy bottom, it is customary to use only a light lead (8oz.), just above which is one of the hooks, which drags the sand for ground fish.
The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News 11th August 1893
Sea Fishing inside the Goodwins
"The Sea and the Rod" (1892) Deputy Surgeon-General Charles Thomas Paske & Frederick George Aflalo at page 87
They approach the coast at certain seasons for the purpose of spawning, betraying their advent by a peculiar disturbance at the surface, which leads to their detection and subsequent capture in drift-nets. So enormous are the takes at times, that cases of emergency have been reported at Deal in which the netsmen have had to cut away their gear rather than sink their craft with the weight.
The South Eastern Gazette, Saturday 5 May 1894
It will be of interest to anglers to learn that some exceptionally fine sport is to be obtained at Deal now among the whiting and codfish. The local agent of the British Sea Anglers’ Society states that last week the catches of two boats consisted of nearly 700 fine whiting as well as codfish and dabs. These were taken on rods and "trat" lines.
"Hints and Wrinkles on Sea Fishing" (1894) "Ichthyosaurus" (A. Baines & Frederick George Aflalo) at pages 37, 38, 40 & 41
Natural History and Sport
Skate of small size are occasionally landed by the angler whose boat is anchored over a sand bank in fairly deep water. Deal anglers often hook them just inside the Goodwins or at the Falls (off Broadstairs) where they take the herring and sprat bait, and even a lugworm will sometimes tempt them. They are most deceptive as regards weight; and I remember hooking one on one occasion off Hastings which I thought would weigh at least half-a-hundredweight but which, on coming to boat, only turned the steelyard at just over 6lbs. Their great surface presents such resistance to the water.
Whiting … The best whiting fishing in the Channel is about Christmas time; and at Deal it is excellent in November. Lugworm, sprat and fresh herring are all good baits. They are not caught much in the summer time, but I have known a few turn up at Southampton, Bournemouth, Torquay and elsewhere in the month of August. Fish near the bottom.
"Empty Chair" (1870) Samuel Luke Fildes
The watercolour shows Dickens' empty chair in his study.
Charles Dickens in his study at Gad's Hill Place (engraving circa 1875: Everett Collection)
The desk is now on display at Charles Dickens' former home in Doughty Street
The desk where Charles Dickens wrote Great Expectations is finally on public display thanks to a £780,000 grant. The Charles Dickens Museum in London was given the grant in March 2015 to buy the desk and chair which has always been in private ownership. They had been passed down through the Dickens family after his death in 1870, but were auctioned for the Great Ormond Street Charitable Trust in 2004. Dickens used the desk in his final home in Gad's Hill Place in Kent.
Our Mutual Friend and his unfinished novel The Mystery of Edwin Drood were also penned at the desk. The furniture would have been sold at public auction if it was not for the grant from the National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF). Made famous in two paintings begun the year he died, the Empty Chair by Luke Fildes and Dickens' Dream by RW Buss, the desk and chair are already on display at the Charles Dickens Museum at the author's former home. Robert Moye, director of the Charles Dickens Museum, said:
"We are delighted to have been able to acquire Charles Dickens' iconic writing desk and chair for permanent display in his study at 48 Doughty Street. They hold a unique place in our literary heritage and, as we embark on our exhibition exploring The Mystery of Edwin Drood, it is timely that the desk he used when writing his final novel has been secured for the benefit of all our visitors."
"Days of my life on waters fresh and salt, and other papers" (1895) John Bickerdyke at pages 216 to 227
All in the Downs
Early one cold winter's morning I was lying gazing at Luke Fildes's pathetic picture of the 'Empty Chair', which hung framed on the bedroom wall, and was thinking of Dickens and Broadstairs and Bleak House, when the sound of a distant gun came echoing over the sea. A minute later there followed another faint 'boom', and the bell from the lifeboat-house clanged out a summons to the brave Deal boatmen to turn out of their warm beds and hasten away in the good boat 'North Star' to the relief of a ship in distress.
There was already a clatter of hurried footsteps on the roadway, and long before I could be dressed the lifeboat would have glided down the steep beach and into the sea; so, more or less philosophically, I turned me over for another doze, as it was yet early. But that doze was not to be. Presently in burst the little skipper, much excited with minute-guns and vessels in distress, and laden with the information that a foreign ship was aground on the Goodwins, though there was no sea on, and the day was clear. There would evidently be no loss of life, but a good ship might be engulfed in those dread sand banks. The little skipper having exhausted his subject, turned his attention to a proposed raid on the whiting of the Downs, and informed me that Jonah, our commander in things piscatorial, said that the tide would serve us at ten o'clock, and Jonah had some lovely lugs (the said 'lugs' being the nastiest of the sea-worms), and Jonah would not be surprised if we caught a large cod, and Jonah had said this and Jonah had thought that.
"Now, get up, do !" ordered my little visitor in conclusion, and tripped downstairs for further converse with aged fishermen concerning their perilous adventures on the Goodwins.
Let it be understood at the outset that the little skipper was extremely youthful for the rank which had been conferred on him in our many fishing expeditions. In fact, he had not yet attained the mature age of ten; but, for all that, having commenced his life as an angler when only six by catching a cod of nine pounds, and having a, perhaps inherited, love of things marine and fluvial, he was no mean fisherman and more handy in a boat than many a landlubber of double his age.
We were staying in the quaint old portion of Deal, where houses with Dutch roofs, wooden balconies, and verandas, attained by rickety wooden steps, are built in picturesque confusion more or less on the beach. The walls of little gardens are lapped by the waves of the equinoctial gales during spring tides. These gardens give great opportunities for smuggling on a small scale and the landing of wreckage from the Goodwins. There is in Deal no scarcity of cigars or chunks of uncut tobacco which have not paid duty, and it is quite clear that some of the inhabitants are true to their ancient traditions.
Nowhere are the coastguards more vigilant, a bronzed-faced blue-jacket inspecting most of the fishing boats as they come on shore unless they have been no great distance out to sea. But this is as much for wreckage as for undutiful tobacco or spirits.
In this matter of wreckage the Deal boatmen propound a grievance. That which they gather from the Goodwins they think should belong to them; but the Customs take it and only pay them salvage money. Thus one does not see at Deal, as in a certain Cornish village I could mention, the fisher lasses decked out on Sundays in Parisian gloves and Lyons silks, saved from the wreck of some unfortunate foreign vessel. It is good, no doubt, this rule as to salvage, but it is questionable justice when a ship is derelict and would in the course of a month or two be engulfed in the sand, that the poor boatman who fetches away from her a small cargo of spars and other timber, which would otherwise be lost, should only receive a fraction of the worth of it all.
But this November morning the Customs concern us not, for we are bent on taking in a cargo on which no duties can be levied. Our little craft is named 'The Twins', out of respect to two maiden aunts of Jonah who bore that relationship to each other, and, on dying, bequeathed such a legacy to their nephew that he was able to buy the boat. 'The Twins' are - no, is - high and dry on the beach, just below the capstan, and quite thirty yards from the sea. Jonah asks us to get on board; then, we having obeyed, he looses the chain, and, at the rate of some thirty miles an hour we go, slap-dash, down that steep beach and into the sea, with a great splash, taking in quite a bucketful of water over the stern.
"I ought to have turned her", explains Jonah. "We usually come on to the beach broadside and haul up stern foremost, so as to get afloat bows first; but it was too dark and rough last night when I came in with the herrings, and we had to haul up stem first."
My fair-haired, blue-eyed little skipper busies himself hooking on the rudder and takes the helm, Jonah hoists the sail, and away we dance over the rippling water and head for the 'Gull' lightship. Jonah thoughtfully produces a small suit of oilskins, ancient but serviceable, and in these the little skipper is dressed, much to his delight. For a long time he sits in this fisher's garb, saying nothing but looking proudly seaward, and full of the sense of his responsibilities. Meanwhile our crew, a tall, black-bearded, reserved man, settles himself to a morning pipe and to get ready the tackle he deems necessary.
It is an offshore wind, and numbers of vessels are sailing through the Downs, the flood tide helping them on their journey to London or ports further northward. The wind is light, and every stitch of canvas is set. For a wonder not a steamer is in sight. Almost every kind of sea-going vessel seems to be in the Downs this morning. A great dandy-rigged barge with tanned sails comes gliding by us, and a topsail schooner a mile to seaward of us gently inclines her tapering masts to the breeze. Off Dover, and coming towards us, is that most beauteous of ocean birds - a ship under full sail. Jonah, by request, instructs the little skipper in the mysteries of spankers, main top-gallant stay-sails, foretopmast studding-sails, lower main top-gallant-sails, and others of the twenty or more grey wings which a three-masted, square-rigged vessel spreads in her flight over the sea. He points out to us barques and brigs, brigantines and yawls, and a somewhat uncommon vessel, coming in sight out of the haze off Dover - a three-masted schooner. Of luggers, hailing mostly from Deal, there is an unlimited quantity, but most of these have reached their fishing ground, and their crews are industriously endeavouring to gather in the harvest of the sea, principally represented hereabouts by whiting.
Jonah's marks are a tall chimney, a brick tree which grows out of the roof of the factory in which Deal sprats are turned into sardines á l'huile and a certain picturesque windmill. There is another pair of marks Doverwards, and, these having been brought into line, the anchor is dropped, the cable flies out, and 'The Twins' is brought up with a jerk - clear evidence, if any were needed, that a wild tide is running northward. Not only is the tide wild, it is also eccentric and unlike other tides, for it runs towards Ramsgate for three or four hours after high-water. We are to fish, says Jonah, on the 'ease of the flood and draw of the ebb'; and it is very evident that at present the flood is un-'easy', for no leads that we have in the boat are heavy enough to hold the bottom. The little skipper is mildly indignant, and asks how we are to catch anything when his line is streaming out astern and several fathoms above the fish. Jonah counsels patience: the tide will soon ease, he says.
Ten minutes later I find I can hold the bottom, for I am fishing with a fine silk line which offers little resistance to the water, and no sooner does this happen than there come a couple of sharp jerks at the top of my short rod and I wind up a lively whiting of a pound or more.
Every minute now the current grows less strong, and the little skipper, who is fishing with a stout gut paternoster fastened to a fine handline, hauls up his first fish. To his great disgust it is a spurdog, a spiteful-looking miniature shark, which can inflict a poisonous wound by means of a spike placed behind its dorsal fin. Jonah handles the fish with extraordinary care, and cuts off its head before attempting to dislodge the hook from its mouth. While this is going on I land two more whiting, and Jonah begins to look with more respect than he has hitherto done on my rod, reel, and gut tackle. I am to convert worthy Jonah today, for the water is clear and there is no wave, so that in all probability his coarse handlines will catch but few fish. His arrangement of chopsticks, blunt tinned hooks, and hemp snooding is now hauled up. The baits are intact; not a fish would look at them. Before Jonah can let down his line the little skipper shouts joyously that he has another fish - a big one - and, handling the line tenderly to prevent a breakage, brings up two silver whiting at once.
