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Don’t forget to spit on your bait

Disclaimer: I have chosen to call all fisherpeople in this story, fishermen. This is not because I do not personally know any anglers of the female persuasion. Nor do I believe that men make better fishers than women or that women cannot be just as superstitious as men… Au contraire! For simplicity’s sake, dear reader, please allow me to use the term “fishermen” to refer to anglers of both genders.

Laura Dean Bennett
Staff Writer

Fishermen are known to be a superstitious lot. Family fishing traditions are passed down from generation to generation – and so are fishing superstitions.

In many families, the memory of legendary big catches, or stories about “the one that got away” are often eclipsed by the superstitions passed down along with Dad’s kreel, his favorite flies or his rods and reels.

In speaking with a few fishermen and casting about among the hundreds of superstitions that pertain to the catching of fish, I have compiled this collection of “whoppers.”

One of the main things to remember about fishing is: you are going to need the right hat. 

One’s hat can make or break a fishing trip. 

Apparently, no matter how fancy your jacket or waders – no article of clothing has quite the same power to entice a fish as the right hat. 

Of course, it’s going to have to be a lucky hat, meaning, the more beat up and disreputable, the better. 

If it has been passed down from your grandfather and still bears the stains and scars of years of use and abuse, so much the better. 

This is the kind of hat that hangs in a place of honor by the back door and women of the family may, from time-to-time, threaten to wash it, supposedly on account of a certain odor.

But that must never happen!

The aroma just brings you more luck. 

Many fishermen believe that it is necessary to properly “christen” a new rod or reel.

If it will be used at home, it must start its career there, in a local fishing hole, and it should only be used by its true owner the first several times. 

Only after many forays, may it be loaned to someone – and then – only to a family member.

If it is a travel set, it must only be used when away from home – never in a local spot.

Now, when it comes to handling fishing equipment, this is especially important:

Whether fly fishing or deep sea fishing, no matter what type of rod or reel a fisherman is using, there is one hard and fast rule:

To catch fish, you must be “holding your mouth right.”

It doesn’t matter which way you hold your mouth – some swear by the clamped jaw approach, others go with the cigar method. 

But once you’ve caught a keeper, if you want to continue to catch fish, you must never hold your mouth the same way again on any subsequent casts.

Then there are the superstitions about one’s equipment.

It’s thought to be unlucky to carry a fishing pole into the house before starting out on a fishing trip. 

This will prevent you from catching fish.

I wonder if it’s okay to store the pole inside the house – does that count?

And, is it impertinent to ask how the fish know the difference?

A certain rod or reel is often believed to be lucky, and a venerable (read “moth eaten”) fly or lure is often believed to be necessary to beguile the hapless aquatic opponent.

To change poles while fishing will bring you bad luck.

Some say that throwing anything in the water will destroy an entire day of fishing, while others firmly believe in tossing in a pebble now and again – to “draw the luck.”

You’ve surely heard of fishermen who always fish off the same side of a boat.

But have you heard of some of these?

If not, it’s time to “catch” up!

It’s unlucky to bait your hook with a worm using your left hand.

Spitting on your bait always brings good luck. 

Spit on the line, too, and you’ll get fish by the peck.

If, as you start fishing, you see a big fish jump up, it means bad luck for the day. But if you see a school of minnows jump, get ready for a full bucket.

If a dragon fly alights on the cork or bobber, you might as well quit. 

Fish for the first time in the season on Good Friday and you will be lucky at fishing all year.

Lucky days to fish are the 17th and 18th of the month.

Here’s a dilemma – some say the lucky fisherman knows to always throw the first catch back, but some say that throwing it back is like throwing your luck away.

A good time to go fishing is when you see a chicken oiling its feathers.

If, on your way to fish, you see a pin, it means good luck. Fail to pick it up and you will have bad luck.

Wind from the south, hook in the mouth, wind from the east, they bite the least, wind from the north, even further off, but wind from the west, they’ll bite the best.

Fishing on Friday is thought by some to be unlucky, but it could be worse…

There’s an old saw that warns that if a person goes fishing every Sunday, someday he will catch the devil on his hook and be snatched off the bank, into the water and may drown. 


Never let anyone step over your line – it brings bad luck.

If you’re having no luck, change out your bait for a balled up nibble of cake.

The person who swears while fishing will not catch a fish.

When owls hoot during the day, it is a good time for catching catfish. 

Turn your pockets inside out to draw catfish to your hook.

Go ahead, laugh at these fishy pearls of wisdom – if you dare.

But you may be risking a banner day on the water.

And don’t forget to spit on your bait.

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