Fishing on Halloween

Fishermen are probably no more superstitious than most other people.

Yes, we might have a few peculiarities, such as not taking bananas in the boat. For centuries, sailors and fishermen have known taking bananas on board ship or in their boat always brings bad luck. Most fishermen have their lucky hat or lucky bait but for the most part we are otherwise normal.

Last year I fished on Halloween. Now I don’t consider myself any more superstitious than the next guy, so fishing on Halloween meant nothing to me.

Two buddies, Dennis and Mike, joined me for a day of fishing for walleyes and sauger on the Mississippi River.

The weather had been cold and windy, but from reports on the river, the fish were biting. That was all the motivation we needed. Dennis mentioned he needed to be home in time to hand out candy to the little ghosts and goblins, but we otherwise had the whole day to fish.

We were a couple roads over from where we turned off the road to the resort where we launch the boat, when I saw a black cat cross the road. A black cat on Halloween. If I was superstitious, I might have been concerned, but it seemed to be nothing.

As I passed the road, I looked back. The black cat was in the middle of the road, back hunched and glaring at us. That did seem a bit strange and a little unnerving.

At the resort, as we were getting the boat ready, Dennis asked where the minnow bucket was. I told him it was in the boat. Dennis looked in the back of the boat. There was no minnow bucket, nor the 5-gallon bucket it normally sits in. It must have blown out while we were driving. Was this a bit of Halloween bad luck? Remember the black cat. I shrugged it off. I have lost minnow buckets before. We bought another bucket and two scoops of minnows at the bait shop.

A few minutes later, as we were backing the trailer into the water, Mike pointed out to me one of the back lights on the trailer was hanging down, held by just a couple wires. I slid the light back on and we launched the boat.

A cold damp wind blew down the river. It was a cold run up the river to the dam. Gray clouds swirled overhead. The water was higher and the current stronger than we normally find in the fall. It took several times moving and dropping anchor before we were successful in holding the boat in the fast current.

We were there for about half an hour, and I missed a fish by the time Dennis yanked back on his spinning rod, and it doubled over as a fish raced off. It turned out to be a 17-inch walleye, and went into the livewell. It seemed like a good start, but after that, we went a long time with only a couple light strikes and no fish. As we were eating lunch, my rod tip began to bounce. I lunged for my spinning rod, but the fish was gone.

After lunch, we moved, and again it took us several tries before the anchor held. Within a few minutes, Mike caught the next fish, a 16-inch sauger. Things were looking up. A few minutes later, Dennis was hung up on what we thought was the anchor. Mike grabbed the anchor rope and pulled up, but there was nothing at the other end. Apparently, the anchor rope broke, or the knot on the rope came loose. In over half a century of owning boats, I have only lost one other anchor. Was this a bit more Halloween bad luck?

Without the ability to anchor, we could only drift, but suddenly we were catching fish. Mike picked up a keeper sauger ,and shortly thereafter, I picked up two keeper sauger, my first fish of the day. In the next couple hours, we steadily got strikes. By the end of the afternoon, we had Dennis’s walleye and eight sauger in the livewell, plus a white bass I released, as well as several undersize fish we put back.

When Dennis backed the trailer as I drove the boat on, we noticed the back light on the trailer was gone. After pulling the boat out, Dennis went back to where he parked, and found it in the grass. I got out a screwdriver, hooked the light back on and tightened the screws, so I thought it would be ok.

An hour later, when we returned back to my house, the light was completely gone. Was this Halloween or what?

Mike and I cleaned fish, after which he and Dennis left. I got a hot shower and got ready for our neighborhood ghosts and goblins to show up for candy. It was now dark outside and temperatures were colder. We live in the country, so we don’t get a lot of Halloween traffic, but the candy bowl was full and ready. What I don’t hand out will be snacks in the boat for the next month.

I was sitting in the dining room with a drink in hand and reflecting about the day. I lost a minnow bucket, an anchor and a light on my trailer. I have lost minnow buckets and trailer lights before, as well as one anchor. But, never all in the same day. And, the black cat? I have run across black cats before, but never one with such an ominous attitude. Is there really something to Halloween and black cats?

Then I realized, despite the bad luck, we did catch fish, and caught even more fish after losing the anchor. We also returned home safely, and had a good day of fishing with friends I enjoy being with. So perhaps Halloween wasn’t so bad after all?