Stuff we've learnt

There is something fishy about bananas

If there is one food item that is despised by anglers all over Australia, it is bananas.  Ask anyone about on-board catering for a day of fishing and the response is generally fairly relaxed, sandwiches, chips, chocolate – no worries, but definitely no bananas!

Historically, there are several reasons why bananas have been associated with bad luck on boats.  Firstly, on long voyages the ethylene released by bananas would cause all of the other fruits and vegetables to ripen and go rotten.  The crew would then go hungry (Bananas = starvation).

Apparently during the Caribbean banana trade of the 1700s, wooden vessels had to move fast so that the bananas reached their destination before they spoiled.  Travelling at such high speeds any fishermen on board had a hard time trolling lures or bait and subsequently returned with very few fish (Bananas = no fish).

Sailing ships would sometimes stop in the tropics to pick up extra food and water while crossing the oceans.  The crates of bananas would carry a variety of unwanted guests such as snakes and venomous spiders.  After poisonous bites and disease spread throughout the crew, it was quickly determined that bananas were to blame.  Similarly, in the amazon, bananas farmers would occasionally be found dead in their small wooden boats with a load of bananas on board.  It was eventually discovered that tarantulas lived inside the freshly picked bunches (Bananas = disease and death).

These situations are all pretty plausible right?

The problem is, if you do an internet search of fishing forums in 2014 you can be regaled with dozens of stories where bananas have apparently ruined a day’s fishing, caused someone to lose a tournament or even caused major mechanical problems (Bananas = engine failure?)

The issue with these stories is that they are exactly that, memorable stories.  No one remembers the time when they suddenly stopped catching fish, without a banana to blame.  Or when the tide changed and the fish suddenly started to bite.  But a trip where a banana can be linked to fishing misfortune, now that’s a story! In the scientific lingo, they call this confirmation bias.


Such is the stigma towards the poor banana that banana muffins, pictures of bananas, and even banana-boat sunscreen are all off limits. I discovered this while on the blogs infamous second trip to the northern territory when my foam drink holder mysteriously went missing.  It had a picture of the big banana with my name written above, a gift from a friend who had visited Coffs Harbour.  The first day the cursed item wasn’t on the boat – we had the most amazing day of fishing I’ve ever seen, described here.  The second day (and it was still missing) – we caught one little barra between 6 blokes.  As I said confirmation bias!

So what’s so bad about bananas? What is the magic ingredient that makes the fish stop biting, even through metres of water and the hull of the boat? As far as I can tell, nothing.  There is no chemical or substance that is a known fish repellent. I’ve asked other anglers and scoured the web.  At the time of writing I’m still looking.

Tucked away for safe keeping!
Tucked away for safe keeping!

So on the weekend I conducted a little experiment. I popped the Hobie kayak on the Molonglo river section of Lake Burley Griffin and happily trolled some diving lures up and down the snags for two hours without luck.  Then I ate the banana I had on board, came ashore, put the peel in the bin, washed my hands thoroughly and headed out for another two hours of fishing.  Again, nothing. Not a touch, not even a redfin.  Hardly conclusive I know, but according to legend I should consider myself grateful that I didn’t perish on the water.

Brave or foolish? I think I'm just lucky to be alive!
Brave or foolish? I think I’m just lucky to be alive!

Bananas are a rich source of potassium, carbohydrates and Vitamin C.  As athletes can testify they are also a great energy food and good for fighting muscle cramp. This makes them the perfect food for us kayak fisherman who are spending long hours on the water.

So don’t feel too nervous about taking bananas on board your boat, especially if you are by yourself – but it might be wise to limit yourself to just one or two and watch out for tarantulas!

Graham Fifield

Cruising the Molonglo river in the Hobie

Cruising the Molonglo river in the Hobie


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2 thoughts on “There is something fishy about bananas

  1. Great Hobie setup mate. I caught a meter barra last night off the bank only to discover later that their was a banana in the car! I’m totally against taking bananas fishing, I’m thinking this fish must have been really hungry!

  2. Pingback: The best worst day of fishing – Hawaiian bonefish, broken leaders and the curse of the banana | Flick and Fly Journal

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