By Mike Carey
We had motored out to our fishing hole and set up our rods - three anglers, six kokanee rods. I felt the confidence that comes at the start of the day, fishing a favorite water, knowing that we could have a day of epic fishing ahead of us. Joining me were my friends Robbie, and a figure from my distant past, back when I had first started up the Washington Lakes web site. Our guest was Bruce Pearson, the founder of gamefishin.com. For those not in the know, our two web sites were among the most popular and fastest growing fishing web sites of the early days of fishing web sites. Long before there was Facebook, Google, and Amazon our sites drew in anglers looking for information and just wanting to talk about fishing.
Robbie was filming a Facebook Live clip as I let viewers in on our fishing adventure. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Bruce lifting something up over my head - and eating. I turned and looked at him to see, to my surprise, a banana. Bruce had a grin on his face as he started stuffing the peel into my back pocket.
Now mind you, I don't consider myself superstitious, but I also don't believe in taking chances (how's that for walking both sides of the fence?). "Bruce", I said, "I can't believe you brought a banana on my boat." "Oh, I don't believe in that kind of stuff, but if we have a bad day you can blame me." "Oh, I will", I replied,rolling my eyes and getting back to the task at hand, catching tasty kokanee.
"What's the big deal about bananas?" Robbie asked?
For those of you not familiar with bananas and fishing, there is a long standing superstition that bananas on a fishing boat are bad luck. If you search into the subject you'll find a variety of theories, myths, and folklore passed down through the ages.
Like many superstitions, sometimes they have a basis in fact. Several theories dealt with the banana trade back to the age of sail. One theory is that companies overloaded their boats with bananas, which would then get caught in storms and be lost at sea, leaving a floating trail of bananas as their only sign of their demise. Another concerned banana spiders which would be loaded on to the boats with the bananas, their bites causing crew members to become sick and even die. A third theory I found was that as bananas spoil, they produce a gas that causes other perishable foods to spoil quicker. The crew of the boats would soon find themselves without fruits and vegetables that provide vitamin C, essential to prevent scurvy on long Atlantic crossings.
Whatever your belief on the banana superstition, it is funny how events can unfold that give you pause to reflect, or, in our day's adventure, a reason to blame events as they unfolded.
Around us fish were jumping and the depth finder was showing no suspended fish, so we focused on running our gear in the top twenty feet. We ran a variety of kokanee gear and it wasn't too long before we had our first fish in the boat, a 7" kokanee that we released back. After came a nice 11 1/2" keeper, and then a cutthroat that measured 13". Another fish for the cooler. Maybe the banana myth was just that -a myth.
Part of the morning's activities we were filming the adventure for a future Northwest Fishing Reports TV episode. I had brought my newly purchased drone along, waiting for an opportunity to play with it and get some fun drone footage. With six rods running, calm skies, and a bit of a lull in the action I decided it was time to launch the bird skyward. Having never flown my drone over water I was a bit intimidated, but I soon had some good footage when the 30 percent battery alarm went off. Not wanting to wait until the battery was fully depleted I flew it back to the boat for landing.
As I brought the drone in for the landing I realized that it was one thing to land a drone on a parking lot, and quite a different thing to set it down on a moving boat. Ever closer the drone came, hovering over the deck, ready to decend for the landing. I soon realized that in order to change from flying along with the boat to descending to a landing required some fine motor skills I had not yet mastered. Each time I got ready to descend the drone it would drift back perilously close to the rear fishing rods.
It was at this point that Bruce, ever helpful, decided he would reach up and grab the underside of the drone, a "hand retrieve" that has been known to work - if done correctly. As Bruce reached for the drone he missed, grabbing the body and instead, despite the propeller guards, received a nasty slice deep into his finger. "Ouch!", Bruce called out, as blood gushed on to the deck of my formally clean boat.
The drone rose up and fell behind the boat. We quickly got a clean towel on Bruce's finger and applied pressure to stop the bleeding and more importantly keep my boat from becoming more of a horror show than it already was.
Meanwhile, my drone was now alerting me that it had only minutes left of flight time and since it was at emergency battery levels it was going to land at "home", i.e., the gps coordinates it launched from. Well, being that we were in a moving boat, "home" was fifty yards behind us! I watched in horror as my drone, now with a mind of its own, moved ever further away from the boat. My efforts to override its programmed safety feature were for naught. The drone continued to move away from us.
At this point in the story, you're probably saying "well, Mike obviously put pontoons on the drone so he could land it in the water, it would be crazy to not do that." Um, guilty as charged. As I watched my $700 drone flying away, in my mind I was already resigned losing it to the bottom of the lake.
Suddenly, a thought popped in my head and I quickly violated the number one rule of trolling six rods behind a boat - I swung us around 180 degrees, fired the trolling motor up to a ten, and chased after the drone. I figure the only way now to save the drone was to drive the boat close enough so we could net it back into the boat before it went to the bottom of Davy Jones Locker.
We closed in on the drone. Its alarm called out "battery at critical level, landing now"! Just as it began its final death descent, I grabbed my net and swatted the drone into the boat. It crashed to the floor and stayed there, engines whining to a stop.
I looked at Bruce, blood dripping off the towel. He had a bit of a sheepish grin on his face. We all were amazed that the drone was actually home, safe and sound. Looking back at our lines we had a tangled mess that took us twenty minutes to sort out. By the time our lines were untangled and back in the water we had lost a good half hour of precious fishing time.
The rest of the morning passed uneventfully, catching just one small planter trout. Not the morning of fast kokanee action I had been hoping to show my friends.
Depending on your belief or lack thereof in the banana curse, you could say Bruce brought his injury on himself (which he did) and that almost losing my drone was the result of my poor decisions (which it was). Or you could blame the banana.
As Bruce hopped off of the boat at the ramp and stepped squarely into a big pile of doggie do-do, I have to admit that on this day I think the banana curse may have gotten the best of him!