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.)



This is the 12th of the nets of the people of old, and fish were caught in a different manner using this net.

This kahe net is the net used to catch kole and maomao. The method to attach the stone sinkers to this net is the same; it is done earlier, in the evening. All the kinks are worked out, and then it is placed on the canoes because with this net, one travels at night time to reach the fishing grounds. One would not sleep during the night when using this net; if one had to travel a far distance, one would go and let down this type of net in the night between the hours of one and two, and the fisherman was familiar with where to lay the net.

When the net was laid, then the canoes waited until the fisherman could see clearly below, then he would call to the divers, “Get ready to dive below.” The reason that these nets were put out at night was because the fish travel inland, and when it was close to light, the fish would return to the deep, and when they returned to the deep the fish would be blocked off by the net, and the fish would hang about by the mouth of the net.

To look at the fish in the dark, without any light, one needed kukui. Insert a kukui nut into your mouth, or pieces of kukui; when spit onto the water and swept with the paddle, the floor of the deep sea would be clearly visible.

The knowledge of the people of old is astounding! Were you to look with the naked eye in the dark night, there would be nothing that your eyes could see. But with a chewed mass of kukui nut, it would be just as bright as a candle burning in the night.

This net is released into the deep, dark sea of Kāne. These two, the kahe net and the male net, are the nets for the deep, below where the maomao net is used. When the fisherman spat out the chewed kukui nut and saw the fish, he called out, “Take off your clothes;” this would be a very dark time, when you'd not be able to see very well. And then the fisherman called out so that the canoes followed after the divers. When the fisherman saw that the canoes were floating together, that was when he would call out to the divers, “Dive together until reaching the bottom, and then look at each other. No one should be ahead of anyone else.”

Fishing maneuvers in the ocean would be just like those of the soldiers on land, moving in unison. It is only through skilled movements that one could obtain the fish. If some were ahead and others behind, they would not get any fish. On top would be the fisherman, where he could see where the fish were staying; he would not move forward quickly, and he would order some men who were on the canoes to dive at once to the right section of the net, or perhaps to the left section. And the divers went down to where the fisherman directed them, and then they most certainly made their catch.Then the mouth of the net is rolled closed with the stones that are attached to the ‘īkoi at the top of the main net.

When the mouth of the net is secured, the work was over; everyone returned aboard the canoe. This type of net would only be let down once. When the bag was pulled back up, there would be a tremendous amount of fish in the bag. It would be set just once and pulled back into the canoe; then they would head back, and before the sun rose they'd already be at home.

This is the best net to use when diving in the early morning, when it is cold. It doesn‘t take much effort; this net is not hard to use. You go out to sea, wait until the right moment to lay the net; and when it is light enough to see, we‘ll see the fish going back out to sea near the bag that lay out there.

When the fish move near where the mouth of the bag net lay, because all the routes the fish could take to return were screened off by the nets, and when the fish return from the shallows, they return all at once, all in line.

There would be no fish that would go outside of these grounds that are encircled. The fish would travel straight along the route called a kahe, a flow; it is because of this that the net got its name—Kahe Net.

Kahe are not many and numerous; they are very uncommon. Were there to be two or three in a broad stretch of sea, that would be it; and if people decide to lay their net somewhere that there is no kahe, they would not get any fish and would just go home.

So too, with the maomao net. The fishing grounds for maomao are not many, three or four, that‘s all in a broad span of sea; therefore, the people of old worked to know them, and as for the people of today, they have no abilities, and this type of fishing is totally lost.

(To Be Continued.)



(click image for original Hawaiian text)

Ka Nupepa Kuokoa, June 21, 1923
, Book: 62, Number: 25, Page: 3