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

You are here

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 pāku‘iku‘i net. Here is the third thing done in relation with the pāku‘iku‘i net. One would drag the tī leaves until the place where the net should lay, and this was hard work. The lau was good for catching all types of deep sea fish; as for the kole, it lives in the shallows and at the base of cliffs.

So the people of old made probing poles, and melomelo sticks; when some people were working the lau, others would be jabbing with the poles; after three or four efforts by the people jabbing with the poles, then the lau was pulled; and here is something that made the pole good. Should there be mounds of rocks, or crevices, or coral perhaps where the fish would stay, they won't remain in there, or stay in the crevices, being scared of the never ending tapping of the poles from all directions. So, this was the third way the Pākuʻikuʻi net was used.

Maomao Net.

This is the tenth of the fishing nets of the people of old; and this is the foremost net that the people of old would release into the deep sea; and it is through this net one could discern the skilled from the unskilled ones.

This is the kind of net where a man could get snagged, or he could be tangled up and lose his life. It is deep where these nets are let down; from 12 to 15 anana or deeper. The writer has dove for these nets with the people of old, and these are the nets which taught me to hold my breath for a long time; and I bested some of the old timers in diving.

In the year 1913, the 11th of June was a holiday for us here in Nāpo‘opo‘o, it was for King Kamehameha, and those who could hold their breath long dove for a $5.00 prize; I won. 1914, 11th of June, was a holiday in Kailua, I won again the $10.00 prize.

Don't be annoyed at my reports of this, for it is the ability to hold one's breath that allowed you to wield these nets.

The maomao nets were very similar to kole nets. There was no difference; the puhi sticks set under the papa net were done in the same way as the maomao nets. It was the melomelo stick which gathered the fish to one location.

When the fisherman saw that there was a lot of fish, he called out to the canoes holding the net, “Let down the net,” and then the net was lowered; and when that was done, the fisherman called out, “dive to the bottom together, and move forward without one going ahead of the others.” The fisherman remained above, with some who would dive to wrap the mouth of the net closed; and when the fisherman saw that those who had dived were close to the mouth, that was when he ordered the people who had remained aboard to dive; and when the others saw these folk, they rose to the surface.

The fisherman was watching the people surfacing, to see if any got tangled or snagged, and if the fisherman saw one was tangled, he dove quickly; and when the mouth of the net was closed up, it was pulled up. With one release, they loaded it onto the canoe; and if the fisherman questioned, “Shall we return?” Then his fellow fisherman would reply, “Let's release the nets one more time, and then return;” then they would go to where there was a lot of maomao.

When the fishing canoes reached the grounds, the fisherman made quick of his work; he threw the melomelo stick into the ocean; he would let it down in the fishing grounds, and when the fisherman saw that there was a lot of fish, then he'd call out, “Ready.” And then calls out again, “Arrange the canoes.” The fisherman said, “Set apart the net bearing canoes, and release the nets,” and they let it down and the net was set in the ocean.

The divers dove when the fisherman called out. He dragged the melomelo stick along with the fish close to the opening of the net, lest the divers run out of breath; and the fisherman called out, “Ready, dive together,” and they went down into the depths of the sea. This is the best fishing net to release into the deep ocean and for divers to do their work.

For close to 40 years, this type of fish has not been seen at all, for there are no more people around who can catch this kind of fish.

In these modern times, there are only unskilled people. This is one of the most delicious fishes, and because of this, the people of old kept going after this fish, without concern for life or death. There are [two] types of maomao, the maomao ‘ele and the maomao kea. The maomao kea is the more tasty of the two.

It is only through using the melomelo stick that one may acquire this type of fish. It is astonishing how this fish chases after this kind of stick. There is no fish, young or old, that does not approach this stick. The Ko‘olau lands, namely Kailua, had its Mākālei, and as for the Kona districts, we have our Melomelo. It is perhaps for this stick that this lyric was composed.

The melomelo stick hoists along at Wa‘ahila,

A blessing upon the sands of Kū.




(click image for original Hawaiian text)

Ka Nupepa Kuokoa, May 24, 1923
, Book: 62, Number: 21, Page: 3