Tag Archives: fishing

One Eyed Willy of Chollas Lake

Context: H is a  23 year old American, born in California and lived there until moving to Denver Colorado for College. After spending nearly five years in Denver he moved to New Mexico where he currently lives and has lived for the past two years. This entry was collected over a Zoom call. 

Intv: “Do you remember any of the tales that came out of the summer camp we went to?”

H: “There was that one, of like One Eyed Willy… I wish I could remember the story better, you might actually be able to help me out a little.” 

Intv: “Hmm wasn’t there like a kid who was fishing or something?”

H: “I thought it had to do with a fish that took the eye of a fisherman? Oh, didn’t it go like The fisherman hooked the fish in the eye, and when the fish started to pull, he wouldn’t let go and got dragged down into the lake? Cause I remember there was that structure out in the lake and we all used to say that’s where the fisherman remained, and we were always told to look out for a fish with one eye when we would fish.” 

Analysis: I can’t say for certain, but I wonder if One Eyed Willy got his name from The Goonies. However, for a kid without any prior knowledge of The Goonies, it so easily became a piece of folklore that many children, myself included, believed. Outside of being a fun ghost story however, it also serves the purpose of informing young campers how to be safe while fishing. To be careful so that One Eyed Willy wouldn’t get you. 

Chinese Fish Eating Superstition


M, a 21-year-old, Chinese male who grew up in Beijing until he turned 17 before moving to the United States. He now lives in Los Angeles, California, and attends the University of Southern California with his girlfriend who is from Southern China.

Background info:

M’s first language was Mandarin. His family spoke Mandarin and he only learned English before moving to the United States. Because he grew up in Beijing, he believes himself to be fairly knowledgeable about the folklore that every day people participate in. This is one of the Chinese traditions in their household.


This is a Chinese superstition that M and his girlfriend’s families believe in, despite having different recounts of what the superstition is. Because they are both close with their families, he and his girlfriend would often have to change how they behaved depending on who they were around at the time. This was told to me during a small get-together at his house. The following is a transcript of the piece as told by M.

Main piece:

“Something that is pretty interesting that is a distinction between Northern and Southern China is that… when you’re eating like a fish… You know how when you eat a fish, they’ve like roasted or cooked the whole fish, right? And they’ve got some sauces or marinate on them. So when you eat a fish, it’s like laying this way *shows a horizontal motion* and you eat one side until there’s the fish bones. And then below that there is another side of meat, right? In Northern China, like in Beijing where I am from, people will flip the fish over to eat the other side and it means like. ‘Oh, if I’m flipping the fish over, it means that I am flipping away all the bad luck and starting fresh.’ But in Southern China, that is a big no-no. You can’t do that because if you do, it means that your fishing boat is going to turn over. It’s going to get blown over. I think the reason for this superstition is because in Southern China they were very reliant on the fishing industry for food in like the olden days. So doing something like flipping a fish over would mean that the next fishing trip would be dangerous. It’s weird because doing the same thing has two very different meanings in such close proximity, so like… my girlfriend is from Southern China, right? So when our families cook fish for events or uhh… holidays… there’s this almost contention between us over how to eat it. Though it is mostly just the older people who still believe this superstition.”


I have been out to eat with M before and never seen him do this, so it is interesting to learn that he and his girlfriend follow different traditions based on who they are around. In Northern China, they believe that flipping the fish over is getting rid of all the bad luck and starting fresh. This is very similar to the English phrase of “turning over a new leaf”, as many view that to mean one is starting fresh and discarding whatever bad things were in the past. I do not know of any physical embodiment of that phrase in American culture, but it’s interesting that, in Beijing, people must do a physical action rather than just a saying. The distinction between Southern and Northern China over the same action also showcases how local industries can influence traditions or superstitions. Southern China’s belief that the flipping of a fish will mean that a fishing boat will flip over, there is almost a voodoo vibe about this superstition. The lack of participation or belief in superstitions or traditions by the younger generation also shows that the beliefs are waning, and new ones are being formed.