"Odd I don't get ere a bite", says Jonah, more to himself than to us, as he flings the fish into the bottom of the boat. "Well, if there ain't another !" for I am winding up my reel, and the rod-top is jerking violently. I am hoping that it is a very large whiting which has taken my bait, but it is nothing more than a spotted dogfish, which fights gamely for his life. I regard my capture somewhat contemptuously, and ask Jonah why he does not treat it as he did the spurdog.
"Throw that overboard !" says our commander slowly, with a strong Kentish drawl; "why, that fish's worth more'n a whiting. I could get two pence for he. They eat he hereabouts."
We live and learn truly. Here is a fish which I had always cast away, and had only once heard tell of a man (and that man a French sailor) eating, and yet at Deal it is held in higher esteem than whiting. We will do as Deal does. That fish shall figure on the dinner-table, but with one of another variety in reserve should it prove uneatable.
The next capture is a small whiting on the thick handline. Jonah hauls it up smartly, remarking complacently that he knew he should get something soon. But when the little skipper and I have between us caught eighteen silver whiting to four taken by our crew, that worthy remembers he has a bit of gut in his pocket a gentleman once gave him, and ties it on, henceforward catching about as many fish as we do.
The tide eases until it is easy indeed, and our lines go down close to the side of the boat. The fish begin to bite shyly, and to meet their views I put on tiny hooks and small fragments of bait, which proceeding further astonishes Jonah, more especially as the alteration leads to the capture of half-a-dozen fish while the other lines are catching nothing. Then we get no more bites, and Jonah says we shall catch no more until the 'draw of the ebb'. So we refresh the inner man and hold a conference on whiting and their ways. Jonah confesses himself converted on the subject of fine tackle for sea-fishing, and we pass a resolution that our modern methods of sea-fishing are, when the water is clear, an advance on the tackle used by the fishermen. In coloured water, or at night, we know that the tackle which will haul up the fish quickest is the one which will soonest fill the basket.
The sun is setting behind Deal, and the whole town is bathed in golden vapour. The wind has fallen, and the sails of the ships hang down and flap against the masts as the vessels roll slightly from side to side. I look regretfully at the old portion of the town, with its red Dutch roofs and quaint old houses, built on the beach - picturesque objects which an improving (save the mark !) town council proposes in part to sweep away to lengthen an already overlong parade. To the northward is another instance of vandalism - the remains of a castle, with walls five yards thick, commenced by Bluff King Hal, and finished by good Queen Bess. All is levelled save the dungeons, and because, forsooth, the sea was encroaching and undermining the foundation. Was not such an ancient landmark worthy the few hundred pounds which would have enabled proper protection from the sea to be made ?
This old fortress has a place in our history, for here it was that Colonel Hutchinson, one of those who signed Charles the First's death-warrant, was imprisoned. His room had five doors, it is said, and the unfortunate gentleman was literally killed by the currents of air which played about him in winter. The castle is described as having been at that time a poor dilapidated place garrisoned by half-starved guards, who were eaten up with vermin and cheated out of half their pay, spending the other half in drink. The War Office sold the castle for building material not fifty years ago. It realised something over £500.
We are now facing southward. The first capture is a dogfish, which the boatman handles carelessly enough, explaining that this one is a 'sweet William and real sweet eating'. In appearance it is exactly like the little blue dogfish which we caught earlier in the day, but it is without the dangerous spur on its back. Soon the whiting bite as merrily as ever, and the floor of the boat is littered with the slain. "Shouldn't wonder if we hadn't five score", says Jonah, and sure enough when we count the fish that evening there are no fewer than a hundred and seven of them.
But whiting, spur and spotted dogs, and Sweet Williams, are not our only captures. Before the anchor is raised half-a-dozen flat fish are flapping their tails on the bottom of the boat. A stray codling greedily swallows both the baits on the little skipper's line, and the inevitable hermit, or king, crab, whose hermitage or palace, as you like to put it, is a whelk shell, of course makes his appearance. He tumbles into the bottom of the boat immediately he is hauled over the side, retreats into his shell for awhile, then he protrudes his legs and begins to crawl about among the dead and dying whiting, carrying that mansion of a departed whelk on his back as usual, A small conger, too, creates a small excitement on board, and mixed with the silver whiting are a few pout.
The 'draw of the ebb' increasing to such an extent that we can no longer hold the bottom, Jonah weighs the anchor, and, each of us taking an oar, we row home. Cold and darkness set in before we reach the beach; but we dread neither, having a good pilot in Jonah, and means of keeping warm in our hands. We take the beach broadside on, the rudder is unshipped, and 'The Twins' is hauled ignominiously, stern foremost, over the shingle, three weather-beaten, pilot-jacketed friends of Jonah running round the capstan. We ask one of them what happened to the lifeboat in the morning, and learn that a tug from Ramsgate arrived before her at the Goodwins and towed off the stranded vessel.
Our pleasant day in the Downs has come to an end. We feel grateful for the cheery fire which blazes in our cosy room. But our work is not yet over, for baskets of fish have to be sent to country friends by an evening train. That done we sit down to fried whiting and two penny nurse-dog, and pronounce the latter sweet, soft, and watery, and we decide that the French sailor was unworthy of his nation, and that the people of Deal are, to say the least, peculiar in their tastes.
"Sea Fishing (The Badminton Library)" (1895) John Bickerdyke at pages 1, 2 & 3
I cannot, of course, claim to be the originator of rod and line fishing in the sea. That has been carried on wherever coasts are steep and rocky, as in the west of England and other places, for many years - perhaps from time immemorial. But it was not until a little book of mine called Angling in Salt Water was published in the year 1887 that the attention of any considerable number of freshwater anglers was attracted to the possibilities of sport afforded by the sea, and to the advantages of using therein freshwater tackle with certain modifications. As an instance of what skilful anglers now do when they visit the seaside, I may be allowed to quote a short extract from an anglers' paper.  It is merely one of the weekly reports sent in by a regular correspondent, who in this case is the second coxswain of the lifeboat at Deal and owner of an unpretentious hostelry where London fishermen of the middle class much resort. It should be understood that the takes mentioned are not ordinary ones, and that fishing for whiting and cod at the place in question is only really good during the period of spring tides in autumn. All the gentlemen referred to in the report would be fishing with rods, and, probably, gut paternoster tackle, with leads varying from a quarter of a pound to perhaps a pound or more; and it is pleasing to find it for once admitted that the amateur angler has succeeded better - thanks to his superior skill and improved gear - than the professional fisherman.
DEAL - Like Caesar, they came, they saw, and they conquered. The members of the British Sea Anglers' Society may fairly lay claim to this motto, for they have come and taken the wind out of our local fishermen. The following particulars will be read with interest. On the 9th instant … 282lb weight of fish were brought in, and there were no cases of sea-sickness. Mr. Norman took a whiting, 2lb 3oz; Mr. Vail, one of 2lb 10oz. Saturday, the 10th was a most lovely day, and the takes were even better than the preceding one. Messrs. Gould, 47lb, and a nice cod of 7lb 10oz, besides codling; Jaques, 45lb; Alec Wright, 40lb; Vail, 38lb; Wm. Marshall, 34½lb; F. W. Norman, 31½lb; J. C. Bartlett, 27lb; W. F. Dyer, 31lb; Parker, 26lb; J. P. West, 18½lb; Raison, 18½lb; in all 357 lb. of whiting, besides cod. Mr. Chatto, of the Haymarket, took 200 whiting and 6 codling, Tom Norris being in charge. Nov. 11, Messrs. A. Dangerfield, T. Chatto, and Geo. Brook went out with Tom Norris in a galley punt and caught 200 whiting and dabs and 14 large codling, Mr. Brook being credited also with a fine-looking cod of 9lb. Mr. Capel Cure, with Dick Riley, had a nice catch of whiting and a cod of 14lb 9oz after being cleaned. Messrs. Alfred Rolls, A. W. Taylor, and George Green were out with H. Norris and myself, and we secured 420 whiting, 21 fine codling, and a few dabs. Mr. Ball and his son went out at 8 A.M. intending to fish near the Break Buoy, but after a short stay there, were obliged to put back owing to increase of wind and tide; they, however, anchored near the Second Battery and took 119 whiting and 3 cod of 8lb, 5lb, and 3½lb; Messrs. Capel Cure and Collins also had excellent sport with whiting and cod. Pier fishing has been extraordinary, for the weather has been glorious, and large takes of fish have been the rule. The above records may read like a fairy tale, but, fortunately, they can be substantiated, and with such weather Deal has become a perfect anglers' paradise. Everyone knows the uncertainty of our climate, however; and readers will have already been made acquainted with the rough weather we have recently experienced, but I anticipate some grand sport as soon as the sea thins down. EDWARD HANGER.
The fishing described in the report from the Downs, good as it is, can hardly be called the highest form of sea angling regarded from a sportsman's point of view, but it gives evidence of the fact that within an easy ride of London, in water which is fairly slumbrous, and at no great expense, a hamper of edible fish may be caught with much the same tackle as we should use for Perch fishing. I could mention many other takes, made by amateur sea fishermen, which go to prove that our modern methods of sea fishing are attended with great success, and that the rod is a valuable addition to one's gear if judiciously used, though sea fishermen of the old school are inclined to smile at it.
 The Fishing Gazette of November 17, 1894.
"Sea Fishing (The Badminton Library)" (1895) John Bickerdyke at pages 203 & 204
Sea Fishing from Small Boats
On Deal beach, which has a tremendous slant, very seaworthy little vessels may be seen. Though these have but small keels, they are of fairly deep draught, for the water is deep close along shore. It is quite a sensation to get into a Deal lugger or galley-punt some forty yards from the water, and be sent spinning down the sloping beach, striking the sea with a bang, and taking in half a dozen bucketfuls of water. But it is still more exciting coming on shore in a gale of wind, for the Deal boats are usually hauled up stern foremost, and lie broadside on to the waves for a few minutes before the winch can be set to work and they can be brought out of reach of the waves.
"Practical Letters to Young Sea Fishers" (1898) John Bickerdyke at pages 14 & 143
For instance, the Downs at Deal, where so many whiting and cod are caught in the autumn, form one great fishy eddy with very peculiar tidal currents.
I have said that whiting are not often caught inshore, but one place occurs to me where a large number are captured. The Downs simply swarm with whiting in the autumn months, and during spring tides these are found close to the pier head. If the tide suits, the best time to catch them is in the dusk of early morning. An angler may catch two to three dozen before six o'clock, while during the rest of the day his bag my consist of only half a dozen.
