Recently I read Cod, by Mark Kurlansky, a poorly written yet amazingly informative book on the history of cod fishing.
Among other fascinating things in that book, the Basques are mentioned as pioneers in cod fishing (and drying) in the Atlantic.
John Cabot's voyage to Newfoundland is also mentioned, for this purpose:
It appears (according to the author) that John Cabot, an Italian navigator and explorer sponsored by Henry VII of England, left an account of what he found containing a detailed description of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, in which he mentioned the appearance of the flora, fauna, weather conditions, as well as about 1000 Basque ships.
The author of the book theorizes that the Basques landed in North America long before Columbus' first voyage but kept the information secret in order to maintain their near-monopoly on the cod market in Europe.
Does this claim have any validity?