Sea fishing: Hull's fishing heritage deserves a musical

If New York has its West Side Story, London has Oliver and Paris has Les Mis then surely Hull, the City of Culture 2017 can have a musical, obviously based on fish and what better name than Captain Cod?

Stewart Calligan on Hornsea beach, the scene of his first beach fishing outing of the year.

Its plot would centre on a shoal of elegant, philanthropic cod that always help the brave trawlermen from Hull fill their nets. The location would be the cold, murky depths of the north east Atlantic where the Hull trawlers followed this gallant, hard calling.

Act one, scene one would see the curtain open to a grey backdrop of hundreds of small squares of a trawl net with force 10 gale music wailing through the set and then would proceed a musical, all sung to the tune of Molly Malone.

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Captain Cod enters stage left a dignified fish with enigmatic smile and lots of presence, singing:

“Come on my dear hearties,

“Drive all those Arctic cod,

“Singing swim, swim and dash, dash, right into their net.”

First codling enters stage right, a lively lady codling with red lips, green eyes and the fins varnished to match the lips, and sings:

“Aye Captain Cod,

“Aye Captain Cod,

“We’ll drive all the fishies,

“Singing swim, swim and dash, dash, right into their net.”

Second codling enters stage right, a heavy, salty old sea dog of a cod with white browsers and whiskers, but beautifully trimmed, while stagehands show boards with pictures of many fish swimming into net.

Second codling sings:

“Into the net you go, go,

“Into the net you go, go,

“Like rows of sardines into the net you row, row.

“You’ll grace some hungry lips when the Hullensians have fish and chips.”

You get the idea and any would-be playwright, please finish and submit to the City of Culture planning committee, but don’t mention my name.

A less reverent name for Hull folk is ‘Codheads’ which further illustrates their close ties with Cod. Fishing made Hull famous and prosperous for 100 years and it was the greatest deep sea trawling city in the world.

It was because of its importance as a port it suffered terrible bombing in the Second World War and a memorial to the 6,000 Hull trawlermen lost at sea was recently erected at St Andrew’s Dock.

Back to my own hobby and the new year is a time of reflection, resolutions and replenishment of old or worn equipment. I will be scouring the Sunday markets and on-line auction sites for a couple of reels and perhaps a better rod. Any budding anglers can purchase all the necessary equipment from these pre-used sources for a pittance.

My first beach fishing of 2017 was at Hornsea. It was the kind of winter’s day that seems to be more common now: a crisp start followed by sun, blue sky and shirt sleeves on the beach.

Nothing was caught but I met some nice people walking on the beach. A fellow angler had caught a few whiting but he was leaving as I arrived. He’d been there since first light and was off for a well-earned pot of tea, fish, chips and mushy peas with lots of white bread and butter.

I used two rods and found a little weed was gathering on the line and on retrieval found the bait - frozen black worms and squid - was missing. The culprits were probably small crabs and sure enough I landed one entangled in hook and line.

Seen as though the crabs wanted to play I decided to fish for them. I tied some tough squid onto the hooks with bait elastic, fished close in and struck at every twitch of the rod tip. I caught an edible crab about the size of my hand but I knew the distance across its back should be 130mm or about 5.25ins and this was just under.

It was a very enjoyable day in the winter sun and reminded me that it’s only weeks to the 2017 European Open Beach Championship which is fished from Bridlington to Spurn Point. Diary the dates: February 24-26 and see my next Country Week article for more details.