The South Eastern Gazette, Tuesday 17 January 1899 at page 7
Winter Sea Angling at Deal
"Sarcelle" writes, on the above subject in the Field. He says …
A pleasant Channel crossing, after a glimpse on this side of our new Viceroy on his way to the glories of his Indian realm, was the prelude to my being deposited, on the night of Dec. 15, with two stout sea-rods among my impedimenta, at the door of Ned Hanger's snug little inn, the "North Star" at the north end of the delightfully marine and fishy town of Deal, where I received the warmest of welcomes from the gallant lifeboat coxswain, and immediately found myself at home among new friends.
Just across the road stood the lifeboat in which my host had done such good work, while other craft of all sizes and rigs lined the crest of the steep bank of shiny shingle, at whose base the lap and scrape of the surf made soothing lullaby, for the expectant sea-angler. In the taproom were pictures and photographs of wrecks and storms, lifeboat adventures, men-of-war in fierce gales, while the cosy snuggery behind the busy bar possessed, among its varied adornments, sundry suggestive specimens of stout sea-tackle. The said taproom and bar were frequented during the evening by relays of honest, sturdy, kind-hearted, genial Deal boatmen and fishermen, some of the best types of their class I have ever met, cheering contrasts to the loafing land sharks one meets at some fashionable watering places.
Sport had been fair, I learned, two well-known amateurs in a boat having that day secured five score of whiting, and nine codlings and cod, biggest 16 lb.; lugworm would be procurable in the morning, but sprats were scarce, my host's own net having only brought in a couple, while other boats had very small catches; but this was likely to improve, and chances of cod would be concomitant.
Next morning, after a passing survey of my most novel and congenial marine surroundings, I made a late start for the pier, with some lug, which had been dug some distance to the north, and five sprats which my host had saved for me. Three pence for a day ticket and the same for each rod or line used are the modest charges, and the partly-sheltered end of the pier is a pleasant haunt and lounge for many a well-known member of the B.S.A.S., and many a skilful local hand at the pastime, with friends and promenaders frequently coming to exchange greetings and see how sport is going. The spacious saloon above affords varied attractions in the summer season, and a comfortable bar was found useful during my wintry stay.
Down below, among the mussel and barnacle-covered and weed-fringed maze of strong iron posts and girders, Teddy, the well-known attendant, his own line put on the chance of a codling, was busy catching, in nets baited with fish offal, numerous hermit crabs, for sale to anglers whose supply of lug or sprat might run short, or who might like to try a change.
The views of gay Ramsgate shining across the bay to the north, the long sea-front, lines of stout boats, and fine buildings of Deal, with Dover cliffs in the grey distance, numerous sailing ships at anchor in the Downs, and big steamers passing up and down Channel, were pleasant, but sport was slow; it was, for the pier-head, the one blank morning of the season, while from the upper structure only two small codling and a whiting were caught.
The flood-tide does not generally fish well here; fish take better on "the slack of the flood", beginning about an hour and a half after high water. Returning to the scene after a hearty lunch, I found much more company, rod-men almost shoulder to shoulder, and fish coming on, of which I soon began to get my share, securing about a dozen and a half of whiting and pouting in a short afternoon. The whiting averaged fully double the size of the small specimens generally caught on Calais piers, and I saw one of quite 1½ lb. The tackle used was rather heavy; thick, twisted gut paternosters, mostly with brass swivels and booms: I preferred single gut, and the fine French spreaders of twisted white wire which stand out so truly at right angles, as inducing more bites and missing fewer, but my Deal friends often fish far into the evening, and are liable to hook large cod and a casual conger; they care not to fish too fine.
Things were rather more promising next morning; a well-known pier frequenter and chronicler was gradually collecting a nice string of plump dabs, one of which was about 1½ lb., while others were getting a whiting here and a pouting there and depositing them in great wooden pails, to be hired from the above-mentioned Teddy for a penny a day.
I had a nice little lot by lunch time, after which W., a new arrival, induced me to join him in an afternoon boat cruise with Will Baker, one of the good Deal fishermen. We went a mile or so to N., off the forlorn wreck of a foreign steamer. Sea smooth, water rather clear, fish not over plentiful, but we were never long without bites, missing a great many whiting and pouting through using rather large hooks and baits. Our afternoon's take was three score and two of these kinds, one codling slipping off alongside the boat; the big cod had apparently followed the sprats in another part, of the bay, whereof the boats made fair takes in the evening.
Thirty or more boats were out on Sunday, and takes moderate. I heard of no large cod, though a few were taken by the spratters while drifting in the evening, and I was offered one of about 18 lb. for two shillings. I was amused to see how the fishermen sold their own little catches, laid on boards or on the smooth shingle of the sea front, and to hear how cod and big whiting followed the nets to tear out the imprisoned sprats, and how the big cod often got rolled up in the nets and caught.
Next day W. and I fished the pier, doing next to nothing in the morning, but getting fairly well among the whiting in, late afternoon and early evening; we had over two score of whiting and pouting between us. Codling were conspicuous by their absence. On the Tuesday I was dubious about going afloat; there was a hard northerly wind blowing and a rather heavy swell breaking on the shingly beach, but the eager and hardy W. persuaded me, and we set off with Baker about 8.30 a.m., and were soon having a bitterly cold buffeting with winds and waves beating up to windward.
Swathed in many thick garments, it was not quite so bad when we were anchored, and turned our backs to the freezing blast, especially when the fish began to bite, and when we noticed outward-bound ships getting up moderate canvas to run before the strong favouring breeze, and a big steamer coming into the Downs to land her pilot, and the trim cutter of the Missions to Seamen beating her way out to the lonely men on Gull Lightship with good cheer for Christmas, and when we gathered a whole crowd of clamorous, dark-eyed grey and white kittiwake gulls round us, and laughed to see how swiftly they picked up spare sprats we threw them. Five Brent geese swung past us almost within range as we heaved and tossed in the strong wind that, as our good boatman said, was stiffening every minute, and soon after noontide, after disposing of our lunch with wolfish appetites, we deemed it prudent to run for the shore, lest we should have difficulty in landing.
Our joint take, in about three hours, was 69 fish, 35 to W. and 34 to me; but I had nine codling to his five, and once thought. I had really hooked one of the big chaps we were always talking of, till a four-pounder came up on the bottom hook, with one! of about 1½ lb on the top one. Getting near shore, with lots of willing hands to help us, we waited for "a smooth", and the boat was run up the beach in grand style; not like a larger craft in the afternoon, which essaying to sail on shore, I saw covered by a smother of white water, everybody and everything on board drenched and the boat half-filled.
We tried the pier in the afternoon, but the water had become thick as pea soup; there was absolutely nothing doing, and it was so atrociously cold that I gave it up at five o'clock, and enjoyed a walk through the bright town, with its many blue and red jackets of sailors and soldiers, its gaily lighted shops bright with good Christmas cheer - toys, crackers, and all kinds of delights for young and old. The indefatigable W. stuck to it till seven, getting only one small whiting, but seeing a conger of about 8 lb. caught. Going, after dinner in search of a man named Williams, who keeps a supply of lugworms, in a by-street near, we saw a lucky, local hurrying home with a 17 lb. cod, which he had just caught on the pier.
The big black lugs were dispensed to W. by a polite lady, at the price of fourpence per score for small, and sixpence for big ones. They have to be caught at a distance, and fourpence per score is the usual price. Sprats are only about sixpence per hundred. Charges for small boat and man are eight shillings per day, including bait - very reasonable when divided between two anglers; larger boats are to be hired by a party at a pound to thirty shillings. Deal must he a very pleasant place for a summer holiday, but the fishing is poor then, the cod and whiting fishing being winter sport.
I left on the 21st; W. got afloat with a new-comer, and their take, though numerically small, included cod of about 9 lb. and 11 lb. Both cod and conger of 20 lb. and over are occasionally caught on the rods. I had fallen on a very poor time, yet in my four days' fishing had landed 54 fish from the pier and 57 from boat. I enjoyed a most refreshing holiday, and would not want snugger or more home-like quarters than those where I spent my pleasant, but too few, December days at Deal.
The South Eastern Gazette, Tuesday 21 November 1899
British Sea Anglers' Competition
At Deal on the 13th inst. the British Sea Anglers' Society concluded a three-days competition, and the sport proved fair, the sea being as calm as a mill pond. Mr. W, T. Green won the gold medal for the heaviest fish with a splendid conger eel of 29 1b. 4 oz; silver medals for the best cod were secured by Messrs. S. Carnegie and A. Litchfield and Major Gordon; the whiting prizes fell to Messrs. W. G. Reynolds, W.Vail, and G. Glassingtpn; and the award for the greatest number of sizeable fish (49) went to Mr. W. J. Reynolds. Mr. Carnegie weighed in the heaviest cod (10 lb. 2 oz.).
The Daily Express, Tuesday 25 November 1902
Sport in a Nutshell
The British Sea Anglers' Society's competition concluded yesterday at Deal in rough weather. Among the day's best captures were a cod of 15 lbs. 14 ozs., landed by Mr. Fryett, and a pollock weighing 11¾ lbs taken by Mr. Edwards. The best twelve whiting yesterday were caught by Mr. Morent, weighing 11 lbs. 12ozs.
The Daily Express, Wednesday 27 January 1904
Harvey-MacLeay - Mrs. Hervey-MacLeay, whose remarkable success with the rod hae been one of the leading features of the sea-angling season, is a familiar figure in marine pastimes at Deal. Both with the tackle and also in the handling of a boat she displays a thorough all-round knowledge. This accomplished lady is a popular member of the British Sea Anglers' Society, the greatest fishing organisation in the world.
"An Angler's Year" (1904) Charles S. Patterson at pages 174 to 179 & 180 to 192
Pouting Fishing off "Our Wreck"
"Pouting Fishing". I can see the lip of the scornful curling up as he reads the words.
"Pouting ! Stink-alives !! Any fool can get out in the summer and catch those." Quite so ! but not in the winter, and, for all practical purposes, not the same fish.
As most of us are aware the Pouting (Gadus luscus) is also known round our coasts as Whiting Pout (South East Counties), Bib or Blind (Devon or Cornwall), Rachan (Wales), Blen (West Country), and other local names. It is frequently confused with the Power or Poor Cod (Gadus minutus), known locally to the East Coast men as the Bastard Pout. Between small specimens of Pouting and this little fish some confusion may arise, although the more tubby shape of the former at once distinguishes it to the practised eye. As the little Poor Cod rarely grows over five inches in length, it is not likely to be confused with the specimens which we are likely to catch off the wreck. "Our Wreck" lies off Deal, but I am not going to give the marks. Pouting marks are on the South Coast the inheritance of ages, and are handed down religiously from father to son or confided to the fisherman's fides achates, usually when under the influence of liquor.
