During his 30-year career as a fishing guide, Joe Tufts of Scarborough told his clients that no bananas on the boat to avoid a fishing curse. Tufts, who just retired, even made a sign for his boat. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Fishing brings out the superstitious fears in many anglers. But no curse or jinx – or as some Maine fishing guides call it, bad juju – compares to that of the banana.

Many Registered Maine Guides, just like guides elsewhere, have banana stories that seem to hint at the supernatural, tales of clients who brought bananas on their boat (unbeknownst to the skipper) and the bad stuff that happened.

The guides say the superstition, and the hex, if you will, dates back to the earliest explorers, when wooden ships traveled the oceans, stopping at islands in the southern hemisphere to gather fruit as they went. One of two ominous things would happen, according to lore: Poisonous spiders became stowaways via bananas and subsequently sickened the crew, or the ship would wreck and all that would be found in its wake floating on the ocean was, you guessed it, bananas.

During a 30-year career guiding fishermen on the ocean, Captain Joe Tufts of Scarborough had seen enough fishing trips gone bad as the result of bananas that he made a sign for his boat (since he’s also a professional sign maker) with a bunch of bananas crossed out with a red slash. (Think: “Ghostbusters.”)

“No guns and no bananas on the boat,” Tufts said. “It’s just bad luck. Before the sign, one time a guy brought a banana on board and he flipped and broke his finger. It’s not just bad luck with fishing.”

Tufts is far from the only guide convinced of the curse.

Take Registered Maine Fishing Guide Scott Bartlett. He first learned about the banana hex while on a fishing charter in Hawaii with his wife when they had to endure a massive shakedown by the local guides.

“They went through our cooler making sure there were no bananas,” Bartlett said. “They went through my wife’s boat bag. They asked if we had Banana Boat sunscreen on. They would not let us on the boat if we did. They asked if we had bananas for breakfast.”

Not long after, Bartlett put a sign on his website like Tufts had on his boat: No bananas.

Tufts, like other Maine guides, takes no chances with clients bringing bananas on his boat. He steers clear of the curse with a sign forbidding them. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

But not all fishermen read the fine print. One time Bartlett was guiding four guys on Sebago Lake when one of the fisherman hooked a huge salmon. The boat came alive, and all on board watched as the large fish jumped several times.

“He got it right to the boat, and it broke the line,” Bartlett said. “Everyone was in shock we lost that big fish. Then one guy pulls out a banana and starts eating it. He had half of it down when the guy who lost the fish turned around and, I can’t tell you what he said, but there were a lot of F’s in it.”

The irate fisherman had read the no-banana policy. He yelled until the problem fruit was thrown overboard. Still, to the fishermen who had witnessed the loss of a monster fish, it was not enough.

“They said, you better get rid of the rest of it, or you’re going over,” Bartlett said. “They wanted him to puke it up. So he opened two beers and shot-gunned them, and stuck his finger down his throat. Everything came out. And, I am not kidding you, within five minutes, two fishing lines went off. We ended up catching double-digit fish.”

Captain Mike Faulkingham of South Portland also forbids bananas onboard. One time Faulkingham was guiding a bachelor party from Boston on a shark-fishing trip that went sour.

Sharks are plentiful in Maine – and thrilling to catch. They’re pursued 20 miles offshore, and once hooked, take a half hour to land. They also are fairly easy to attract with a chum slick.

But long after Faulkingham threw the fish bait in the deep water, the group waited for a single shark fin – for nearly four hours.

“I had a boat full of guys all picturing themselves doing an epic battle with a prehistoric creature. And we were sitting and doing nothing,” Faulkingham said.

Until, Faulkingham turned around, and saw one guy relaxing in the bow eating a banana.

“I think I probably screamed or yelled or cried. But I got his attention,” Faulkingham said.

Once it was clear to the others the problem at hand, they chimed in as well.

New Yorker Scott Walters recently caught this 20-inch brookie at Nahmakanta Lake Wilderness Camps – after he learned there were no bananas in the boat. Photo courtesy of Don Hibbs

“He looked at us like we were insane. But he let it drop in the water,” Faulkingham said. “And I’m not kidding you. This is not a lie: Not 40 seconds later, one of the rods went off.”

They landed a blue shark.

“Do I believe in it? No I don’t,” Faulkingham said of the curse. “But if I was in a fishing tournament and I had to pay $500 to enter, or carry a dozen bananas. I would pay $500.”

Registered Maine Guide Don Hibbs guides on the remote, wild trout ponds near Moosehead Lake, around Nahmakanta Lake Wilderness Camps, a sporting camp he owns with his wife, Angel.

Two weeks ago, Hibbs guided Scott and Randi Walters of Accord, New York, and the curse of the banana came up. Randi Walters, relatively new to fishing, caught a few small trout, while Scott Walters, a veteran fisherman, caught nothing. So Scott asked Hibbs if there were bananas onboard.

“We drove nine hours to Don’s camp,” Scott Walters said of coming to Maine. “Then we drove 45 minutes from camp and hiked in 45 minutes to a pond. When you go to that effort to fish, you don’t want any jinxes.”

As it turns out, Hibbs doesn’t put any stock in the banana hex. He also pegged Walters as a true believer. So Hibbs told his client there were no bananas on his boat.

And moments later, Walters caught a 20-inch, 3.5-pound brook trout – a trophy catch Hibbs will show off on his website. It was then Hibbs confessed he had banana-nut bread in his guide bag.

“I always thought the banana superstition was more of a saltwater thing,” Hibbs said.


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