Dokken: Superstition surrounds bananas in the boat
LAKE MILLE LACS — So we're in the boat last Saturday, June 24, catching walleyes on Lake Mille Lacs when the subject turns to bananas and whether they're allowed or forbidden onboard.
They're definitely not encouraged, our guide for the day, Jason Freed of Leisure Outdoor Adventures, said of the banana taboo. Freed said he's even heard of anglers who discourage having bananas in a camper if the camper is too close to the boat.
The bad juju might rub off and taint the boat, the thinking goes.
I don't recall when I first heard about the superstition surrounding bananas in the boat, but I remember Grand Forks catfish guide Brad Durick's reaction a year or two back.
Durick was firm in his no-banana policy at the time but since has backed off on that stance, he said the other day.
"I have had so many bananas snuck in the boat that I don't even care anymore," he said.
The resignation in his tone was obvious, and if something ever goes wrong in his boat with a banana on board, I'm pretty sure it will get the blame.
I did a Google search of "bananas in the boat superstition" and came across dozens of entries, including a posting on Snopes.com, which cites a 2001 New York Times article in which a charter boat captain told a story about bacteria-tainted bananas that killed everyone on board during a long-ago ocean voyage.
In some circles, apparently, the superstition extends as far as Banana Republic T-shirts, Banana Boat sunscreen and Fruit of the Loom underwear, the Snopes article said.
Other theories cited in the Snopes article include poisonous spiders or snakes living in bananas aboard cargo ships, the danger of slipping on banana peels or banana oil rubbing off on an angler's hands and scaring away the fish.
Canadian fishing authority Gord Pyzer in May published a blog post on the "Outdoor Canada" website, in which he wrote the superstition likely involves the ethylene gas bananas secrete, which causes other food nearby to spoil quicker.
That obviously would have been a concern back in the wooden ship days.
"Whatever the basis for the superstition, the fact of the matter is that bananas are verboten on most fishing boats to this day," Pyzer writes.
Out of curiosity, I queried some fishermen I know to get their thoughts on bananas in the boat. Fishing guides Greg Clusiau of Keewatin, Minn., and Matt Breuer of Northcountry Guide Service and Promotions in Bemidji went so far as to share photos, one of Clusiau's brother, Bruce, holding a walleye in one hand and a banana in the other, and the second photo showing banana peels floating in a livewell with a three-person limit of walleyes.
Both photos made me laugh.
"Yeah, I've heard and been a part of it," Clusiau said of the superstition. "Baloney."
Added Breuer: "I don't have a clue where it originated. I don't have the same superstition. Bananas are allowed in my boat."
Here's what a couple of other guides had to say:
• Jason Mitchell, Devils Lake, host of "Jason Mitchell Outdoors" and owner of Jason Mitchell's Guide Service: "I don't believe it at all. I have bananas in the boat all the time. I don't see it makes any difference. I love bananas—they're cheap. It's the one thing at a gas station you can eat that isn't going to kill you. Two for a buck, man let her buck. I eat bananas all the time. That (superstition) is bull."
• Barry "Woody" Woods of Woody's Fairly Reliable Guide Service on Rainy Lake: "Bananas are bad for sure, but I've also blamed oranges, apples, pears and Kit Kat bars."
Whether the absence of bananas in the boat played a role in the good walleye fishing we enjoyed last Saturday on Mille Lacs will never be known. But for any of you not familiar with the superstition, don't be surprised if your fishing partner or the next guide you hire winces if you bring a banana onboard.
You've been warned.