Under other circumstances the directions given are not liable to err on the side of accuracy. As most are aware, special pitches for inshore fishing are found by means of "marks". Thus, suppose there is a good reef or patch of ground about abreast of a pier or building on shore, and some distance out; by taking certain objects on those as fixed points and their bearing on other fixed points in the background, exactly the same spot may be found time after time …
In the light of this it was very amusing for the writer to hear of the directions given to an enthusiastic sea-angler by one of the boatmen, from whom be enquired the marks of this special wreck. "D'ye see them there three cows ? Well, get them on the corner o' Deal Castle, and that there chary-bank (charabanc) on the flag-post o' the pier, and ye have it." Let's hope he "had it." Most of us thought the old chap had him.
Well, to get back to business, "Our Wreck" is a favourite ground with those of us who, when cod are few and far between, get tired of the catching of interminable numbers of whiting. The "Wreck" is full of variety in more ways than one. Sometimes one gets on the wreck and is able to stay there; sometimes with wind against tide the boat slews about, and half the time the tackle is boat's-lengths away from the desired spot; sometimes one loses tackle, sometimes not; sometimes one gets good pouting, sometimes only the small ones put in an appearance; sometimes one gets only pouting, sometimes cod, conger, whiting and other oddments are taken; altogether a day's fishing on the wreck is a novelty and quite worth trying.
For the last year or two, probably owing to the blowing-up of the S.S. "Patria," in the close vicinity, the wreck has been a little out-of-court. This is, however, only a temporary inconvenience to the fisherman, and no doubt the remains of the sunken steamship will, in a very few years, prove another bit of broken sea-bottom which will turn out a good "mark" for the sea-angler. It will, however, always possess a melancholy interest locally, for two Deal boatmen, poor chaps, met their doom when the ill-fated vessel sank for the second and last time.
In fishing rough ground of the character which "Our Wreck" possesses, the writer has always found one form of tackle most successful, namely, a three-hook paternoster made up, not with booms, but with Jephcott's treble swivels. (Fig 15). If booms are used they are apt to hitch and thus lead to the loss of the bottom tackle. The lead also should be made fast with a piece of old boot-lace, which does not chafe through, and breaks if by any chance the lead gets caught; of course the lead is lost, but the paternoster itself is saved Personally, I prefer for this fishing to make up my paternoster with single stout salmon-gut, but several excellent anglers - notably Mr. H. Edwards, who has fished this mark for years - always use twisted-gut on account of the off-chance of getting something very heavy. On the other hand light bottom-tackle allows of a lighter winch-line, and hence a light rod can be used. This adds to the sport. On heavy rod and line, a 1lb. to 2lbs. pouting makes but little fight, whereas on the light tackle he struggles gamely. Other fish, cod or even conger, of course, may smash the tackle; but surely, at slack tide (the best time on "Our Wreck") it should be possible to kill such fish on single gut, if on on the same material salmon can be taken in the rapid rush of a Scotch river.
To give some idea of the kind of sport obtained wreck-fishing, a short record of two days at Deal may prove of interest.
One November day, the tide slacking at mid-day, three of us started off for "The Wreck" at 10.30 a.m. We got on our marks at eleven, and at once started fishing. We were all using three-hook paternosters, the writer fishing with single-gut, the others with twisted, small hooks being used on the top loops, and a good big Minchin cod pattern on the lowest. The top two were baited with sprat and the lowest with lug - good old perfumed lug, such as cod love. At once we started getting pouting, two and three at a time. This continued until the tide eased; in the dead water one of our party got into a cod, 8lbs., which was duly gaffed; almost immediately another hooked another good cod, 7lbs. Then one of us got a horse-mackerel when pulling up. Again the pouting started. Suddenly, just as I had hooked a small pouting, I had a drag at the rod top, and after playing him a little landed another 8lb. cod. Then one of my comrades got another fish, which gave good sport and which I gaffed. This, to our surprise, turned out to be a whiting, 3lbs. weight, one of the finest I have ever seen. The tide by this was again coming through, and we got four more cod, though none so big as we had already taken, and another three score of pouting, many of 1½lb. weight I hooked a small pouting, and left the line down a moment to see if another cod would take hold. Suddenly my line commenced to travel out; seizing the rod which I had laid down for a moment, I struck sharply and felt I was into something heavy. "Winch in, let go; winch in, let go" was the order of the day for some time. Every inch I gained slowly and laboriously would be gone suddenly with a rush. By the sudden slackening of the line, which occurred every now and then, succeeded by another downward drag, I knew I was in a conger. After ten minutes I got him to the surface, and another five minutes got him within gaffing distance. A clever stroke from my veteran friend landed him in the boat and the game was won, I8½lbs. on single gut.
This practically closed the day's proceedings, as the bottom of the boat was pretty well covered with fish, and, as she was only a 14-footer, and there were three of us and the conger, we were a little cramped.
On getting ashore we totted up our catch: 7 score pouting, best 1¾lbs; 5 whiting, best 3lbs.; 2 horse-mackerel; 7 cod, best two 8lbs. each; one conger, 18½lbs.
We were ashore by 2.30 p.m., and had been just four hours and a half afloat.
This, I think, was my record day on this mark for weight and variety of fish.
Fishing here on another occasion with Mr. R. C. Clements, of "boom" fame, we had a record day among the pouting.
We slipped out to "Our Wreck", quietly determined to try and find the mark, but, owing to a slight and rather foolish mistake, we roamed about for an hour or more before we got the right spot. Once in position the fun soon commenced, and we pulled up pouting anyhow. We were keeping no fish under a 7in. standard, and had very few to return. Again at slack tide we got amongst the cod, Mr. Clements taking three and the writer two good fish, from 6lbs. to 9lbs. each. Owing to not getting on the ground at once much valuable time was lost, and, as during the second half of the time the tide ran against the wind and the boat kept sheering off the mark, we did not get nearly as many fish as otherwise we should have done. The ultimate result was that my boatmate got 61lbs. 4ozs. of fish, and my own catch was 55lbs., the difference being made up by his extra cod, which, curious to say, weighed exactly 6lbs. 4ozs.
One or two hints as regards this fishing may prove of interest:
Always if possible get a good man who knows the marks.
Should you find out any new marks (and the writer has hit upon several), endeavour at once to get the bearings, fixing upon some natural feature rather than an artificial landmark which time may alter.
A strong endeavour should be made to get accurately upon the exact spot, proper allowance being made for anchoring, &c. If in charge of the boat always put a "nettle" on the anchor, as fouling is apt to occur amongst the debris at the bottom.
When playing pouting it is as well to give no slack line, as the little chaps have a wonderful facility for getting off after being hooked. If running short of bait, it should be borne in mind that the merest scrap will take pouting.
Lastly and not least, a word must be said as to the best method of disposing of the fish. Summer pouting I never touch, but good winter fish are a treat for the gods, if eaten fresh.
In summer, they are, as most of us know, tainted before they are dead almost. In winter, if cleaned at once, they will keep good in a cool larder for 24 hours or even longer. They will not, however, stand packing, and should on no account be sent as presents to friends. Whiting are very little better, while, of course, cod are all right.
If grilled or fried, I, and indeed probably most other people, will be found to prefer pouting to whiting, although Deal whiting fresh caught, split, and grilled are allowed by the majority of fish epicures to be a most delicate dish.
In the course of my narrative, I mentioned that we had caught a 3lb. whiting. We had it plain boiled like cod and ate it. It bore about the same relation to cod that boiled lettuce does to cabbage; that is to say, there was a family likeness, but the substance was softer and the flavour much more delicate. We also tried the horse-mackerel. It was beastly.
Sea-Fishing at Deal - November
WHEN we have, within eighty-four miles of London, a fishing ground, where can be taken by rod and line congers of nearly 30lbs., cod of 20lbs., pollack of 13lbs., whiting of 2½lbs. and plaice of 3lbs.; it must be allowed that the stay-at-homes are well catered for.
Deal may be said to be the metropolis of marine angling, and from early spring right on through the winter months the sea rod is strongly in evidence. A quiet stroll on the pier in the month of August will show dozens of persons intent upon watching their rods on the lower platform, while the view of the pier end from a boat resembles nothing so much as a marine fretful porcupine, the quills being represented by the forest of projecting rods; at the same time, the boats out with rod fishers are seldom fewer than a dozen if the weather is at all favourable. The regular sport for which the place is renowned rarely starts before October, when the advent of the sprats into inshore waters brings quantities of large cod and whiting within easy reach of the beach. At no time during the year can Deal be said to be devoid of facilities for fishing; but in the early summer months the rodsman is practically dependent on the small codling, hatched probably in the spring of the previous year, and not exceeding more than ½lb. to ¾lb. in weight; the whiting pouts, whose habitat is pretty well localised to the rock patches south and north of the pier; and small whiting of about 7in. or 8in. in length. As the autumn passes, the codling are taken from 2lbs. to 5lbs. in weight; these are from two and a half to three and a half years old. The whiting also increase in size, some being taken from 11 ins. to I2ins. in length, while pollack of from 2lbs. to 4lbs. are frequently taken from the pier. If the water is clear a very good class of plaice is taken some seasons with the rod, running up to 3lbs. apiece. Should, however, the weather become stormy, these latter fish suddenly disappear, and frequently the season abruptly terminates in August. As regards codling, on the other hand, in favourable years many good fish, ranging from 3lbs. to over 6lbs., are during September taken on the lug-worm. When, however, the sprats come inshore about the beginning of November, the adult cod, whiting, and coalfish accompany them; and from then on - till the disappearance of the winter herring, about the end of January, when the cod betake themselves into the deeper water, preparatory to starting their spawning season - grand sport is obtained by the angler. One peculiarity of the fishing may be here pointed out, viz., that as a rule the autumn cod are all killed with lug-worm, whereas the winter fish usually fall victims to the seduction of "white bait," i.e. a strip of sprat or herring. I have been catching fish rapidly on lug in the month of September, and, bait running short, have tried fish, but could not get a touch; whereas in the winter exactly contrary has been the case.
The winter months, then, are par excellence those in which sea angling may be enjoyed at Deal; and, any day that wind, tide, and weather permit, the rod fisher can count upon a day's sport with whiting averaging from ¾lb. to 1½lbs., with a cod or two, which may be any weight from 6lbs. to 20lbs. apiece.
Sea fishing may be indulged in either from a boat or from the pier, though I am bound to say that the lion's share of the sport falls to the boat fishers. It has been suggested either that sea fish even are learning wisdom by experience and avoid the pier, or else that not only do they find it impossible to steer their way clear between the innumerable multitude of lines that connect the pier platform with the sea bottom, but also that they are constantly being beaten about the back of the head with falling leads; for one or both of these reasons they give this vicinity a wide berth. Be this as it may, the boat will get three fish per head for one per head taken from the pier, though occasionally very fine examples are hooked from the latter. A rather unique specimen was captured from the lower platform by a boy hand-lining a year or two ago in the shape of a 5½lb. lobster.
