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Fishermen, as a species, are a superstitious lot. Traditions and folklore are passed down between generations on the banks of rivers and lakes while a fire gently crackles and Coleman lanterns hiss their lives away. Over gentle conversations between grandfolks and grandkids, the lore of decades is imparted in the minds of eager young kids. Some becomes vital in later years in the pursuit of fish while some are the even more vital scripts of superstition.

     We all see superstitions for what they are: beliefs based on irrational assumptions. Within a sport or hobby, though, these superstitions help to link generations that have few, if any, other connections. For many families, it is the superstitions that are the best remembered and the last forgotten. In any family that fishes, the superstitions of fishing often play a central role in the connection of family members, even if the lore is not readily remembered. Dad's favorite fishing hat, ratty as it is, brings about nostalgia for the carefree days of a youth spent at the family cabin. It may not be remembered immediately that the reason the hat was favored was because that Dad was wearing it the day he caught the biggest pike he had ever seen and had considered it lucky forever after. In that way, superstitions also play a role in capturing a moment, preserving it forever without the need for camera or words.

The following are a few superstitions that have been obtained over the years from who knows where. One of these involves one of the most essential of fishing accouterments . . .

the hat.

Without a doubt, a hat can make or break a fishing trip. No other article of clothing has that power. For many, a specific hat is vital for a good fishing adventure and must be handy at all times.

Breaking in new rod

One superstition that I believe very strongly in and that many other anglers follow as well is choosing the "right" spot to break in a new reel or rod. If you want to successfully fish with equipment, it must be broken in a suitable location. If it is lightweight equipment, you must go to a place that has been proven to harbor a good population of properly sized fish. If it is a travel set, it must not be used in a local setting.

Nothing you can do will ruin your chances of using a pole effectively more assuredly than improperly breaking in your rod.

Holding you mouth right

Another superstition that is widely held is the one of "holding your mouth right." If you did not land that last big catfish, you were not "holding your mouth right." It doesn't matter how you were actually holding your mouth as long as you don't hold it that way again on the next fish. This is sometimes difficult to do as it is hard to remember from one fish to the next what you were doing with your mouth.
Some have discovered that it seems your mouth is always right if you have a cigar in your mouth. It doesn't have to be lit, although the smoke will keep away skeeters well. Perhaps a sucker would work just as well,

Specific pieces of equipment

Several anglers have superstitions regarding specific pieces of equipment. If a favorite lure is somehow misplaced, the entire trip may be for naught even if your partner has the exact same lure in his box. Most every fisherman I know has a favored rod or reel that will assuredly catch fish when all others fail. Some boaters must fish off a specific side of the boat. Others must fish from the front or back ends. Some folks may not fish a certain spot that is fine for everyone else.

The list is endless . . .

  • A cloudy day is a good time for fishing. 

  • A fisherman always throws the first fish he catches back in the water for luck.

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

  • A rabbit crossing your path when you are going fishing is a sign of bad luck that day.

  • After you have put a worm on the hook, spit on it for good luck.

  • Always fish against the wind for luck. 

  • Carry a fishing pole into the house before you start on a fishing trip and you will not catch any fish.

  • Catfish bite well when it thunders. 

  • Chew anise and spit on your fishing hook for good luck.

  • Do not fish when the wind is in the west; the fish will not bite.

  • Fish become excited and bite well when it is raining.

  • Fish bite best (in daytime) during the dark of the moon because they cannot see in the dark of the moon and are hungrier.

  • Fish bite best (at night) on the increase of the moon.

  • Fish bite best at night during full moon. 

  • Fish bite best at night, and if you play a fiddle or guitar, the fish just can't stay in the water but will come to the top because they love the music of a fiddle or guitar.

  • Fish bite best when there is a good soft wind from the south or southeast.

  • Fish bite well when it is thundering. 

  • Fish can see upward, but cannot see downward.

  • Fish do not bite when the wind is in the south. 

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

  • Fish on the west side of the bank, if the wind is in the west.

  • Fish when the sign is in the "feet' for luck. 

  • Fish will not bite if it thunders. 

  • Fish will not bite if you use a bright cork on your line.

  • Fish with three or five lines, never with one line, to catch the most fish.

  • Fishing on Friday is unlucky. 

  • Fishing with crossed lines is unlucky. 