The Mammoth Shrimp: A Legend

In Galveston, Texas there’s this restaurant that has a huge giant shrimp as, like, I guess a statue or whatever and apparently, like, late in the 1800’s they went fishing and they literally caught this, like, huge giant shrimp that was like 4, 5 feet tall and like 6 feet long and, like, they caught it I guess and that’s what their whole, like, restaurant is, like, surrounded by, like, that whole superstition – or not superstition – that, like, the whole legend of that huge giant shrimp actually swimming in and living in the ocean right outside Galveston.

The Informant, my housemate, is an Econ major at USC. He was born and raised in Texas. The Informant told me about this local legendary catch at around midnight on 4/22 while he played PlayerUnknown’s Battleground, an intensive online battle royale game. When I asked if he thought the legend was true, he responded that he didn’t really know. All he knows is the restaurant’s fried shrimp is “fucking amazing.”


Considering the largest shrimp on the planet are about the size of a person’s arm, this legend is almost absolutely false. In fact, this is eerily similar to a viral news story in 2013 that reported a 320lb shrimp caught along the Canada coast. Snopes declared this false, however, and showed that the photo was clearly doctored to replace a large catfish with a shrimp.

I enjoyed the story. I think it’s convenient to have the rumor be set in a time where records of such a catch would be spotty at best. When I was listen to the Informant speak of the huge giant shrimp of Galveston, I immediately thought of Randy’s Donuts here in Los Angeles, a drive-through donut shop that wields a massive 26-foot donut as a sign. Sadly, there’s no 26-foot donut either, with the largest one ever at 16-feet.

Banana Boats

Main piece:

So, there’s this superstition about fishing – or, I guess it’s more about bananas. Where, if you have a banana on the boat, you’re not gonna catch any fish. And there’s all kinds of stuff related to this too… Like, if someone eats a banana right before going out? Or if you find the banana, there’s a certain way that you gotta get rid of it? But, yeah – it’s kind of ridiculous.


Superstition described by Randy Peffer at Boatswayne Yard in San Pedro, CA. Randy is a career seaman, educator, and writer.


This is a well-documented superstition among sailors. There is a novel explanation which is also commonly discussed alongside the myth. Boats carrying bananas generally moved the most quickly in an attempt to maintain their freshness. Therefore, sailors aboard trolling lines would be moving too quickly. Consequently, they would catch fewer to no fish.


Fishermen are superstitious and sailors are superstitious. It should come as no surprise then, that the overlap of these two groups has a seemingly arbitrary superstition like the Banana curse.

How the Islands were fished out of the ocean

Main Piece: Hawaiian Legend


“So the legend goes, Maui was out fishing with his brothers in a canoe one day, when he cast out a line. He had something big on the line, and told his brothers to row, and not look back, as it was a bad omen when fishing from a canoe to look behind you while rowing.

The brothers did not look back, and Maui continued reeling in his catch. Once he got it up, it became known that Maui had fished the Hawaiian Islands out of the sea.”




Danny told this story as a creation story of the Hawaiian Islands. Maui is a demigod in Hawaiian mythology, being the son of the two major deities in Hawaiian mythology. Danny likes this story because it is a creation story, and although untrue, gives the natives a good mythological explanation of how the Hawaiian Islands came to be that they can pass on as a part of their beliefs.

Danny likes this story because even though it is obviously not true, it is something almost every Hawaiian believes in, and all other people in the world will just disprove with science. He likes that it is a story dating back to the original inhabitants of the island, and gives him a sense of pride in his culture and where he comes from.




Danny told me this is a legend that would be told as a bedtime story. He does not remember the exact details but remembers the main story of it, but he does remember it as a prominent story from his childhood. He says his grandmother used to tell it to him and his siblings, and his mother would occasionally tell it as a bedtime story.

There aren’t many other contexts this story would be told in, other than possibly in a children’s book explaining how the islands came to be, or as a tour guides introduction to the history of the islands.


My Thoughts:


This story reminded me a lot of stories such as the Grand Canyon story where Paul Bunyun dragged his axe behind him as he was walking, and carved out the Grand Canyon, or a Native American story where the Kiowa’s came to earth through a log. Creation stories are generally too far-fetched to be true, but the general consensus of the people who live there is a small sliver of belief in the myth, but more so they serve as something to hold on to as a piece of their cultural heritage.




For another version of this story, see here: Maui (http://kms.kapalama.ksbe.edu/projects/ahupuaa/waianae/wan/wan12maui/index.html)