Deal, owing to the difficulty of getting off, is only to be recommended if the wind be light or blowing from the S.S.W. to N.N.W., as the beach is very exposed, and anything over a gentle breeze from eastwards, especially E.N.E., brings in a heavy sea, and moreover drives the fish out to sea. Also, if a strong S.S.W. gale blow, though the wind be all right for embarking and landing, yet the water is so thickened that good sport cannot be counted on. It is therefore wise that all intending fishermen should be members of the B.S.A.S., as the agent, Mr. Edward Hanger, "The Napier," Beach Street, Deal, will be pleased to answer a prepaid telegram, giving information as to fishing prospects, to any member who may apply.
The Deal boatmen are legion, and good men can be got at either end of the town.
The boatmen's charges are, as a rule, moderate, the British Sea Angler's Society having a tariff with their own men. This sum includes the services of a man and bait, but occasionally the average supply of both has to be supplemented if the tides are unfavourable or the sea rough.
On the pier a charge of 3d. a day per rod is made, and bait can sometimes be obtained from the pier officials or from Mrs. Williams, locally known as the Baroness de Worms.
As I have previously said, the baits most in use at Deal are lugworm, and sprat or herring, though I have occasionally used mussel with fair success in times of scarcity. Of the lugworms (Arencola piscatorium) there seem to be two varieties, one of which, distinguished by the thin tail portion being yellow, is esteemed much the better bait for cod than the other form. Other good baits for cod are the hermit crab or crab whelk, and better still the soft shell, peely, or shedder crab, which is merely the shore green-crab when changing its shell.
Now we come to the question of tackle, to me the most important portion of the whole matter, as upon it depends entirely whether sea-rod fishing shall be merely skull-dragging with a pole or a sport. Firstly, then, as to the rod, which, in my humble opinion, should be of very different lengths, according as to whether you are fishing from pier or boat. For the former from 9½ft. to 10ft. seems to me most suitable, while I cannot put up with a boat rod of over 8ft. I have before stated that a tendency exists to make sea rods too stiff. It is to be remarked that I have said "too stiff" and not " too stout," because I am anxious to emphasize the fact that stiffness is the objectionable quality. A certain amount of give-and-take must exist in every rod if light tackle is to be used, and, to my mind, light tackle is the only thing that lifts sea angling into the region of sport. To those who deny to it such a title I say, and say unhesitatingly,"Try playing a November Deal cod, say, of 16lbs. weight, on line the thickness of snooding with a 2oz. lead and a salmon-gut ledger, and if you do not find the chief spice of sport, namely, uncertainty as to the ultimate result, present to a sufficient extent, I shall be much astonished." The slow, heavy, lifeless drag of the fish at the end of a few fathoms of window cord, with 2lbs. or 3lbs of lead appended, is exchanged for heavy plunges and circlings, which make the rod bend and the fine line sing. One winds him in, and again perforce must give him line, till at length, after a stout resistance, he is brought alongside, the boatman sticks the "iff" or gaff, into him, and lifts him neatly into the boat.
My ideal rod has the butt and tops of lancewood, each 3ft. 7in. in length, giving, when put together with bottom button (Fig. 19), a total of 7ft. The butt and top are carefully whipped at intervals of an inch, and have a fitting of porcelain rings on each side with a two-sided winch fitting. The end guide is also adamite (a hard porcelain), fitted on the American principle. The rod is limber, and springs right down to the butt. With this rod, a light braided silk line (83½ gauge), and 1¼oz. of lead, the author, on November 28th, 1903, killed a conger weighing 18¼lbs. at Deal.
Fig. 38. The Deal Lead.
The leads used at Deal should run from 1oz. to 6½oz., the handiest being a 3oz., a 2oz, and a 1½oz. These can be used either singly or in combination, to make 1½oz., 2oz., 3oz., 4½oz., 5oz., 6½oz., 8oz., 8½oz. and 9½oz., the last two only in exceptionally heavy tides. Personally, I use pear-shaped leads, (Fig. 39, 1 a) but some prefer other shapes, which they think are not so apt to be carried away by the run of tide. The Deal lead in which portions are removable is popular with many anglers (Fig. 38), The best forms of tackle to use at Deal for the capture of cod and whiting are undoubtedly the paternoster and the ledger; or the two may be combined, either with or without booms. In heavy tides booms are useless and can well be omitted, but in slack water they serve to keep the bait away from the main line when it is running down.
The hooks should never be more than three in number, and for the bottom the best size is undoubtedly the No. 2/0 of either Minchin or Clements pattern, both of which are long-shanked, slightly curbed, and strongly eyed. For the upper two hooks Minchin's whiting hook is most convenient. It is No. 10 new scale.
Fig. 39. (1) Clement's Boom with Pear-shaped Lead. (2) As Paternoster. (3) As combined Paternoster and Ledger.
In Deal fishing the best system to pursue is to fish on the bottom when the tide is running, hence ledger; and off the bottom when the tide is slack, hence paternoster. Just, however, as the tide eases, or as it again begins to draw gently through, the cod feed best; and then, I am of opinion, the best tackle is the Kentish-rig boom described in the chapter on tackle (Fig. 40).
Fig. 40. The Kentish Boom Rig.
The paternoster should be made of plaited gut, not twisted, and the hook link for the lowest hook, which may well be 1½ft. to 2ft. long, should be of the same material. In the summer time the other hook links may be of single salmon gut; indeed, the author rarely uses anything else even during the winter, although it must be allowed that very light hands are necessary, if one hooks a big fish. Many use the combined ledger and paternoster, which may have two hooks above and one below, or vice versa. (See Fig. 39.) The use of this outfit is perfectly simple; the appropriate rig is chosen, and the hooks are baited; if for summer, with lug-worm, if winter, lug and sprat, the lug being used on the bottom hook or hooks. If there is a check on the reel it is taken off, the edge of the reel held with the hand, and the weight and trace dropped overboard, and the line allowed to run out, the forefinger of the right hand skidding the edge of the reel. On striking bottom a distinct knock will be felt, upon which the check may be re-adjusted and the rod grasped just above the reel in the left or right hand, according to which side of the boat the angler is fishing, the butt of the rod resting against the left hip. Here a pneumatic button will be found most useful to prevent over-pressure. (See Fig. 41.) The grasping hand should control the reel by pressing on the rim. On getting a bite (a sharp, double knock for a whiting and a slow draw for a cod), wind in any slack due to movement of boat, etc., and strike firmly, not hard, and steadily wind against the fish, being prepared to skid the edge of the reel if the fish be powerful and run off line. Never, if possible, permit slack Iine for an instant, as the flesh of these fish being tender the hook soon enlarges the wound, if in the mouth, and the hook works out. It is to be remembered that no more lead should be used than will keep the bait at the bottom, and it is as well that the lead should move freely, as the bite of the fish must shift the position of the lead before the angler can possibly strike, and hence fish may leave the bait if the resistance of the lead is too great. Of course, the pull necessary to laterally displace a pendulum weight of, say, four or six ounces at the end of a cord of eight or ten fathoms, already borne in the same direction by the tide, is infinitesimal; but if the lead is too heavy and lies buried the case is much different.
Fig. 41. Pneumatic Rod Button.
It is as well occasionally to lift the lead clear of the ground, say, three or four feet, and let it drop again; this clears the bottom hook if caught up in rough ground, and sometimes tempts a fish to run at the baits; a further advantage is that such a manoeuvre often discovers the presence of a big cod, which has laid hold of the bottom bait and is lazily sucking it without giving any sign of his presence.
In order to illustrate this kind of sport enjoyed amongst the cod and whiting, the following extracts from note books may prove of interest.
In November, 1897, the British Sea Anglers held their competition late in the month, and I had the pleasure of fishing on one of the days with a gentleman who was judging. After the last of the competitors had gone off we decided that, as nothing more remained to be done till the return of the boats, we might as well go and do a little fishing ourselves. So, hailing our boatman and getting our things together, we launched about ten o'clock and hoisted sail.
The nice northerly breeze quickly took us to our ground north of the Brake Buoy, and, dropping anchor, we presented our baits to the fishes; sprat on the upper and lug on the lower hook. The tide was nearly slack, and rapidly failing; nevertheless, the whiting bit freely, and we quickly commenced to fill our fibh-tub. As is usual at Deal, each fisherman had a large hook near his lead baited with lug, on the look-out for cod, and as the ebb set in my boat companion hooked a fine fellow. Time and again did our angler wind up his fish, to be obliged to let him run ten or fifteen yards off the reel with a rush during his downward plunges. Five minutes brought our fish within reach of Bob's gaff, and a dexterous move tumbled him into the boat, where immediately the hook came away. He was in good condition, and weighed about 15lbs. After this our other fish, which were small, appeared smaller, and but little enthusiasm was shown when, on pulling up, an extra tug was felt and a fish of about 1½ft. in length was drawn close up to the boat and lost: there is little doubt, from the play and also from the brief glance one got of him, that he was a "Fordwich trout", as a sea-trout, bearing all the characters of these fish, was taken the week previously by one of the Deal amateurs, boat-fishing with sprat bait. (This fish is now in the special department of the Natural History Museum at South Kensington). The tide becoming stronger, the fish turned shy, while the breeze that brought us out was conspicuous by its absence; so getting to our oars we started for home, there to await the returning competitors. Our little take, in four hours, was eleven score of whiting, a few pout, seven dabs, and one cod of 15lbs.
Of the competitors' takes that day the following may be noted: One cod 18½lbs. (on sprat bait), one cod 18lbs. (on soft crab bait), one cod 17lbs., and one conger 15lbs. Such sport may be enjoyed by any fair angler during the months of November and December, if the sprats are in and the weather is favourable. It may be said here that during the last few years magnificent sport has been had at Deal during the month of November with conger. The large congers seem to follow the whiting inshore, and specimens of from 14lbs. to 20lbs. are frequently taken.
In 1898 specimens of 18½lbs., 19½lbs., 21½lbs., and 26¾lbs. were taken; while in the British Sea Anglers' Competition, 1899, the gold medal was taken by a gentleman with a conger of 29½lbs., and another competitor took one 24½lbs. The winner, Mr. W. T. Green, also took another fine fish 21½lbs. the same day.
As far as I am aware the 29½lbs. fish was up to last year the largest ever taken with rod and line in the United Kingdom.
During 1899 the record catch for Deal for one day was made by Mr. Litchfield and two friends. On December 10th, these three gentlemen and the boatman, all rod-fishing, in three-and-a-half hours took 237 fish, weighing 278½lbs. The catch was made up as follows:
21 cod and codling … 121lbs.
2 congers (28½lbs. and 12½lbs.) … 41lbs.
214 whiting and pouting … 116lbs.
237 fish … 278lbs.
The largest cod was about 14lbs., and the largest whiting was 3lbs.
