Fisherman's celebration

Another lucky angler indicates the size of the biggest fish he ever caught during the traditional ‘wetting down ritual,’ which is designed to keep good luck on the boat.

I lost my lucky fishing hat recently and since we still ended up having a pretty good day of fishing, I started wondering … exactly how do these superstitions and traditions impact a fisherman’s attitude and performance? I must admit, I tend to avoid tempting fate. For this reason, I always wear my lucky fishing hat when I am heading out on a fishing trip. Experience has shown my lucky fishing hat is worth its weight in gold. Unfortunately, over time it can become saturated with sweat and fish slime, and as a result becomes a very odoriferous, albeit lucky, amulet!

Any fisherman who ventures out to sea quickly learns this vast expanse can be a very unforgiving and dangerous environment. In fact, the ocean’s ever-changing conditions can quickly turn on anyone who fails to show it the respect it deserves. As a result, sailors often blamed the loss of a ship or crew members on mysterious forces (like Neptune) and other evil spirits. Legendary sea-bearing superstitions continued to evolve over time, and it is no surprise these mythical stories became a permanent part of every sailor’s sea bag.

For generations, seagoing mariners in the Caribbean have come across sailors lost at sea surrounded by floating bananas. While this may have merely been a ship lost to being overloaded, sailors were quick to associate the bananas with bad luck and have passed down fateful tales associated with the deadly risks of having bananas on a boat. Out of respect and an abundance of caution, I, too, regard bananas as an unlucky presage while at sea. I have been known to intercept these “dangerous” yellow fruits as people try to board my boat and fling them as far as possible out into the ocean. Startled tourists must assume I am suffering from heat stroke or have gone completely crazy (bananas?) as they watch their snack bobbing in the ocean. Once I explain the “historical risks” associated with having bananas on board a boat, most fishermen are willing to watch their yellow evil spirits drift away with the current.

Of course, there are “good luck” superstitions that will ensure fishermen have a bountiful catch. My favorite involves having porpoises surrounding your boat and riding your bow wake. I mean, how can you not associate “smiling” porpoises frolicking about the boat as anything but a good omen.

On my boat, I have created my own tradition concerning good luck. Whenever a fisherman catches a nice fish and blurts out “that’s the biggest fish I’ve ever caught!” I immediately inform them they must now be immersed in sea water to ensure my boat’s streak of good luck continues! While most guys assume I am just kidding, I have found that with a little prodding, adventuresome anglers are more than willing to pay homage to the “gods of the seas” and avoid jinxing my boat. A few hesitant fishermen have tried to avoid jumping off the dock in order to carry out a silly tradition by saying they can’t swim or are concerned about sharks hanging out where I am cleaning fish, so I have modified the superstition just a little for them ... while they stretch out their hands to indicate how big their fish was, I dump a bucket of sea water on them while their buddy records the event for posterity.

Capt. Pete Peterson welcomes comments and suggestions sent to