A Superstitious Bunch

Many of us are superstitious. Whether it’s a rabbits foot, a lucky cap or the old saying “step on a crack and break your mothers back”, some take superstitions very seriously. Many originated hundreds of years ago and are even passed through generations like old farmland. With athletes, especially baseball players, it is very common to see-hence why most baseball games go on for close to four hours. I think we as anglers may be the worst of all. Some will not even reveal what they believe for fear of the consequences. Now I know not all are superstitious, but in previous experiences I have seen many fishermen not press their luck. I don’t take any chances on a few superstitions of my own.

Let’s define the word superstition. It is stated that a superstition is a belief based on irrational assumptions. How irrational are they? Some swear by certain patterns and take it to the extreme, while others like myself only have a couple of specific rules to adhere to.

I’ll start with the most famous of them all. Bringing bananas on a boat. Many captains will advise clients not to bring them on charters, but others have purposely done so just to prove a point. Is it all mental?  Probably, but I am not that curious to find out. Where did this reasoning start? Rumors are written that every boat lost at sea in the 1700’s was carrying a load of bananas. There have been a few stories, as well as theories about this superstition that have been told to justify the fear of this fruit. The most common I found has to do with the shipping of bananas from the tropics to the East Coast ports of the United States. The fastest sailing ships were used to transport this cargo, mainly due to the fact that bananas would spoil quickly. Crewman on these fast sailing ships would troll for fish while en route to their destination. Due to the speed of the ships the fisherman never caught any fish, starting one theory. Another is spider and snake bites. Bananas usually carried along with them spiders and other venomous creatures. Seamen on some ships became sick and died from mysterious bites at sea, mainly from spiders. Crewman diligently started tossing the deadly cargo overboard. Sailors on ships have also slipped on banana peels causing injury, and bananas even put out deadly methane gas when fermenting; one can imagine why bananas soon became a bad luck charm.

Another famous superstition is having loose change on a boat while fishing. Old time bottom trawlers, calling the Artic Circle waterways their home, used to spend all their money from previous fishing trips before their next expedition. It was believed that bringing money aboard would keep them from catching fish, and no money would be made to bring back home.

Pirates used to say having tattoos and earrings would keep one from drowning, and would never bring black bags on the ship as they said it symbolized death. It was also believed that a woman on board was bad luck. The reasoning was that women made the sea angry and was a bad omen for all on board. I don’t know about this one. In my experience women have been good luck for me while fishing. The only time I experience anger caused by a woman that’s fishing related, is when my wife makes plans that keep me from putting the boat in the water.

Other superstitions include the “first cast curse”, wearing lucky hats and shirts, and the list goes on. Many believe that catching a fish on the first cast is a sure way to ruin the rest of the day, skunking the angler “lucky” enough to catch that fish. Others feel that if they are not wearing their prized fishing outfit their fish catching mojo will be gone.

I only believe a few things will curse my fishing. I rarely bring a camera on board as it is an assumption that I will be catching fish. Catching fish with a real camera on board rarely occurs for me. With camera phone technology I have taken many great pictures of big fish and don’t need the real thing. Of course, looking at so many fishing reports and pictures of big fish all the time, my superstition seems very far fetched. I still stick to it, most of the time. I never fill my livewell before catching bait. Again, this is an assumption that I will be finding bait easily. Bait is never too much of a problem when I adhere to this “rule” so why change it? Having a net aboard, although sometimes necessary, is another presumption of catching fish. I try not to bring one out either; besides, I trip over it constantly.

Hopefully this article was informative and interesting for you, at least providing a little history lesson of where some of these beliefs came from. Maybe it will even make you think twice about bringing that banana on board, jumping on the boat with loose change in your pocket, or not wearing your lucky fishing shirt. See you on the water!