I am informed that one of the anglers was quite unskilled in rod-fishing, and a number of fish were therefore missed which should have come to hand.
During 1900, the fishing has been good as regards whiting, but there has been a noticeable scarcity of cod, especially north of the pier in Pegwell Bay. A little sport has been obtained towards Walmer, very possibly on account of an eddy which gives slack water by St. Margarets, and a set in of the strong fairway current. The reasons why cod have not been at Deal are unknown, but various causes are alleged, such as the blasting on the wreck of the "Patria", the carbolic acid and other disinfectants in the drainage discharged into the sea in front of the town, and last, but not least, an ingenious theory that the absence is caused by the prevalence of south-westerly winds, which back up and retard the rate of progress of the great southerly current of cold water in which the cod mainly travels. Be this as it may, the fact remains that cod were scarce, the best fish the writer landed being one of 17lbs., foul-hooked in the top of the head, and the best day was with a friend and the boatman all rod-fishing, when they took twenty-four codling up to 7½lbs. A short record may interest my readers:
A day or two before Christmas, on a bright, still morning as the spring tides were beginning to weaken, we started off just about high water for Walmer Hole with a few sprats of yesterday's catching. We intended, however, as stale sprat is soft and not attractive, to get some fresh bait from the sprat drifters, which were gradually working down towards us as we rowed south. The first drifter we met was shaking out his nets minus any fish, a poor look-out for our fishing; the next had got about a score, and his temper, in consequence, not being of the best, we left him without further parley.
Finally we met a small boat working a shore net; the fisherman had got about a beef tin full, and half of these we purchased for sixpence. Equipped with fresh bait we rowed on with renewed energy, gradually discarding neck wrappers, coats, sweaters, &c., as the sun grew hotter and hotter and the sea more glassy. A quarter before twelve saw us at our destination close in shore, abreast of the bungalows beyond Walmer Castle, a fair row with a fore-sail mizzen punt against a spring tide. We dropped anchor, baited, and started to work at once although the tide was by no means done. Owing to the peculiar eddy referred to, the current, however, never runs so hard in this part of the bay as it does Ramsgate way. We therefore fished paternoster all the time, the writer using a linked wire pattern with Diamond booms which had proved most effective all season; the little swivel-head on the end of the boom permits the scraps of fish bait to revolve freely if put on with a half turn; this seems to be very attractive to the fish, and if the point of the rod be steadily raised in slack water, the twirl of the bait frequently tempts fish to bite, that otherwise would probably not take hold. As the tide had distinctly eased we did not use wire lines, although when fishing further out during the previous month my boatmate and I had found them indispensable, as, when we could no longer hold the bottom with fifteen ounces of lead on an undressed pike line, the braided wire fished easily with three ounces. However, a silk line with 2½ ounces of lead did very well here and is certainly nicer to work with than the wire, which needs special pulley-tops and rollers along the rod and tends to spring off the reel unless carefully handled. We had not got our baits properly down and started to light a pipe, before my boatmate's reel commenced to sing, and in another moment he was into a fish; one or two digs at the rod top showed he was something better than a whiting. As soon as he came to the surface the net was under him and he was tumbled into the boat, first fish, a nice little cod of 5½lbs. It has always been a puzzle to the writer to know where a cod begins and a codling leaves off. Most sea-anglers, if other people catch such fish, call them codling; should they happen to fall to their own rods, they call them cod. The safest system seems to take the average of sexual maturity (3½lbs. to 5lbs), and then to call all over 5lbs. cod. My boatmate and I had arranged a little gamble per codfish before leaving, and this gave him first blood; while he was unhooking his fish, I felt a pull and struck into something better, which proved to be another cod of 7lbs. We then took each a few large pouting, and then my rival got another two codling, increasing his lead by one. Meanwhile, Captain Doughty, of Walmer, the then local agent of the British Sea Anglers' Society, came out and anchored alongside us in his little 12 foot yawl. Just as he arrived I got a couple of whiting, and my friend another codling. The cod, however, would have nothing to say to the Captain's stale sprats, although he got hold of a few nice whiting. We, however, kept hooking codling, my boatmate getting another 7-pounder to match mine. By a quarter-past three the ebb tide came through, and fish left off biting; and as there was no wind we started to row back to Deal again over the tide. By the time we got half way darkness was setting in, and we required all our wraps, even when rowing, to keep out the cold. By a few minutes past four we were ashore and hauling the boat up. Our total catch on fresh sprat bait was 24 codling, of which my friend took ten, the writer seven, and the boatman seven, and seven score of fine whiting and large pouting, altogether a fair day for so late in the year in a very disappointing season.
I took the best two cod away to the North of England, where I spent Christmas; and they were very acceptable, fish being very scarce everywhere owing to the gales. I am told that the same day at Billingsgate 15/- was paid for an 11lb. codfish, and that 2/6 a pound was offered in vain for fresh turbot. The crews of the fishing boats, weatherbound by the storm of the preceding week, preferred, no doubt, to spend their Christmas ashore, like the rest of us all.
In 1901 and 1902 the scarcity of cod was even more marked than it had been in 1900. This winter (1903), however, seems to be better in this respect. Quite a number of large codfish have been taken in the Downs, up to 35lbs. in weight each, while one angler, on November 28th, had nine cod, weighing 67lbs., fishing close inshore off Sandown Castle.
And now my task is ended. The year of angling has gone by, and a number of different methods of rod-fishing have been dealt with to a certain extent. There may be nothing strikingly novel in the methods advocated, but they have borne the test of personal experience, and have, in no instance, been advocated merely on the authority of some other angler. They may be faulty, but they certainly catch fish, and that in a sportsmanlike way.
That my readers may take as much pleasure in reading these scrappy chapters as the writer has had in putting them together is the farewell wish of their fellow-angler, the Author.
The Daily Express, Thursday 14 December 1905
Some of the Attractions of Winter Sport
All Sorts of Fishing
The many angling competitions which are being held now in sea-angling, in which both men and women take part, shows the sport to be a growing attraction.
The time was, not so many years ago, when the fresh-water angler, proud with memories of fighting trout or plunging pike, affected to think that neither skill nor art need be exercised in salt-water fishing.
But his opinion, like all opinions founded on insufficient knowledge of the subject, has undergone change - a change which is as revolutionary in its character as it is enthusiastic in its nature.
The fresh-water angler can, it is true, look back to a holiday spent on the banks of some quiet stream and view his "takes" of roach or dace, chub or barbel, as red letter days.
The sea-angler can do more than this. He can fish in the happy knowledge that all is food that comes to his creel; that the "bag" is invariably measured not by ounces, but by pounds, and that all the time he is pursuing his sport he is breathing ozone.
We take so many holidays in the summer that we are apt to forget that it is in winter that we need them most !
There can be no more health-giving holiday than a few days' sea-angling; and there can be no more delightful centre from which to fish than Deal.
An Unrivalled Spot
Fish of all sorts, cod, whiting, soles, plaice and other flat fish, congers, skate, pollack, mullet (when in season), with an occasional bass or turbot, are caught from the pier and from boats in quantities that no other place on the coast can rival.
Those who form their opinion of sea angling from the small catches of the "cold-blue" anglers usually to be seen in winter on the piers round our coasts (and who generally fish with hand-lines) may envy the patience which rises superior to results, but must form a very poor idea of the quality and quantity of fish to be taken by rod and line.
For disillusionment they should visit Deal, and have a day (say) off the south-west Goodwin, by the Brake Buoy, or in Sandown Bay - to say nothing of the pier, and they would quickly alter their mind.
What do such casual observers know of the splendid exhilaration of a battle with a sixteen-pound cod?
Or again, take a day's whiting. Arrived at the ground, the lines are baited with herring or sprat or lug, as the case may be, and are no sooner stopped over the side than two and sometimes three fish eagerly seize the morsels. Only the other day two visitors to Deal took in two or three days fifty-nine score of whiting and seven cod and codling scaling 45 lbs., besides several pouting, eel, and dogfish.
On another day recently all the boats that went out came back averaging six to eight score of whiting per boat, besides codling, eel, pouting, and other fish.
And here, as a general note, let me give a hint to intending anglers where to fish. If you are after big cod or conger or dogfish, go to the Brake Buoy, south-west of the Goodwins, near the Patria wreck. For whiting, either the old wreck at Sandown or (at low water) 150 yards in a bee-line from Deal Castle, or three-quarters of a mile west of Walmer Castle, taking it, as a rule, when the north-east wind blows, and make all speed to the Goodwins.
Nor is the pier fishing to be despised, and will be found a capital hunting-ground indeed.
This pier-fishing deserves a word to itself, for it offers scarcely less attraction than boat fishing, and nearly as heavy fish are often caught; from it.
A light, stiff rod, not too long, about seven feet is sufficient; a four-inch winch and 100 yards of good line, not too thick, with two or three leads - or weights - of four, eight, and ten ounces respectively; two or three yards of good gut, some hooks of various sizes, and, save for bait, the pier fisherman's "tools" are complete.
Best Bait For Cod
For cod the best bait is generally considered "hermit crabs", commonly called "soldier crabs", a soft crab inhabiting whelk shells, from which it drives the unfortunate owner, but which are not always easy to procure; and then lug worms (red worms dug from the sand at low water), which indeed is the universal bait, are used.
Of these there are two kinds - "yellow tails" and "reds" - sold by the local boatmen. Failing a supply of "lug", herring or sprat answers the need. I have seen over thirty large codling taken by one angler in a day, and sometimes as many as five score of whiting fall to a single rod in a few .hours' fishing, not to mention dabs, or pouts innumerable.
Spinning for pollack is another capital method of angling from the pier, and many fine fish are captured.
Since the formation of the Deal and District Angling Association a great impetus has been given to the fishing, and much has been done to bring the merits of Deal as a fishing station before the public. Taking it all in all, Deal may be pronounced the ideal fishing ground of England.
A. M. Y.
"Sea-Fishing" (1911) Charles Owen Minchin at pages 162, 163, 219, 220 & 222
Whiting, Pouting and Poor Cod
… When the Deal boatmen used to go "hovelling" down Channel, it was usual for them in springtime to make "buck-horn whiting" in their boats. The fish as soon as caught were cleaned and split, then laid flat on a board and splashed with sea-water as fast as the hot sun and sharp wind dried them up. Thus prepared the whiting was almost semi-transparent and of a fine golden brown colour, and it was excellent eating when grilled or fried.
Some Harbours on the South Coast of England
… but of course all these open beaches have the drawback that to get a boat afloat in any but very calm weather is difficult and unpleasant, and the coming on to the beach again may be attended with some risk should the sea have got up in the meantime. Deal is exceptionally favoured in that respect, because the Goodwin Sands form a natural breakwater; there is rarely any ground-swell to speak of, and the sea, though often short and jumpy, is not high unless there is a pretty stiff breeze. In addition to this it should be remembered that the Deal boatmen are the best beach-men in the United Kingdom, if not in the world.
