Most fishermen will readily admit luck can often be a lot more productive than angling skills when it comes to catching fish. For this reason many anglers gravitate towards some very strange superstitions.
For me, my lucky charm is my dog, Cuda, as I always catch more fish when he is on board. Unfortunately, Cuda doesn’t get to go out on charters, as his constant slobbering and incessant barking would certainly have a negative impact on repeat customers. Since I can’t take my “lucky dog” along on a charter, I instead rely on my “lucky fishing hat” to put fish in the boat.
Regrettably, my current “lucky hat” is showing signs of deterioration due to years of fishing under an unrelenting Florida sun, which has made the fabric faded and discolored. In fact, it has reached the point it is starting to fray and unravel. The facade of my fishing hat is peppered with layers of small blood drops scattered about everywhere, most likely due to hand-to-fish combat or cast-off splatter from numerous hours at the fish-cleaning station. My headband is admittedly grungy and indelibly stained from a combination of prolific sweat and sunscreen.
In fact, my “lucky hat”has become so mangy my wife will no longer even touch it. I must admit the funky fish/bait smells that emanate from my lucky hat can be so strong even I recoil from the offensive and pungent combination of odors! To reduce the smel,l I will occasionally let my hat soak in a bucket of foamy soap while I am cleaning the boat.
Regrettably, a hat can only tolerate so much abuse before it starts to spontaneously disassemble, and sadly the other day I noticed my lucky fishing hat had reached this terminal stage. Obviously, this can be a real catastrophe for a superstitious fisherman, as it is a daunting task to find a new hat which will stay firmly attached to your head when you are cruising along at 50 mph and also help you catch fish!
On that fateful day when you finally discard your lucky hat and have to resort to wearing a brand-new hat, I have found it is necessary to follow a strict break-in procedure to ensure you instill a little luck in your new hat. The key is to soak it in saltwater until it is completely saturated, then put it on and make any necessary adjustments so it will stay in place when running at high speeds.
Whenever I am heading out the channel, I always yell to my fishermen to “hang onto your hats” right before slamming down the throttles. Invariably there is always one angler (aka “that guy”) who disregards this sage advice and as a result his hat quickly comes flying by the helm and lands in the wake behind the boat. This requires turning the boat around to locate the hat and then snatching it out of the water with the gaff before it sinks out of sight. While this delay is very frustrating, it does provide me vital insight into which fisherman (“that guy”) is most likely to try and stick a hook in me later in the day! Once I retrieve the soaking-wet hat I walk over to the owner and announce: “OK ... this will now become your lucky fishing hat, but only if you put it on and do not remove it until it is completely dry!” His angler buddies have a good chuckle as they watch water drip down his face, as they too have tired of hanging around a guy who never listens to good advice and delays their fishing trip.
Hopefully “that guy” is not the fisherman designated to tip the captain!
Capt. Pete Peterson welcomes comments and suggestions sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.