|Article published in Mersea Island Society Mistral magazine 2019 page 33
My name is David Stoker, I am a fisherman from West Mersea. I have been asked to write a bit about my life and of the fishing industry.
When leaving school in 1952 I worked with my dad for a while, after this I brought a little boat called THE SEA WIFE. Finding this not big enough for my wants I went up to Scotland and found a bigger boat called OSPREY. This boat I had for a few years but not satisfied with this I went over to Holland and in time found the boat I wanted. I brought her home and renamed her DIANA after my wife. This boat became my pride and joy and I worked it for about 45 years.
In the early days the fishing was very good and if you didn't mind working hard you could earn a good living. In the days of the DIANA I can remember at least 15 boats trawling from Mersea and Brightlingsea but now alas only about four.
In the summer months it
would mostly be night fishing, the week would start after lunch on Sunday, we would sail for about two and a half hours to the Black Deep where we would put our net over before dark and tow it for about an hour, haul and then empty it and keep doing this all night until daylight then home to Mersea. This would carry on all week, the catch could be anything between 10 and 15 stone of Dover Soles and 4 or five boxes of skate a night.
When the year gets to around October we take the Sole nets off and put on large mid water nets, these we tow with two boats, each boat
being approximately 130 feet apart. In these we catch Sprats and Cod, when the Sprats are plentiful we have to be careful not to overfill
the nets because it would hold between 25 to 30 tons. When we do hit the Sprats we fill both boats, then steam at full speed up to
Colchester to unload them into lorries (often locals would be waiting with their bags for a feed of Sprats). If the Sprats are big they go
for fresh otherwise if they are small they go for pet food or fish meal. As they move along the coast, so did we, landing in Lowestoft and
one year down the Wash landing in Boston. I had the DIANA for 45 years and at least 30 winters in that time I went fishing for Sprats.
The future of the fishing industry does not look very good, the boats are very expensive to run and most of the trawler boys are above 50 or 60 years of age. There are no young boys coming into the industry, one reason would be that to get a 10 metre boat would cost about £150,000 and how the fishing is at the moment it is just not on.
There is something going on in this area as every year the fishing gets worse, we don't know why! Maybe it's all the Wind Farms or the sand dredging or maybe it's the grey seals which are a menace but each year there gets less fish and more fishery
officers. To tell you about the decline of fishing boats........ When I was young there
were about 12 Smacks working from Tollesbury and two years ago my son and I brought the last boat called MY WAY. There are no boats from
Brightlingsea just two from Wivenhoe, three from Harwich and none from Burnham-on-Crouch.
I hope this will change in coming years, I think the rest of the boys will agree with me. The fishing is my life and has had lots of ups and downs but it has been a very happy time for me and I have loved every minute of it.
Above - landing sprats at Colchester Hythe. Photos from David Green
DIANA CK134 at West Mersea - Mike L. Davies
DIANA is featured in a stained glass window in West Persea Parish Church, dating from 2005