… RAMSGATE Harbour is comfortable enough inside, but the getting in is sometimes troublesome on account of the nasty set of tide right across the harbour mouth. There are some small bass about the piers in summer, but generally more local anglers than fishes, and the bottom-fishing for cod and whiting near the White Buoy and the Break and on to near the Gull light, though very good, does not begin till quite late in the autumn: which remark applies also to the Downs off Deal and Walmer.
"The Sportsman's Library: Sea Fishing" (1935) Major D. P. Lea Birch ("Fleur-de-Lys") at pages 27, 32 & 33
Chapter II: Boat Fishing
Margate, Deal, Bognor, Weymouth, Mevagissey and Ballycotton are examples of well-known fishing stations, where visiting anglers have no difficulty in getting to good places.
To go afloat comfortably it is essential to have a harbour which does not go dry at low tide. The mud of a tidal harbour is most foul to walk on. An open shore is still worse: helping to pull a boat up a beach after a long day is a most discouraging occupation.
"Sea Fishing in Kent" (1973) Hugh Stoker at pages 32 to 40
Deal and Walmer
High Water: -2 hours 32 minutes H.W. London Bridge. Rise: 17 feet at Springs; 14½ feet at Neaps. Tidal Streams: In the open sea off Deal the tides run hard at times, and for the most part follow the general north to south trend of the coast, although in places the streams are deflected by the Goodwin Sands, and may then follow more closely the deep-water channels between or around the sandbanks.
However, this trend cannot be relied upon around HW, because there are then certain areas where the tide sets strongly across the Goodwins, creating at the same time an upsurging mass of water which is liable to result in turbulent conditions.
The tidal streams are too complex to give full details here, but as a general guide it is worth noting that between the inner (W) side of the SW Goodwin Buoy and Trinity Bay the flood tide (direction NNE going) begins -2h local HW and attains a rate of 2½ knots at springs, and 1½ knots at neaps. The ebb (direction SSW going) begins +4h local HW and attains a rate of 2¼ knots at springs and 1¼ knots at neaps. Elsewhere in the vicinity of the Goodwins one is liable to encounter tides with a springs rate of 3½ knots or more. The slackest tides, on the other hand, are to be found in the bay formed by the coast between North Deal and Ramsgate.
Topography. Although there is no harbour at Deal, this small town has always been noted for its fishing and boating activities. For centuries the shingle foreshore between North Deal and Walmer has crunched beneath the keels of a great variety of beach craft, ranging from the fishing luggers, smuggling galleys and pilot cutters of earlier times to the modern motor boats engaged in the more mundane task of taking rod and line anglers out to Trinity Bay and the Goodwin Sands.
Facing east, Deal beach is pleasant and unpretentious, and the busy stream of cargo vessels and large passenger liners passing through the Downs only a mile or so offshore is a constant source of interest to visitors. Like the shipping, migratory fish passing between the North Sea and the English Channel also tend to come close inshore between the Goodwin Sands and the Deal coastline - a point worth noting by anglers.
Incidentally, the sea-bed off this very treacherous coast is littered with wrecks, and because of these obstructions no trawling is done in the area. This is yet another reason for the excellent local rod and line fishing.
1. The Pier. The requirements of sea anglers were specially considered when this pier was designed. It extends for nearly 1,000 feet, and out-jutting glass-covered shelters are positioned at intervals along the stem of the pier so that on wet or windy days the angler can dodge the weather, at the same time keeping an eye on his rod and line. Fishing is permitted all the year round from the main landing decks at the end of the pier, and it is also allowed along the full length of the stem except during July and August.
Catches are varied, and include dabs, plaice, occasional sole, pouting, dogfish, bass (sometimes taken towards the inshore end), mackerel, scad and occasional thornback rays (usually during the evening). In the autumn and winter there is a good chance of whiting and codling, with occasional large cod up to 20lb or more.
A favourite form of terminal tackle for ground-feeding species comprises a two-hook running leger, with the end hook on a 2 to 3 foot flowing trace, and the second hook attached by a short dropper to a loop 9 inches below the lead. The Wessex leger … is a useful alternative. Favourite baits are local yellowtail lugworm (on one hook) and herring or mackerel strip (on the second hook). When mackerel are shoaling in the vicinity they may be taken (i) on float tackle, (ii) by threadline spinning with suitable lures, or (iii) with feathered traces.
2. Walmer Beach. Ground tackle cast out from this stretch of beach is likely to yield bass (not very numerous), pouting, dogfish, and whiting. This area also produces cod in winter, and catches are sometimes best after a gale. Leger tackle with a flowing trace is recommended, using baits suggested for pier fishing.
3. Sandhills. North of Deal the shoreline becomes progressively more sandy and gently shelving. There is useful shore-casting in this area between Sandown Castle and the 6th green of the adjacent golf course, particularly during the autumn. Catches include codling, whiting, dabs, sole, plaice, dogfish, pouting and occasional flounders in season. The sole are mostly taken after dark. Local yellowtail lugworm is a good bait here.
4. Kingsdown Beach. This steeply shelving shingle beach can be reached by turning down towards the sea near the Rising Sun Inn. It is capable of yielding some good bass on occasions, particularly after dark. The best time to start fishing, as a rule, is about 2 hours before H.W. Other species taken include dogfish; also cod (some of them large) from October or November onwards. A two-hook Wessex leger makes a useful terminal rig here; alternatively try a free-running leger with a flowing trace. Recommended baits: yellowtail lug, king ragworm, herring and mackerel strips, and squid.
Incidentally, within living memory Kingsdown beach has begun to recede very rapidly indeed, and local fishermen blame this on the construction of the breakwater at Dover harbour. Certainly something has reversed a process which, over the centuries, deposited acres of shingle in front of the chalk uplands behind Kingsdown village.
5. The Butts, Kingsdown. These butts form part of a firing range which, at the time of writing, is in regular use by the Royal Marines. The road to the butts leads straight on past the Rising Sun Inn, but access is prohibited when the red flag is flying. Firing normally ceases at 4:30 pm on weekdays.
The seaward side of the butts is a popular vantage point with specialist bass anglers, one favourite method being float fishing with a live prawn bait. Best results are obtained around H.W. It is also possible to use herring or mackerel strip, yellowtail lug, a lively ragworm etc., but a live prawn is definitely best. Prawns can be caught here with a baited drop-net when conditions are suitable, but results vary considerably and it is unwise to rely on catching one's bait on the spot.
Some good bass have also been taken at this position by spinning with a rubber eel, a 3 to 4 inch narrow wobbling spoon, and other suitable lures. Spinning with a strip of squid is also worth trying.
Deal is undoubtedly one of the best and most popular boat fishing centres within easy reach of south-east London, and in addition to the many craft owned by licensed boatmen, the beach is also thickly dotted with boats that are privately owned by anglers who visit the coast at weekends.
Before listing individual boat fishing positions, therefore, it might prove helpful if we considered some of the species taken off Deal, and gave details of the baits most likely to produce good results.
The "back-end" of the year, from October onwards, is probably the most popular period with most Deal anglers, for it is then that the cod move in, attracted by the rich feeding grounds around the off-lying Goodwin Sands, and closer inshore among the various channels and wrecks. Baits for these include yellowtail lug, mussels and (not quite so good) herring strips.
Decent-sized whiting, too, feature prominently in catches towards the onset of autumn. Baits include lug, herring and mackerel strips.
Thornback rays are numerous and provide some of the best all-round fishing at Deal. Best catches are obtained from May to October, or later in some seasons. Herring and mackerel strips are probably the most common baits, although at Deal these fish will also take a yellowtail lugworm.
Tope are mainly taken from June to September, and favourite baits are freshly-caught whiting and mackerel. Herring, too, are useful.
Spur-dogfish generally show up in May and June, but they do not seem to be so numerous at Deal as they are off some other parts of the coast.
Plaice and dabs are rather scarce at the time of writing, but when present they will take lugworm. Pouting, on the other hand, are very numerous and will be encountered all the year round. Their willingness to be caught has caused them to be known locally as "the bait-dealer's friend" !
Now for a selection of boat marks. Those numbered 6 - 11, and 14, are positioned fairly close inshore, and are the ones best suited for visiting anglers fishing without the guidance of a local boatman. Even so, it is always a wise precaution to select a mark which will provide one with a favourable tide for the return journey.
6 Walmer Castle
Winter fishing about ¾ mile off the castle has yielded good catches of whiting, pouting, codling and large cod, including one cod weighing 21¾ lb caught by a 10-year-old schoolboy. There is a chance of flatfish in this area.
7 Marne Rocks
This rewarding mark is situated less than ¾ mile off Walmer Lifeboat House between Deal Castle and Walmer Castle. In winter it is particularly good for cod, and is where Tom Hayward, a well-known local angler, caught a 28½ pounder.
8 Bank Buoy
This well-known fishing position, about a mile offshore, is one of the best for large cod, and a local angler took a 30 pounder here while this book was being written. Other species include thornback rays, dogfish, tope, dabs, whiting and pouting according to season.
9 Trawler Buoy
A green wreck buoy marks the position of a sunken trawler about ½ mile off Sandown Castle. This is a likely spot for cod in season, and surrounding sandy ground may also yield flatfish, dogfish and ray.
10 Sandhills Area
Various locations within the comparatively shallow area of Sandwich Bay are likely to yield thornback ray, dabs, plaice, sole, codling, dogfish; also flounders in season. Some of the sole run to a good size but are mostly taken right inshore in only a few feet of water. The river Stour empties into Pegwell Bay, at the north end of this area, and this freshwater outlet provides an attraction for flounders. In fact most kinds of flatfish are likely to be encountered in the sandy shallows and channels.
11 No 1 Buoy
Situated about 1½ miles off the Sandhills shore, this is a very popular fishing area and, unlike most other boat marks off Deal it can be fished during Spring tides. One rewarding position lies a few hundred years north east of the buoy and here one may catch good thornback rays (sometimes very plentiful) as well as dabs, plaice, dogfish, codling, etc. A local angler commenting on this mark also says: "At one time it was the only place around Deal to produce turbot. I have seen 8 or 10 a day caught, but they were mostly small, around the 4 lb mark. Lately, however, they have been catching much larger ones here and there over a wider area."
12 Trinity Bay
Another popular fishing area, yielding thornback rays, tope, cod etc. Fishing here is best around Neap tides.
13 South Brake Buoy
This mark is noted mainly for thornback rays and dogfish, together with large pouting.
14 Pier Area
When strong offshore winds necessitate inshore fishing, it is possible to catch thornback rays, cod, whiting etc by anchoring about ½ mile off the end of the pier.
