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

You are here

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

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


The Pāku‘iku‘i Net

This is the ninth of the nets of the people of old. As for the nature of these nets, the cordage would be thick beneath, where it would touch coral and rock, this is the same kind of line as used for ‘ahi fishing but the cordage beneath was made thick so that there wasn't  much snagging when the nets were raised upon the canoes.

The net at the bottom was called a papa. The mesh of this net would be mākahi a hoene, or a fingers width plus a finger tip; so too would be the net above, covering the papa net. The cordage for the net above would be lighter like the cordage for throw nets of smaller mesh.

This is a bag net, three to four anana in length, the width of the mouth is one anana and an iwilei, to two anana. The height, an anana and iwilei.  On the sides of this bag net, are pili, these nets were called pili, these were close meshed nets attached there so that the small fish would not escape; this net would catch the sweet-eyed kole; I recall a few lines pertaining to this sweet-eyed kole:

The bracing waters of Hāli‘ilua,

Waters frequented by the visitor,

The sacred cliffs of Keōua,

The sweet-eyed kole.

On the outside of these pili the pā nets were joined; these are large meshed nets. These large meshed nets are no problem, because they are set some distance apart. At the top of the net were attached floaters, from the opening until the middle, these floaters were put there to attach the stone sinkers at the mouth of this net, and then the mouth was finished. Below the papa net, along its edge were stones, 16 or 18 of them; and to those stones the floaters were secured. At the mouth of the net and following it, there would be long sticks, and those sticks are called puhi.

There are two of these sticks; one just behind the mouth and one in the middle. The stick at the front is the longer one; the length of these sticks would stretch across the width of the papa net. They are fastened tightly by cord.

Upon these ropes would be attached the notched ends of ‘ūlei sticks. At the ends of these ‘ūlei sticks are stones. For two puhi sticks, there were four stones. Two stones to one puhi stick. The puhi sticks would be attached below the papa net on the ropes that were previously set there.

The people of old would make preparations in the evening, and load the nets aboard the canoes early in the morning.

The procedure for this net was to first go into the mountains where ‘ōhi‘a grow to cut a pole used to probe into the crevices of the rocks. There shouldn't be any fish left in its hole, they should all be driven out. The length of the pole should be from two to three anana. Short poles are good for the shallows, two anana in length, and in the deep areas three anana in length and longer, lest the stick not reach the bottom when you jab down to the floor. Afterall the sea is deep, and a short pole would be of no use.

After acquiring the poles, that is when you prepare to go fishing for kole; two canoes for the net. In the canoe to the right are the things necessary for the net; and only the pili and the pā would be on the canoe to the left.

The fisherman will call out to let down the net, and then drop down the pōhaku mole. This was a stone, it was secured to the end of the fish bag. And then the two puhi sticks were let out, which were earlier secured beneath the papa net. If the fisherman called out, “Hold back both sides,” he would say, “Don't let the net out,” and when he saw that the mouth was positioned where he wanted it, then he would call out, “Give both sides slack,” or, “Give one side slack.” And when the net was laid, then the fisherman would call out, “Thrust the poles,” and that is when all of the pole thrusters upon the canoes dove into the sea, and all of their poles would thrust, moving inland in unison.

When the poles were thrust, they were thrust together, people did not poke ahead, or leave others stayed behind. That would scatter the fish, and some of them would turn back. There would be some divers atop the net canoes, along with the fisherman; they would watch the proximity of the fish to the mouth of the net, then they would all dive in, while telling the people thrusting with the poles to continue thrusting until they reached the bottom, moving forward in unison toward the bag.

As was shown earlier, the stones were at the edge of the papa net and were in place to secure the floaters above.

There was one thing left to be done, the gathering of pā by the canoe to the right and the canoe to the left until they arrived at where the bag was; the mouth was pulled aboard until they got the puhi sticks, and then, they were arranged nicely, lest they get entangled when the net is let down.

They kept pulling until they reached the stone at the bottom of the fish bag. If a lot of fish were caught then two or three men could handle it; because the fish for which this net is used is the kole, however other fish also enter, like the mā‘i‘i, lā‘īpala, pānuhunuhu, halahala, maiko, and many others; and because the people thrust their poles into the crevices in unison, this net is called a pāku‘iku‘i, or splashing, net.

There are two important things that must be done with this kind of net. The fisherman possessed a stick called a melomelo stick. The net fisherman would not be without one. This stick was like the wood used for the runners of the ancients' hōlua sled. It was larger in the front and smaller at the back.

The area behind the tip was notched so that a cord could be attached to let it down into the water to entice the fish. When the fisherman let down the melomelo stick, to where it stops below, the fish, like the kole and all other kinds of fish, would gather around it.

When the fisherman saw that there were a lot of fish, that was when he called out, “arrange the canoes”; in other words, move the canoes apart and let down the net. When the net was let out, everyone jumped into the water to dive down.

(To Be Continued.)


(click image for original Hawaiian text)

Ka Nupepa Kuokoa, May 17, 1923
, Book: 62, Number: 20, Page: 7