This April I was vacationing with my brother, Jim, in St. Petersburg, Florida. I slept soundly in the fancy hotel I was staying at and was well refreshed for a day of fishing with Jim on his boat in Tampa Bay. My morning started with a big breakfast compliments of the hotel. As I left the hotel restaurant I spotted a fruit basket full of apples, bananas and oranges for the hotels’ guests. Seeing the bananas as a free snack for later and seeing no signs saying I could not take them for my friends and hoping no one would see me, I nonchalantly stuffed six bananas in my gear bag and left for the dock.
A slight breeze blew over Tampe Bay as we fished the piers, docks and bridges of the bay. My brother and his friend John both are avid Florida fishermen. With me at the back of the boat, brother Jim in the middle and friend John in the front, we began drifting shrimp and casting spoons. We caught fish but the action was slower than we expected.
At about 11 a.m. I remembered the bananas I took from the hotel and decided to share them with the others. Their backs were turned away from me as I innocently took the bananas out from my gear bag and asked, "Does anyone want a banana?" It was like a nuclear bomb went off in the boat. Brother Jim wheeled around, his eyes widened, his mouth grimaced showing his clenched teeth. He made a shut up motion with his hands hoping to keep John from hearing what I said.
Too late, John had heard me also. As the two of them glared at me and the bananas in my hand I got the distinct impression that I had done something very, very wrong, although I didn’t know what. Was my zipper down? What? I said.
My brother and John then told me that I should never have brought a banana on the boat and that was the reason why the fishing was slow. I was not so politely told that bananas are never allowed on Jim’s fishing boat. No charter boat captain would ever allow even a paying customer to bring bananas on board.
I said are you kidding me? Surely you guys are joking? Their glare told me they were serious and when Jim gave me the "heave ho" motion with his head I knew what I had to do. I watched the six bright yellow bananas float away in the green waters of the bay. Then the interrogation began. "Did you have any bananas on board yesterday when the motor failed?" asked John. I denied ever having bananas on board before. I am not sure I was believed.
I felt stupid. I am no Irv Olin, but I’ve been around boats before and I have never heard of such a fishing superstition. How could my brother believe that bananas on the boat brings bad luck. We resumed fishing. Immediately, we caught three good fish, one on every line. Then John caught three good fish, one on every line. Then John caught a big cobra. Could this superstition be true? I was flabbergasted.
Back on shore when I related this story to Jim’s wife Hilda she was furious that we would waste six good bananas and she said my brother was crazy and so was I for listening to him.
But was he crazy? Weeks later back in Ashland I was having lunch at Hayesville Village Pointe Restaurant with Andy McClure and a new acquaintance I just met from Michigan. This new acquaintance had been a pro bass fisherman in Michigan and he was a contemporary of the famous fishing pro Kevin VanDam. Over lunch, he was sharing his fishing tips and locations with Andy and me. Then I just had to ask him, "What about bananas?" Without a second hesitation he said, "Never bring a banana on a fishing boat." Now this was from fishing tournament pro.
When I told my secretary, Trish Stevenson, about this new fishing secret, she looked it up on the internet Sure enough, there it was — no bananas on fishing boats. Apparently it was only a secret to me which I now pass on to you as a loyal Times-Gazette reader.
Do what you want with this fishing tip, but as for me and my family, I will not take another banana on a fishing trip and I have thrown out all of my banana scented tanning lotion and sunscreen.
So, if you see any bananas floating in the water at Charles Mill or Pleasant Hill Reservoir, you will know some fisherman read this article.
Bob DeSanto, retired Ashland County prosecutor, is an outdoor enthusiast and commissioner of the Ashland County Park District.