Na Upena Lawai'a O Ka Wa Kahiko Me Ka Lakou Mau Hana / The Fishing Nets Of Old And Their Uses

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Na 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 kūpō net is the seventh of the nets of the people of old.  This one is long; if the net is so long as to have reached 100 fathoms, then it is enough for one person, and if there are two people, then the work will be quite fast.

In windy lands, three people are needed: one person to set the net, and two people to paddle the canoe.  Here in Kona, this hundred fathoms is enough for one person to lay, and then gather in the fish.  Here is how this type of net is used.

The people who are going to take this net out must first prepare the stones to tie to the kāwelewele lines of the ‘alihi cord along the bottom of the nets.  This type of net has to be prepared before the setting of the sun.  You must attach the rocks evenly from one ‘auku‘u line to the other ‘auku‘u.

When everything is prepared, the net is loaded onto the canoe.

Before the sun sets, the people doing the kūpō fishing must arrive at the place where the net is to be let down, in order to know the good spot for them to release the net.  It cannot be set if there are rocky mounds or coral heads, and if the net is set upon either of these, it will soon snag, and be shredded.

This net must be set in sandy areas only, so that it does not snag when you try to gather in the fish.  When the net is let out all the way, you must attach a sufficiently large floater so that it is seen by the people who come in the night to gather the fish that are snagged.  There are two floaters, one on each end of the net, and it is there that one end is attached to the kāwelewele cords.  When the net has been let out all the way, the people return to shore to sleep until the time of night desired to go pull up the net and check the fish.

If the kūpō fishermen sail out around ten o'clock at night, and the two of them pull up the net and there are a lot of fish, such as ‘ō‘io, kawele‘ā, ulua, and the other types of fish that are caught in the night, then they sail to the place where the net was first laid and that is where they first begin to lift.

You can just see the fish spread out before you.  If there is a roiling there when you look down into the net, then there are a lot of fish in that netting spot.  And in the areas where there are no fish, the net does not tremble.  When all the fish are gathered, then you return to shore to sleep.  But as for the people of old, they did not want to sleep that night because there was work to do.

They stand guard, and then between the hour of one and two in the morning, one tells the companion, “Let's get a move on.”  They sail out and look for the wooden floaters, the markers to find the net, and then they start to check the fish, and if fish have been snared, the net is raised up until all of those fish are gathered, and then the net is released again.

Only the fish are gathered, until all are out of the net; the net is not brought up onto the canoe.  The nighttime fish, they are not like the fish of the daytime; the daytime fish insist on struggling here and there, and if the mesh of the net is small, it will get twisted up and folded.  The nighttime fish just go close to the net.  They do not move; they just lie calmly.  The net is let down again, and this is the setting of the net for morning, for that is when you will go to pull it in.  And if you stay aboard the canoe, the anchor rock must be let down and you can sleep there.

When it is completely light, you sail out to see the fish that were caught this time, the entire net is pulled onto the canoe, and taken to shore to dry.  This is how the kūpō net is used.

You just look for the proper place, without rocks or coral heads.  Do not leave it until dark to sail out to lay the net. However, if it is a sandy area, then it is not really a problem.

Subscribe to the Nupepa Kuokoa to know about the fishing nets of the ancients.  We are going through the valuable nets used by the people of old.

(To be continued.)


(click image for original Hawaiian text)

Ka Nupepa Kuokoa, April 26, 1923
, Book: 62, Number: 17, Page: 7