Ka Upena Lawai'a O Ka Wa Kahiko Me Ka Lakou Mau Hana / Fishing Nets of Old and Their Uses

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Ka Upena Lawai'a O Ka Wa Kahiko Me Ka Lakou Mau Hana / Fishing Nets of Old and Their Uses

(Written by Z. P. K. Kawaikaumaiikamakaoka‘ōpua.)


Maiewa Net.

This is the 11th of the nets of the people of old. This is the most used of all fishing nets. Lau lines are the kind of thing to use for this net, along with the hīnano, which is the flower of the pandanus. This is used for the schooling fish of the very deep sea, like the akule and the a‘ua‘u which live in great depths.

The way in which these nets caught fish: on every canoe there were the po‘o lau, 100 anana in length; and on a few canoes were the hīnano blossoms of the pandanus. Here is how it was done:

When the canoes reached the area in which the fish were, if the fish were akule, they would move far from where the fish schooled, then the po‘o lau of each canoe was joined. Upon each canoe was a cord attached to the lau; and these cords fashioned thus, were used to pull up and to let down the lau, because of the large coral beds of the deep sea.

This lau was released down, and hīnano was on the top part of the lau. The people with the hīnano would swim out with lona, or blocks made of hau. The fishermen went back and forth, so that everyone would be prepared. The space between each of the canoes would be equal. They would average about three anana apart.

The people who swim out with the hau blocks, they swim close to each other according to the length of the hau block each possesses. As for the hīnano, it is tied securely at the tail.

All the way at the bottom, there was a stone that kept the net taut when moving forward; and when the fisherman saw that everything was set, they called out, “Move together;” and that is when the fisherman would watch closely, going back and forth to keep the lau from getting caught in the coral beds; the fishermen would call out, "Hey you, X, you folks raise your side", and it could be done . And if it was too high up, they called, “you folks give your part some slack,” and so too to the people swimming breast-stroke above the lona.

This is exactly like the commanders of troops, how they move their soldiers; and these people swimming breast-stroke, they would be behind the lau canoes, and the people with the hīnano would set it atop the lau, where the canoes are pulling the lau.

If those swimming got cold, the people left on the canoes would jump into the ocean, and that is what this net is named for, for the swimming of some people in the ocean; the maiewa or swaying, net.

If your hīnano cords are slacking, you wrap your line around the block that you are on; and shorten it up or lower it down. Everyone listened to the words of the fishermen.

No fish shall be left to the sea, for this is Huluipau, or fishing season—the akule has come to the shallows, along with all varieties of fish; they would all swim to the shallows.

When the fisherman saw that they were close to where they intended,  the proper place to lay the bag net, the po‘o lau would be made to encircle it, and some po‘o lau would be opened up and taken up onto the canoe, for it had come together in a narrower space.

This was the all-out effort by the people of old.  It is not like what people do today; that only when the fish come close on their own, then they go and surround them. Therefore, the fishing techniques of the people of old are not found today.

Who is knowledgeable and will teach those of today? As there are only a few people of old that know how, so too with farming; for in fields that were unproductive, the people of old had fertilizers for use on the new taro plantings to make them grow double or triple in size, if patiently managed; who will teach this?

Earlier, I have shown things pertaining to farming, and fertilizers that make things grow. That is done. We have arrived at the netting of fish. When the akule are netted, there is an abundance of fish of every kind trapped within the shallows. There is no fish that can turn back to the deeps, for they are afraid of the lau and the scary white hīnano.

Then the net was encircling within this lau and the hīnano. As is customary with the bag net, stone sinkers were set close to the bag and out to the side nets, not beyond the edges. And when the net has been brought together, if the bag has not been prepared ahead of time, it can be done on the canoe. Then open the kūka‘i ropes and insert the bag between the two side nets.

At the mouth of the bag net are attached sticks that prop open the opening of the bag, and so that the mouth will stay on the surface of the ocean and not sag, letting the fish escape above. When the fish are brought into the bag net and the fishermen see that it is enough to load on the canoe, bringing fish into the bag is stopped; once that catch was loaded onto the boat, more could be brought into the bag net.

When the fishermen saw that all the households had enough fish to salt, then the fish would be set free, lest they be harmed or just thrown away.

This activity of driving fish brings them in from the deep; the fish were mano, kini and lehu, that's the way of the people of old. It is through fishing that we have our counting system, that being: 4 single items are a kāuna; 10 kāuna are a ka‘au; ten ka‘au are a lau; 10 lau are a mano; ten mano are a kini; ten kini are a lehu. That is like (4,000,000) four million. If it were not for fishing, we would have no counting.

Therefore, the people of old thought nothing of the fish coming into the shallows. The deep and the shallows were the same thing to them, just as if the two were one kind of sea, a shallow sea. This could be done in the old days because there were many people, and they had nothing to fear of the ocean. Probably no one of this day will agree to swim in from the deep sea. Yet this can be done wherever there is a good number of people. So there, go out and get the fish in the deep.

(To Be Continued.)



(click image for original Hawaiian text)

Ka Nupepa Kuokoa, June 14, 1923
, Book: 62, Number: 24, Page: 5