Picturesque South Florida spring day it was, two to three feet seas, clear skies, and clean water, anchored near an artificial reef five miles off the Naples coast. Captain Joel Pepper was doing what he does – putting people on gamefish.
Five miles is hardly offshore, not to mention the vastness between there and the Gulf Stream. Yet there they were, hooked up to a pelagic species generally associated with blue-water and the Atlantic Ocean.
“What chu got there, Bud,” Captain Pepper says while videoing the angler/fish dance around the boat.
“Sailfish,” the junior angler replied, his father cheering in the background.
“Oh no, we’ve already got one on the deck!” yelled Captain Pepper, aiming the camera at the one-hundred-pound billfish lying on the bottom of the boat.
Sailfish? Nearshore of Naples? Hogwash, one might say. But nothing is outside the wheelhouse for Joel, averaging one or two sailfish hookups per season.
“Watch your fish – be careful,” said Captain Pepper to his charge. The young man shuffled from the stern up the bow and around, having found a rhythm with his opponent.
“That’s a fish of a lifetime, son. People go all the way to Costa Rica to catch a fish like that. You just caught it.” The angler turned the battle-fatigued fish one more time and brought it along the side of the boat. Deciding one sailfish was enough – even though they would have been well within regulation – Captain Pepper reached over the side and removed the hook, making a clean release.
“Everybody says bananas on a boat are bad luck,” Joel says into the video, holding a banana in front of the camera. “Here on my boat, in the Gulf of Mexico, we just caught a sailfish, actually caught two.”
Not only was his catch phenomenal, but Captain Pepper will go down in history as the waterman who debunked the banana on board superstition. I will thank Joel personally for freeing me of the “banana chains” that have bound me. (Although fishermen are a superstitious lot, and I’m sure I’ll just substitute another one in its place.)
I must say I have made considerable efforts keeping bananas out of my boat. Sometimes I go so far as to recite a generic pre-trip spiel, not unlike a flight attendant announcing that all cell phones must be turned off and tray tables put in the upright position.
The spiel would usually go something like this: “Before we embark on our journey, is anyone in possession of a banana, or bananas? If so, please deposit them in the waste can or toss them to that assertive pelican over there.”
I’m kidding about feeding fruit to pelicans. I generally don’t give them anything but large filleted carcasses. I’m just playing; they have a proclivity for going big – as long as it almost fits in their mouth, which I imagine gives them a heck of a case of heartburn. Because I respect any creature whose heart is bigger than its brain, so I make an effort not to endanger them.
For those outside the fishing community who are no doubt confused, feel free to google the origin of the banana superstition. Or maybe you could wait and see what The Saltwater Cowboy gets into next … A sci-fi thriller perhaps where he slips through a tear in the space-time continuum, landing in the 1700s when pirates, buccaneers, bandits, and marauders ruled the seas? When the fruit would sometime spoil on the long trips from afar? Legend has it that a parasite found in the bananas was particularly fond of the hardwood the ships were made of, boring in, eventually eating enough to render the craft structurally unsound and subsequently sinking.
And now you know… the rest of the story.
That sounds more like a novel. Maybe a sequel to the future New York Times Bestseller, Gulf Stream by Jon Edward Edwards? I should probably focus on finding a publisher for the future bestseller first. And if you want some banana-free superstitious fishing, call Captain Joel Pepper at Fish-N-Fever Charters, 239-571-0709, fishnfevercharters.com.