We set out to learn whether there are superstitions that live on among local fishermen. Here’s what we heard.

Are there any fishing superstitions you follow?

Butch Smith, Coho Charters owner and skipper

“Oh lots. In the summertime I don’t eat anything but bologna and cheese sandwiches for lunch. The fish gods like bologna. I’m really neurotic about different smells on the boat. I’m finicky about hand washing and what we put on our hands. Even if a customer gives us a piece of chicken or something we make sure we have gloves on. I don’t like ‘have you ever’ questions. I’m really superstitious about it. I had a deckhand that used to ask me ‘Have you ever?’ And, for whatever reason, the ‘have you ever’ turned into ‘yes, we did’ after he asked the questions. So I hate ‘have you ever’ questions.

“As far as bananas and things like that, bring all the bananas you want. That was started from the sailing days when the bananas used to carry a type of spider that used to come and kill the crew. In the sailing days they would get bananas in the Caribbean, or wherever they grow. They would load them in cargo ships and when the crews would go to sleep these poisonous spiders would come out and half the time they would show up with a dead crew. It became the bananas’ fault, when really it was the poisonous spiders.”

Jerry Matzen III, commercial fishermen

“Hang your coffee cup mouth towards the stern so you don’t sink. And no whistling in the wheelhouse or cabin — otherwise you’ll whistle up a storm, like we are having today. I learned the coffee cup one from Kerry Suomela Sr. when I worked on the F/V Southern Cross and it always stuck with me.”

Tim Teall, commercial fishermen

“Well, to begin with, you never want to paint your boat green because it’ll beach itself in a storm. Never set a coffee cup or a bucket on the boat upside down — the boat will roll over! Don’t whistle in the wheelhouse, because it’ll make it get windy out. But above all, it’s bad luck to be superstitious!”

Mike Shirley, co-owner Ilwaco Landing Fishermen

“Never talk about how good the boat is running, weather or fishing is. No bananas, banana bread or chips. Never leave on a Friday. Black cats are good luck on a boat. Never whistle in the wheelhouse. Avoid redheads. Don’t kill albatross, they carry the souls of dead sailors. Don’t change the name of the boat. And always announce yourself before going on deck in the morning, because someone is probably shitting in a bucket on deck.”

Clark Von Essen, commercial fishermen/charter skipper

“Never expect fishing to be the same as the day before... One I live by.”

Pat Schenk, Seabreeze Charters owner and skipper

“I can’t think of any. I’ve just never been a superstitious person. I’ve walked under ladders. Some skippers don’t want bananas on their boat, but it’s never bothered me.”

Craig Brewer, commercial fishermen

“I don’t really have any superstitions, I’ve never been superstitious. Just don’t go out in bad weather and watch the tides. We’re a day-boat so leaving on Fridays — we do that a lot. We go whenever we can get out there. If I were to make a superstition it would be no lasagna on the boat. I’ve lost lasagna three times because you’re rocking and rolling and it ends up sliding off.”

Todd Holt, commercial fishermen

“Don’t leave on a Friday or have bananas on the boat. Don’t have women on the boat, but that’s bull. I’ve had women on the boat and caught like crazy. It’s an Italian superstition. A lot of superstitions came from the Italians and Portuguese. The Friday one is because of Jesus. You can leave on Friday at midnight. If you name your boat after your mother it’s always good luck.”

Jason Lake, commercial fishermen

“Never leave on a Friday.”

Robert Orloff, commercial fishermen

“Unbattened hatches is a big one. Don’t lay a hatch upside down on the deck. It’s bad luck. The hatches are meant to be battened down. Even people who aren’t superstitious will follow that. They say it’s bad luck to rename a boat and if you do, then have to go through the whole rechristening process.”

Mark Ihander, commercial fishermen

“Don’t whistle on a boat — you’ll whistle up a storm. You never leave a hatch cover upside down. You never leave on a Friday, but at 12:01 you can untie the lines. Leaving on Friday is bad luck. No suitcases aboard a boat. I once showed up with my Samsonite and the Norwegian skipper looked at me goes, “Where are you going with that? Ain’t no suitcase going on my boat. You can take it home and put it a sea bag.”

Luke Whittaker is a staff writer for Coast River Business Journal and the Chinook Observer. Contact him at 360-642-8181 or lwhittaker@crbizjournal.com.

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