The sea provides an endless source of opportunities for men to meet an early demise. Foul weather can sweep in without warning, mechanical failures leave boats floating helplessly adrift, sandbars lie in wait to ensnare boats aground, while others vanish mysteriously in the fog. In the face of such peril, It’s no surprise that fisherman have always been a superstitious bunch. Many superstitions exist across all seafaring trades, but one cautionary tale is attached to almost solely to anglers engaged in sport fishing:
Absolutely, positively no bananas on board
Recreational fisherman consider bananas to be downright unlucky and if you bring any onboard they’ll “spook” the fish and stop any from biting – ruining an entire trip. Some charter captains even extend their hatred of bananas to include any item baring their resemblance – banana republic clothing, banana boat sunscreen and fruit of the loom underwear.
No one can be certain where this superstition began, but below are a few common reasons:
Bananas are a breeding ground for spiders, snakes, and other poisonous insects that multiply while being carried in a ship’s cargo hold spreading infection among sailors.
Since bananas spoil quickly, they were routinely transported on the fastest ships. Any man trying to troll off the stern never caught anything because the boat was going too fast.
When a ship sinks the rescue party often only finds an oil slick and floating debris, since bananas float they were often the only sign of a doomed ship – reinforcing their bad omen.
When fishing is terrible all day, folks start asking who brought bananas on board – which is quickly followed by a frantic search of bags and below decks. Any banana products are immediately thrown overboard with prejudice. Almost instantly the boat’s luck turns around and everyone starts landing fish.
Do we have any firsthand experience with this phenomenon? Several years ago we took the Grady down to south Florida to try our luck with sailfish. My wife’s cousin and his buddy asked to join us for a morning of fishing and we happily agreed – without realizing the magnitude of that decision.
As we’re yelling at each other trying to setup for kite fishing for the first time – and failing miserably – these two jokers jump into the water for a swim…a swim! They’re splashing around off the stern as we struggle trying to fly a kite. After breaking two sets of kite spars (non-carbon fiber) we give up on the kite and setup with live goggles tied off to balloons. Absolutely no signs of life all day – until these two cowboys break out a bushel of bananas. All hell breaks loose as we slap the bananas out of their hands and throw it all overboard. But, our luck never changes…we don’t get so much as a bite.
The next morning we leave the dock at 6am with the two cowboys still sleeping back at the hotel. We had no action all day…not a single bite…didn't see any birds…zero signs of life. As we hit the breakwater going into Port Everglades we find a banana wedged between the seat cushions down below….to this day we think those cowboys planted it deliberately. Keep those bananas off the boat kids….