Fishing Superstitions: A Lucky Charm or Just a Myth?

Brittany Young // July 20

Superstitions (noun):: A belief or practice resulting from ignorance, fear of the unknown, trust in magic or chance, or a false conception of causation – Merriam Webster

I just returned home from a fishing trip and heard about the banana superstition for the first time. Apparently bringing a banana along is bad luck and some captains won't even allow you on their boat if they are aware of you possessing the fruit. This was interesting to me and got me thinking about other fishing superstitions.

fishing superstitions

Here are 10 common fishing superstitions or “old wives’ tales:”

No bananas on the boat.

They bring bad luck, but pineapples bring you good luck. This is one of the most common and oldest superstitions in the sailing and fishing world. This tale is believed to have derived from sailors who experienced diseased pests from rotten fruits – particularly bananas. Another belief is that banana peeling acts as a natural fish repellent. Whatever the case may be, most captains are serious about not allowing bananas on their boats. 

Bribing the water.

Fishermen throw quarters of half dollars over their shoulders to “buy up” some wind when crews are overworked. It is also believed that tossing a coin into the water will bring good luck and bountiful fishing. While I do not personally recommend anyone throwing anything into our waters – it is said bribing the ocean with a coin will bring good luck and a safe return home.

Cows laying down.

This fishing superstition means the fishing will be difficult but if they are standing, prepare for a good day of fishing. Many believe that cattle react to barometric pressure changes the same way that fish do. 

The first cast omen.

If you catch a fish on the first cast, you will jinx yourself for the rest of the day. Some professional fishermen will purposely cast off to the side of their boat where they do not believe fish are in hopes of not catching a fish on the first cast.

Never tell an angler “good luck” before they head out.

This fishing superstition will bring them bad luck. “Tight lines” is a safer way to wish the angler well. 

Never whistle while on a boat.

Whistling was believed to challenge the wind bringing in a storm therefore, whistling is frowned upon during fishing.

Avoid saying “rabbit.”

If you must talk about these cute floppy-eared animals, superstitious anglers refer to them as “the name of the beast” or “the animal with big ears.” A rabbit’s foot is considered lucky on land but not so much while on the water.

Don’t step over rods or bring them into the house before going fishing.

This is said to bring a bad day of fishing. A common belief is that either of these things will ruin a fisherman’s day.

Kissing the fish will bring you luck.

Some say this started as a sign of respect for the fish. Some say the fish will share and attract others. Whatever the reason, kissing fish especially the first catch is still done by many anglers. 

My personal favorite…women onboard will bring bad luck.

Sailors believed that women onboard would anger the sea causing rough and stormy conditions. Coincidentally, a naked woman or one exposing bare chest would bring good luck which is why you may have observed the figure of a woman on the bow of ships. Sounds like a man made this one up. Kidding, kind of… 😊

Commonly Asked Questions About Fishing Superstitions:

What is the superstition about fish?

The superstition about fish revolves around the belief that speaking the word “fish” while on a fishing trip will jinx the chance of catching any. Anglers avoid mentioning the word to avoid bad luck.

What are good luck rituals for fishing?

Anglers have various good luck rituals, like spitting on the bait, wearing lucky fishing hats, or performing a “first catch” ritual. These practices are believed to bring luck and abundance.

Why is a pineapple good luck on a boat?

A pineapple is considered good luck on a boat because of its historical association with hospitality and prosperity. Carrying a pineapple on board is thought to attract good vibes and successful fishing trips.

What brings good luck on a boat?

Various items are believed to bring good luck on a boat, such as horseshoes, acorns, or certain coins. Additionally, the presence of dolphins or albatrosses is seen as auspicious signs for fishermen.

While these fishing superstitions may sound silly, I was amazed at how widely known these are and how so many still believe and practice these tales. I have to say, on this ladies' fishing trip, we did adhere to each of these rules except for the women on the boat (obviously) and we had two days of very successful bass fishing on the well-known Guntersville Lake in Alabama.

This event organized by Wildlife Women who are some of the coolest and most encouraging outdoor women.

*If looking for a fishing guide on Lake Guntersville, I highly recommend Captain John Maner.

Looking for hunting superstitions? We have those, too!

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About the Author

Brittany Young