Top 6 Myths About “Bad Luck Bananas” On Fishing Boats (2019 UPDATE)
By: Joseph Simonds on April 11, 2019
Have you heard that bananas on bad luck on fishing boats?
Kind of crazy, right (or is it…)?
So why are fishermen so superstitious about making sure there are NO Bananas on board their boat while fishing???
I did some serious research on this banana fishing myth, interviewed anglers, and even put bananas on our own boat to test out this theory.
It turns out that “bad luck bananas on boats” is one of the oldest, longest running, and controversial fishing and boating superstition out there.
Some boaters and anglers swear by “bad luck bananas on board,” while others laugh at the superstition…
Note: You will be blown away below when you hear what happened on our fishing trip when there was an actual banana on board our boat…
But first, let’s cover the facts about fishing superstitions and bananas on board fishing vessels.
Fact: The more serious you are about fishing, the more superstitious you become…
I would even argue that fishermen and fisherwomen are perhaps the most superstitious group in America (besides the guy I see in the 7-11 convenient store that sits down on the ground Indian style every day as he scratches off his lotto tickets. Apparently he won $1,000 while sitting down Indian style with his legs crossed one time, and he thinks he must do it every time from now on to summon the good look fairy).
But anywho…some of the craziest superstitions (always masked as reasons that the fish aren’t biting on your boat) seem to arise from anglers.
Here are just a few funny fishing superstitions:
1) Whistling on a boat causes extreme bad luck for the entire boat
2) You can only enter the boat from a certain side or the entire day of fishing will be ruined
3) And the topic of this blog… that having Bananas on board your boat while fishing causes everything from motor failure, no fish, and a wild list of other detriments that you will hear about shortly (this “bananas cause bad luck fishing” theory has some anglers so superstitious about bananas on board that they won’t even allow Banana Boat sunscreen on board)
“No Bananas On Board!”
Let me tell you my own true story of what happened the one (and only) time that we “accidentally allowed” a banana on board our boat down in Florida.
It started off as a perfect summer morning in Marco Island, Florida back in 2000. We were down there with our incredible friends the Bentley Family, and the trip had been fantastic so far (mostly inshore fishing for snook and redfish).
But today, we were headed offshore (going after big snook, cobia, and grouper) to a wreck that we heard from a trusted source was on fire!
Clear skies, only a 20% chance of rain (which is an incredibly low percentage for Florida in the summer), and we were riding in our dad’s 3-year old 21ft custom flats boat made by Release.
Note: One of us (many fingers still point angrily at me), had accidentally packed a banana on board the boat that day…
My dad, my brother Luke and I got an early start to catch some threadfin “greenback” bait fish as we were headed out about 20 miles to catch some lunkers.
After just a few casts with our 12-foot cast net, we had enough bait fish for a few boats. In fact, we actually threw back over 40 baitfish from the second cast because we had so many.
The live well was pumping salt water through a magnificent looking live well full of bait fish, we had a nice breeze, and we even had plenty of food and drinks (including a banana) to last us the entire day and then some.
“What a heck of a start,” we thought as we headed out on the 20-mile stretch.
What could go wrong?
The Offshore Trip from Marco Island
As we finally approached the wreck, we were very pleased to see that we had it all to ourselves… not a single boat within sight in all directions.
As we excitedly grabbed our rods to wet our lines, my dad lifts up the live well hatch (with scoop net in hand), and grunts, “What in the world happened…?”
Nothing could have prepared him for what he saw…
The live well was full of dead fish.
Over a hundred of them.
The water in the live well was there, but not a single baitfish was still alive from our 20-mile journey southwest… turns out that the intake got clogged and no new water was pumped in during the long trip out.
So there we were, 20-miles out in a flats boat with nothing but dead fish in our livewell… a ruined day, three ticked off fishermen, and a banana.
But the story gets even worse…
After debating about how the live well could have failed on our trusted boat that had never had an issue before, we noticed that the floor of the center console was covered with a thin layer of water that usually wasn’t there unless packed with people (the floor of the boat sits just barely above the water line, and when enough weight is added to the boat, water can be pushed up the drain pipes into the walking area).
Given that it was only three of us without much gear, the only answer to that floorboard water is that a lot of water must have gotten into the hull of the boat… sure enough, we opened the hatch to the bottom hull and we had over 5 inches of water in there.
Typically, the float switch on the bilge pump would ensure this never happened, but it somehow didn’t get activated. We have a manual switch to turn on the bilge pump, but that didn’t turn it on either… the bilge pump is dead!
Five inches of water never seemed so scary
At this point, we faced a crisis.
I tell you, five inches of water never seemed so scary when you are out in boat 20 miles away from the closest shore, with shark infested waters all around, and no other boats anywhere in sight.
