The dawn broke, filling the sky with burnt orange hues and our hearts with hope and anticipation. We’d done everything right and it was shaping up to be an epic day.
We were up and out of our houses in time to be on the water, in our starting spot, at first light. We were armed with great intelligence. Reports indicated that fishermen were “limiting out” on stripers in an hour’s time. We were prepared to use the same techniques with the same lures, in the same locations. Weather reports called for near perfect conditions.
What could possibly go wrong?
And then I saw it, out of the corner of my eye. All the air left my chest, replaced by heavy, icy dread.
“Dave, look at that,” I lamented to our captain. “It can’t be.”
“Holy crap, Dorman,” we said in unison.
From me: “What the hell were you thinking? Is that a b-b-banana?” I could hardly get the word out of my mouth.
“Yeah, so whamph?” was his reply as he stuffed the banana in his mouth.
“So what??!!” Dave beat me to it. “YOU CAN’T BRING A BANANA ON A BOAT. It’s a fundamental rule of fishing: they bring historically bad luck.”
“Hmmph, nevermph heardmph of thatmph,” Dorman claimed as he finished eating our doom and threw the peel overboard.
There was some back and forth then between Dave and Dorman. It included, I think, Dave asking Dorman, whose tales of fishing with his dad and uncle span decades, how he could not have heard of the banana curse. I may have also heard Dave explain that the curse dates to the 1700s when ships carrying bananas would regularly disappear, leaving only floating yellow fruit as an indication of their fate.
But I can’t say for sure because I was lost in my own thoughts, debating whether I should just demand that we return to the dock. If that sounds dramatic, I ask you: Do you chant “Bloody Mary” three times in front of a dimly lit mirror? Do you step on all the sidewalk cracks?
I suspect not. There are some things you just don’t want to risk, no matter how remote the prospect of disaster.
Like bringing a banana on a boat.
Dave appeared to be positioning us for our first trolling run. I studied his face carefully. There was disappointment and disgust in his eyes, but no panic. Dorman was tying on his uncle’s heirloom umbrella rig, his eyes filled with nothing but oblivion.
There was no chance we were going back to the dock. So, I checked the straps on my life jacket, and said, with as much optimism as I could muster: “Let’s get it over with.”
For the next two hours, we trolled an area that was, in the last few days, the hottest spot in the Long Island Sound. We did not get a single bite. Dorman lost his uncle’s rig, and two jigs. I lost two jigs and Dave one. These were big, expensive striper jigs. We estimated their total cost to be around $80, not to mention the sentimental value of the umbrella rig, which was irreplaceable.
“Let’s cut our losses and go get some breakfast,” I said. “We can’t beat the banana curse.”
“That’s crazy,” Dorman said. “Let’s move to our back-up area and jig.”
So that’s where we headed: to another can’t-miss spot. Two more hours and four more lost jigs later, we had gotten a grand total of one bite.
Now out about $125 in lost jigs, I suggested again that we throw in the towel.
“No,” Dorman said. And then this gem: “You can’t go faster if you’re not going fast.”
Because there is no sensible response to this kind of logic, we moved to a third spot. This time, we focused on what Dave called our basic skill set: using strips of squid to fish for porgy and sea bass. In normal, nonbanana-cursed conditions, we could fill a cooler in no time. At the very least, we could battle a few sea robins.
Three more hours passed. We caught maybe four fish between us. Their combined length could not have exceeded two feet. And no sea robins.
Let me repeat that. We fished for three hours with strips of squid and did not catch a single sea robin.
“Believe now?” I asked Dorman.
“No. Bad fishing days happen.”
As we were heading in, we saw two boats surrounded by baitfish exploding on the surface. Fishermen in both boats were casting into the blitz and catching stripers and bluefish. We cautiously approached, but just as our boat got into position, and before we could make a single cast, the fish disappeared.
Moments later, the action started again, perhaps several hundred yards from us. A boat approached from the other direction, set up, and immediately began to catch fish. We carefully moved into position…and watched the fish disappear again.
I looked carefully at Dorman. Recognition seemed to be creeping into his eyes.
“Let’s go in,” he said.
Ten minutes closer to the dock, fish began to break immediately in front of us. Dave shut the motor down and we drifted into the melee. Big stripers were crashing into bait fish all around the boat. I cast. Dave cast. Dorman cast.
And the fish stayed up!
We cast again. And again. And again. The action lasted maybe five minutes. With fish attacking everything around them, we didn’t get a single strike.
On the bright side, we made it back to the marina alive. I think we were all hopeful that, with the fishing over, the curse had run its course.
But it was not to be.
As we were walking to our trucks, I heard Dave cry out from behind me. I turned to see him looking at the ground. Pointing down, he said, “That apple just fell out of the tree and hit me in the head.”
“You see now, Dorman, what you have done?” I asked.
“No comment” was all I could get out of him.