Wrecks. The notorious Goodwin Sands have been snaring ships for hundreds of years, and they continue to do so despite every kind of modern navigational aid. As a result, the seabed in this area is littered with wrecks, both charted and uncharted. For details of the local wreck fishing we visited Tom Hayward, a veteran sea angler who for many years did a tremendous amount of rod and line prospecting around the Goodwins in his own boat equipped with an echo-sounder.
Some remarkable catches resulted from these trips, including two national records. Tom's blonde ray record has since been broken, but his record twaite shad of 3lb 2oz still stands at the time of writing. However, the main species taken near the wrecks include conger, pouting and some very good cod during the winter months. Large tope, too, may be encountered in the vicinity of wrecks lying on sandy ground.
While we were discussing the wreck fishing at Deal, Tom was careful to stress the need for sound local knowledge and caution when visiting the outer marks - especially those around the Goodwins. "The tides run very hard at times," he said, "and many of my favourite places can only be fished at Neaps. There's one important rule I never break - I only fish a mark when conditions are suitable, and I pull out at once if conditions deteriorate …"
Having made this point clear, he proceeded to describe his method of using a Clements running boom and long flowing trace when fishing such wrecks as the "North-Eastern Victory", "Patria", "Wheatman" and "Mahratta".
15 N. E. Victory
The "North-Eastern Victory" offers some shelter from the main force of the tide and it is possible to fish about 300 yards west of the wreck in 4 fathoms or so of water using a 10oz lead with 35lb braided terylene line. Catches here include good thornback rays, spotted dogfish, flatfish and (in spring) spur dogfish.
The "Patria" lies about ¾ mile north east of the Bank Buoy and yields conger and cod.
The "Adjutant" lies about 1 mile offshore just behind the south end of the Walmer sea-front. In suitable weather conditions, when the tide is running fairly hard, it can be located by a rippling of the water over the wreck.
The "Wheatman" lies still further south off Kingsdown and is one of the best wrecks in the area for large conger, cod and pouting. It is a well-matured wreck, being some 70 years old or more …
Local Bait Grounds (Chart symbols are shown in brackets)
can be dug on the extensive tidal flats of Pegwell Bay. Yellowtail lugworms can be dug along the shores of Sandwich Bay.
are also found in the sands and shallow pools of Pegwell Bay. They make an excellent bait for plaice, whiting, soles and many other fish.
Peeler and Soft Crabs (C)
are most likely to be found during the warmer months around L.W. springs, on rocky and weedy stretches of shore. One likely area is the extensive stretch of rocks bordering the west wall of Ramsgate harbour. Also further round towards Pegwell Bay, where the low tide rocks adjoin softer ground, and among the chalky rocks in the Broadstairs area … are far from plentiful, but a few may be found around the rocks south of Kingsdown during the warmer months.
when conditions are suitable, prawns my be caught with a baited drop-net from the Butts, at Kingsdown."
"Fisherman's Handbook" (1977) The Marshall Cavendish, Part 9 at pages 231 to 235
The Kent Coast
Map showing the sand banks and wrecks where fine cod and conger are fished
The Kent coast offers some of the finest sea angling in the British Isles. Many species are encountered with cod predominant, particularly during the autumn and winter. The great advantage of fishing this coastline is that excellent fishing can often be had only a mile or two beyond the embarkation point.
The North Sea, ebbing and flowing through the Straits of Dover, gives rather fierce tides, but the relatively shallow water compensates for this. Rarely is it over 14 fathoms deep, and is on average 7-10 fathoms. There is good fishing up the Thames as far as Gravesend and the Isle of Sheppey but this is estuary fishing. Open sea fishing begins at Whitstable.
Whitstable is reached directly from London via the M2 and A299. The sea around this town is shallow for the first five miles out, and on average less than three fathoms deep. Boat anglers can expect to find dabs, whiting and cod in winter, and flounders, eels and bass in summer. Shore anglers enjoy beachcasting for the same species from the gentle shelving beach east of the harbour.
Herne Bay lies 4 miles to the east of Whitstable still on the A299. Several available charter boats will take anglers to the famous Pansands for the excellent bass fishing in the summer, or to the broken ground off Reculver for winter cod fishing.The town was famous for its tope fishing before the war, but this species seems to have declined since then. The average depth here is about 3 fathoms until one reaches the shipping lanes nearly 7 miles out.
Most varieties of seafish are caught in the appropriate seasons with thornback ray and smooth-hounds especially prolific during the peeler crab season in April, May and June. For the shore angler, fishing from the Eastern Promenade can be very rewarding, particularly in the autumn and winter after dark. Unfortunately the ¾ mile long pier was closed as being unsafe in 1968.
The twin towers of the ruined church known as Reculver are 3 miles east of Herne Bay. The beach here shelves gently. and thornback and stingrays are caught during spring and summer and cod and whiting in autumn and winter. Shore angling is good for another 2 miles east of this landmark.
Several charter boats are on hire from the harbour at Margate. The water here is 5-6 fathoms deep and the bottom, except at Margate Sands, is of chalk and flints, unlike the sand and gravel bottom at Herne Bay. Excellent bass and thornback ray are caught during spring and summer. The North Foreland Lighthouse is south-east of Margate, and the Elbow Buoy is approximately three miles out at sea from this point. Here one can expect the finest cod fishing to be had in the British Isles.
Many dinghy anglers favour the Longnose Buoy which is nearer, being a mile offshore, and where similar catches can be made. During the summer, bass fishing is good off the inshore chalk ledges and artificial lures are very successful. In the town there is a stone jetty and promenades from which most varieties can be taken depending on the season.
Broadstairs, on the A225 about 4 miles south-east of Margate, has a harbour where boats can be chartered to fish the same area as the Margate boats. Shore angling is possible from the harbour arm and from the chalk ledges north and south of the town.
Ramsgate, south of Broadstairs, is on a direct route from London via the M2, A222 and A253. With its very large harbour and excellent boat facilities, it accommodates both individual and charter anglers. The boats fish as far as the Elbow Buoy, particularly in winter for the cod, at North Goodwins for thornback ray during the summer months, and at Quern Bank for the good bass fishing. Pegwell Bay, which is a shallow water mark, is good for flatfish and whiting. Shore angling takes place from the harbour arms and a large variety of fish are caught although the ground is rather snaggy from the western arm. Large shoals of mullet abound inside the harbour during the summer months and can be caught on freshwater tackle. Other shore stations include the Chines and Under-Cliffe.
Sand and shingle
Although Sandwich lies a mile inland from the coast there is a road through the sand dunes to the shore. The chalk of Ramsgate has now given way to sand and shingle and excellent sport can be had by the beach angler from this point. Big catches of cod are made during the autumn and winter, and mainly flatfish, including soles, through the summer.
South of Ramsgate, and accessible via the M2, the A257 and the A258, Deal is the Mecca of sea angling. Large numbers of charter boats are launched from the steeply-shelving shingle beaches and just about every species of seafish has been caught at some time in these waters. A number of wrecks, particularly on the Goodwin Sands, provide good conger fishing, and in the summer tope and thornback are still caught in fair numbers over the sands. There is often good plaice fishing north of the town and south of Kingsdown, but the town's reputation is primarily for winter cod and whiting. Angling is allowed throughout the year from the modern pier and also night fishing at weekends.
Known as the gateway to England, Dover boasts a magnificent harbour with several angling charter boats. This is the narrowest part of the English Channel and the tides are therefore the strongest, but on neap tides the fishing is good, particularly for conger, cod and pollack found among the many wrecks. The water here is deeper than the rest of the
Kent Coast and the bottom is very hard chalk with fissures. Varne Bank, lying nearly half-way across the Channel, can provide good cod fishing throughout the summer with brill and turbot often a bonus. For the shore angler, the large harbour gives plenty of opportunity, although the eastern arm was closed to anglers many years ago. The Southern Breakwater is only accessible by boat, but a ferry service will take anglers for a nominal charge. Admiralty Pier is free fishing and anglers will often be shoulder to shoulder feathering for the vast shoals of mackerel found here during the summer.
Folkestone Harbour, approximately 5 miles west of Dover, has charter boats which fish Varne Bank in summer and supply good inshore fishing in winter. Several of the inshore marks have 14 fathoms of water, and the sea bed is very rocky particularly off the Warren. Conger to 30 lb are not uncommon near the British Rail Harbour Arm where anglers may fish for a small charge. West of Folkestone, the first mile of shingle beach runs off to snaggy ground, and further westward gives way to sand. This beach extends for 4½ miles, and the road at the top known as Princes Parade enables one virtually to fish from the car. Many species are caught here including bass, conger, plaice, cod and whiting. West of Hythe are the Military Ranges, where fishing is prohibited except on special occasions.
Dungeness is reached via the A259 to New Romney, then the B2071 out to the point. From Hythe to Dungeness the tide goes out so far that very little beachfishing is possible, but at Dungeness itself the steep shelving beach of shingle and the deep water make it ideal for the beach angler. Many years ago Leslie Moncrieff made this station famous for its cod fishing during the winter months. With the right conditions, anglers catch more cod than they can carry, and many of them are over 20 lb. In summer Dungeness and Dengemarsh provide excellent sole fishing and quite often large shoals of mackerel come right to the water's edge. Nearly all species of seafish are contacted; at one time there was even a small thresher shark caught from the beach here.
"Sea Angling: Kent to Cornwall" (1990) Mel Russ & Alan Yates at pages 34 & 35
Kent Alan Yates
Boat angling guide to the Kent coast
Deal, with nearby Walmer, are both home to a large charter fleet of craft launched from the beach. Positioned in the lee of the prevailing south-westerly winds, boats in the area are very seldom prevented from going to sea, although beach launching can be difficult in a strong south-westerly swell. Excellent fishing is enjoyed during the winter, especially with cod. Marks are within two miles of the shore, whilst during the summer months the Goodwin Sands are easily reached. Fish the Goodwins during an ebb tide run-off with a flowing trace and hook baited with fish to attract tope, thornback, dogfish and bass. Winter cod respond best to yellowtail lugworm and large squid baits, also fished on a flowing trace.
To the west of Deal, marks off Kingsdown and Fan Bay, near Dover, are known for their good cod and plaice fishing within one mile of the shore. There are a considerable number of wrecks within easy reach of the Deal and Walmer boats, and hauls consist of cod, conger and pollack with feathers, pirks and artificial eels all scoring well, especially for the cod. Dinghy anglers should head for the Kingsdown SAC, where there's excellent launching facilities close to the Zetland Arms at Kingsdown. Inshore dinghy fishing under the White Cliffs of Dover is excellent for cod in winter and bass and plaice in summer.
"The Complete Book of Sea Fishing: Tackle and Techniques" (1992) Alan Yates and Jed Entwistle at page 179
17. Boat Fishing around Britain
Just a little south of Ramsgate, the fishing is very similar - though cod always seem a larger average size to me. There are several boats available for hire.
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