So we now had to cut open a Gatorade bottle to scoop out the water as fast as we could… hopefully, faster than it was coming in.
After about twenty minutes scooping, we realized that however, the water got in there, it wasn’t coming in very fast anymore because our scoops were able to cut the level down… water issue no longer a threat.
However, our focus on the boat took our attention away from the horizon to the north (our way back home) where a nasty storm was brewing. The kind that most of us Floridians love to admire from the comfort of our homes…
from the uncomfortable and exposed view on a 21ft flats boat on the open Gulf.
So we did what any sane fisherman would do…
We cut our losses for the day and gunned it back towards home while praying we could beat the storm.
Long story storm short…
Lightning Storm – 1
Team Simonds – 0
We got nailed by some of the thickest rain you have ever seen.
And of course, we had no serious rain gear as we didn’t anticipate any rain according to the weather forecast that day (we blame it on the banana).
The rain was so bad, and it was hitting us so hard, that we had to slow down.
But as much as the rain hurt us like hail hitting a car, it took a back seat to our fear of the lighting.
If you have ever been in the middle of a lightning storm, you know what I am talking about.
And if you don’t know what it is like to be exposed in a lighting storm, here is my best analogy…
Imagine three grown men screaming like little 10-year-old girls every time a big boom hit near us.
It was one after another… booms, bolts, and shrieks from the Simonds’ bros and father.
I dare say it was one of the scariest and most vulnerable moments of my life (besides my first prostate exam, but that is an entirely different story).
After the longest boat ride back home of our lives, we finally see the channel marker for Caxambus Pass (south side of Marco Island), the rain finally dies down, the lighting has almost gone away completely, and we cry like little girls again (in a joyous way that we survived).
The last few minutes into the idle zone to our dock were spent with the three of us wondering how everything had turned so negative so quickly.
After a few minutes of debate, my dad mentioned the banana that we had on board.
Could it be?
It was the only thing abnormal on our boat that was usually not there. And the banana certainly seemed like the only logical patsy for us to blame our misfortune on…
Fast forward to today…
My dad still has the same 21ft Release and we all use it often.
It has never had a banana on board since that day.
It has also never had any livewell or bilge pump issues again, even though the boat is 14 years older.
So call it what you will, but the Simonds will never forget that dreaded fishing trip where nothing went right.
And you can be certain that we have a strict “No Bananas On Board” policy on all of our boats since then.
Without further adieu…here are the top 5 reasons why bananas are bad luck on fishing boats…
Top 5 Myths about Bananas on Board Your Boat While Fishing
The following “bad luck bananas on board boat myths” are in no particular order.
They are based on years of banana research and interviews with fishermen from all over the world who claim bananas are bad luck on fishing boats.
#1 Reason To Have No Bananas On Board Your Boat While Fishing
More specifically, boat-loads of spiders.
I grew up in a house in Winter Haven, FL that actually had three banana trees on one side of our home.
And do you know what could be found almost year round in and around those banana trees?
You guessed it, spiders.
For some reason, spiders love bananas.
And I can only imagine that back in the day when shiploads of bananas were being brought over from Africa, they were loaded with small spiders.
And do you know when spiders are most active?
So imagine this scene: the sailors carrying the banana cargo go to bed for the evening, they get bitten by these poisonous African spiders, and no one can figure out why the crew is dying (keep in mind that 1700s when this was occurring, they did not have cures for venomous spiders like we do today, especially not out at sea.)
When they finally arrive in their destination port with a big chunk of their crew dead, you can see just how easy a rumor could spread that bananas were bad luck on board.
#2 Reason To Have No Bananas On Board Your Boat While Fishing
“The Smoking Floating Gun – Bananas”
Back in the 1700s and 1800s, there was no Coast Guard and there was no Sea Tow…
And there certainly wasn’t high-frequency radio, cell phones, or any other way to call in for help or distress.
So when a ship went down, it usually went down without anyone else knowing about it (except for the unlucky sailors on board).
Of course, other vessels that were passing through the same shipping channels found many of these shipwrecks.
Do you know what rises to the top of the water when a ship goes down?
Anything that floats of course…including bananas!
And when another ship came up to the spot that a ship had sunk, only to see a ton of bananas floating amongst the other debris, you can imagine how easy it would be to assume bananas were bad luck.
When the sailors that came across the sunken ship went back to port, you better believe every story that was shared made mention of the floating bananas.
Before you know it, that story gets passed on and elaborated upon until everyone in town believes that bananas caused the wreck.
As Gwen Stefani said, “It’s Bananas! B-A-N-A-N-A-S”
#3 Reason To Have No Bananas On Board Your Boat While Fishing
Have you ever left a banana at home while you went on a long vacation?
I recall one time that I went away for a little over two weeks and came home to a horrible smell in my kitchen.