  • Go fishing just after a hard rain. 

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

  • If a dragon fly lights on the cork quit fishing for you will catch nothing.

  • If a fisherman goes out to fish, he should always pray/ For perpetual sunshine that will not fade away/ And he will have good luck all day.

  • 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.

  • If a rain comes slowly and falls gently, fish will continue to bite.

  • If fish flop out of the water, fishing is no good, because they are not hungry and will not bite.

  • If fish in a globe are still and inactive, fishing is no good; if fish in a globe are lively, fishing is good.

  • If fish in a tank are at the top, it is a good day for fishing; if your fish stay at the bottom, don't go fishing, for it is a poor fishing day.

  • If it rains, catfish will bite. 

  • If on your way to fish, you see a pin, pick it up for luck; failing to pick it up will bring you bad luck.

  • If the end of your pole touches the water, you will not be successful at fishing.

  • If the wind is in the south and it is cloudy, you can pull out fish as fast as you put your line in the water.

  • If you drop your line when going to put it on the pole, throw the line away and attach a new line for you will not get fish on the line you dropped.

  • If you go fishing and see a big fish jump up, it will be bad luck for you all day.

  • If you go fishing and play a French harp (harmonicon), all the snakes around will come.

  • If you go on a fishing party, the first person to catch a fish will have good luck.

  • If you go to a pond and make the water real muddy, the fish will all come to the top.

  • If you talk while fishing, the fish will hear you and not bite.

  • If you want to catch a two or three pound fish, always use a grasshopper for bait.

  • If you want to fish for rough fish - cat, buffalo, sturgeon or carp - fish with your bait deep.

  • If you want to fish for game fish, fish with your bait shallow.

  • If your bait runs out, dip your hook in motor oil; which is very good for catfish.

  • It is unlucky to take a dog on a fishing trip. 

  • It is unlucky to bait your hook with a worm by using your left hand.

  • Let your shadow fall on the water while you are fishing and you will scare the fish away.

  • Never fish with a seine on a clear night; you will have any luck until you fish on a cloudy night.

  • Never let anyone step over your line; it will cause you bad luck.

  • Never tell anyone how many fish you have, while you are fishing, or you will be unlucky.

  • Put a cigarette paper on your hook, put it in the water and keep walking back and forth with the line to catch bass.

  • Put safetida on the bait and fish will bite. 

  • Saving the first fish caught brings better luck, but throwing it away is like throwing your luck away.

  • Spitting on your bait will give you luck. 

  • The best time to gig fish is when they begin to roll following the first three warm days of spring; and they will roll for three days.

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

  • The sign of the "fish" is the good time for fishing.

  • Throwing a pebble into the water excites the fish and makes them bite.

  • To catch sunfish or perch, use salty pork for bait.

  • To change poles while fishing will bring you bad luck.

  • Turn your pocket inside out and you will catch catfish.

  • Use an even number of hooks on your line for luck, as fish will not bite if the number is odd.

  • Use cake for bait and you will catch a lot of fish.

  • Use dough balls to catch carp. 

  • When a rain comes rapidly and falls heavily, fish will stop biting.

  • When a small minnow jumps out of the water,it will be a great and successful day for you, and you will have good luck all day and come home with lots of fish.

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

  • When the wind is in the east, fish on the east side of the bank.

  • When the wind is in the southwest/ The fish bite the best.

  • When you go fishing, if you will take an old looking-glass and hold it so the sun can hit it, it will blind the fish so you can catch them with your hands.

  • When you go fishing, spit on the line and you will get fish by the peck.

  • When you lose your hook, tie bait on the line and continue fishing.

  • Wind from the south, hook in the mouth/ Wind from the east, bite the least/ Wind from the north, further off/ Wind from the west, bite the best.

  • You will not catch any fish, if you see fish humping on a rainy day.

  • You will not catch any more fish if you are struck by a fish's fin.

  • You will not have any luck, if you fish when the sign is in the "head."

  • Your will have bad luck, if you fish on Sunday. 

  • From The Book Of Old Wives Tales

    It's true superstitions have no basis in reality. They are merely creations of our minds. But they are powerful creations that affect our actions and the resultant outcomes. To laugh in the face of fate is to risk losing a boatload of fish or even the boat itself. Besides, some of them are fun.

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