As most were too big to get through the filter system, now and again we got some good sized whiting, haddock and cod that had no escape and were doomed anyway.
When the large dry dock down at the Smiths Docks ship repair yard in North Shields was changing ships, sometimes we would go down and see Krocka’s dad, who was Pump Man there. If one ship was going out and the blocks on the dock bottom needed to be reset, the dock would be closed and pumped out. As the water got lower and lower you could see fish that had been sucked in through the sluice gates swimming around, so we thought “champion, a bit of fish chasing is on the way.”
Once the water was down to just a couple of inches deep we would borrow some wellies, make our way down into the dock bottom and start to chase the fish. As most were too big to get through the filter system, now and again we got some good sized whiting, haddock and cod that had no escape and were doomed anyway. Of course, all the splashing around meant we always ended up soaking wet, but the good laughs we got out of each other far outweighed a little bit of cold water.
If some of the workers were hanging around, they would claim first pick of the fish, even though we did all the work. You got those immortal words “we’ll leave some coppers with your dad on payday”, but if memory serves we never got a sausage at any time. I have to say that there were times when we did get some good fish to flog round the doors, so we came up smiling now and again. I remember them as great days that cost us nothing whatsoever.
Today, the river is barren of fish compared to these times, but apart from that the docks are now being prepared for a large housing project.