I checked the trash cans, I checked the garbage disposal, and I checked to make sure my fridge hadn’t crashed and all of the food went bad while I was gone.
But it wasn’t any of these culprits that were causing the wretched smell in my house.
And then I saw it…
Almost blending into my black granite counter were two shriveled up, completely black, almost morphed together into one banana, rotten as can be, smelly bananas.
It smelled as if something had died in my kitchen.
And that smell was produced from only two bad bananas.
Can you imagine what hundreds or even 1,000 bad bananas would smell like?
Well, some sailors certainly did back in the 1700s.
Let me explain.
When a ship left with a cargo full of bananas, speed was key.
The sailors knew that they only had so many days before the bananas would go bad, which meant their cargo would be worthless (thus they didn’t get paid).
But what it also meant that when a bad storm, huge waves, getting lost at night due to the captain falling asleep at the helm (aka passing out after too much rum), or a variety of other reasons that things don’t go as planned on the ocean, was that the bananas on board began putting off an odor.
And most people don’t know this, but the odor that bad bananas put out doesn’t just make your nose twitch, it also can kill other produce around it (the odor speeds up the time that other fresh food and produce goes bad).
So when a ship would be out at sea longer than expected (thus they actually needed more food for the longer than expected voyage), yet the bad bananas were killing off much of their existing food supply, many times the crew ran out of food.
And if they were out at sea long enough, it could mean death.
But even at best case, it meant a smelly, stressful, and a very malnourished trip.
Not to mention, the stories the sailors came back with to their families and friends involved the mention of the “bad luck bananas”, furthering the “No Bananas on Board” superstition.
#4 Reason To Have No Bananas On Board Your Boat While Fishing
Wood eating, banana-loving, termites.
Back in the 1700s, all boats were made of wood.
And it was also said that some banana rich areas of Africa and the Caribbean had some of the most destructive wood-eating termites in the world.
So you can imagine that sometimes these termites would cling to the banana trees as they were dragged across the land to the docks where they were loaded on the ship.
And when the termites realized that they were now in an all wooden cargo hold, it was like a kid getting left in a candy store…aka Wood Heaven for a termite.
Needless to say, the termites went to town on the wooden ship, causing tons of damage, and in some cases eating holes in the hull that were not repairable (as the sailors found out about the leaks way too late).
Because many of the sailors wanted to blame the bad luck on something, the obvious patsy was the bananas, as they were the reason the termites had made it on board.
#5 Reason To Have No Bananas On Board Your Boat While Fishing
Fast “Banana Boats”
As I mentioned earlier, speed was of the essence when moving bananas across the ocean.
Another fact is that sailors on cargo ships loved to fish while at sea.
And because most cargo ships took their time and went at normal speeds, the crew would take breaks to catch fish, and usually did quite well.
But on the “Banana Boats”, they didn’t take breaks, and in most cases went full speed ahead to their destination.
In most cases, way too fast to be trolling to catch fish.
So what happened?
Crew members talk with other crew members from other boats, they realize that the banana boats seem to be the only ones that don’t catch fish, and thus a rumor is born.
One sailor tells another that they never catch a single fish when a banana is on board, and before you know it, everyone believes the myth.
#6 Reason To Have No Bananas On Your Boat While Fishing
A huge thanks to Salt Strong subscriber Lee Ehrlich for adding this new fact about bananas being bad luck on boats…
What actually caused the banana debacle has to do with fire.
For as you know, bananas will ripen and rot and soon begin to ferment under hot moist conditions.
Sailors who first came to the new world we’re smitten by different fruits and foods they had never had before, and they would bring back large boxes of bananas in the holds of the ships sailing back to the old world.
Unbeknownced to the Mariners, bilge fires would erupt due to the alcohol caused by the fermenting bananas (and the ensuing bilge fires were catastrophic).
This fact is noted in many texts in regard to seamanship and nautical travel.
Good stuff, Lee. Thank you for sharing.
Whether you believe in superstitions or not, it has hard to ignore the wild amount of fishing nightmares and instances of bad luck where bananas were on board the boat.
However, it is also easy to see how easy these rumors of bananas being bad luck on board fishing boats can spread out of control.
Fishermen and fisherwomen hate not catching fish, and blaming their bad fishing luck (or even boat problems or malfunctions) is something that has gone on for many generations of anglers.
And as long as people keep bringing bananas on board boats, expect to keep hearing stories of how the banana ruined their fishing trip.
Because when all else fails, it is easier to blame a banana than admit you just couldn’t catch any fish (or to explain why your bilge pump is acting up…)
What’s your craziest bad luck bananas on board story?
Let us know in the comments.
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P.S. – Do you have a wild banana story on your boat? If so, please share it with us in the comment section. We would love to hear it.
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