Ua Akamai kekahi poe kanaka Hawaii ia ka lawaia, no ia mea, ua kapa ia lakou, he poe lawaia. O ka makau kekahi mea e lawaia ai. O ka upena kekahi, a o ka hinai kekahi.
Some of the people of Hawaii were very knowledgeable about fishing, and they were called fisher-people. The hook was one thing used in fishing. The net was another, and the basket trap, another. (WE Kealakaʻi, Ka Hae Hawaii, 1861; Maly)
“This is how fishing was done with a hook. The cordage was first twined by the fisherman. The kind of cordage was a three-ply twine, a cord of three strands of olona. The line might be 720 feet long, or perhaps 960 feet long. Then the hooks were made and the fisherman was supplied with these things…” (WE Kealakaʻi, Ka Hae Hawaii, 1861; Maly)
Makau (fishhooks) of Hawai‘i took on many different shapes, each one specialized to catching different types of fish with a variety of fishing techniques.
Simple hooks were made from one piece of material, while composite hooks were made of more than one piece joined by lashing. (Bishop Museum)
“Their fishing-hooks are made of mother-of-pearl, bone, or wood, pointed and barbed with small bones, or tortoise-shell. They are of various sizes and forms”.
“(B)ut the most common are about two or three inches long, and made in the shape of a small fish, which serves as a bait, having a bunch of feathers tied to the head or tail. Those with which they fish for sharks, are of a very large size, being generally six or eight inches long.
“Considering the materials of which these hooks are made, their strength and neatness are really astonishing; and in fact we found them upon trial much superior to our own.” (Captain Cook’s Journal)
The use of human bone for fishhooks seems to have greatly increased in the late prehistoric period, and was relatively uncommon earlier in Hawaiian prehistory.” (Kirch)
The man who was skilled in the art of making fish-hooks (ka-makau) was regarded as fore-handed. (Malo)
The raw material was cut with a coral saw, and holes were drilled in the bone or shell blank with a shell-pointed pump drill. It was then shaped with coral files and finished with sea urchin spine files. (Young)
In helping to shape them, the hard wood of the pua and the rough pāhoehoe lava rock were used as rasps. (Malo)
The Hawaiian fisherman considered his fishhooks to be one of his most prized possessions, and they were carefully cleaned and stored in containers after use. (Young)
The names of the different kinds of hooks used in the ancient times would make a long list. The hoonoho was an arrangement of hooks made by lashing two bone hooks to one shank (they were sometimes placed facing each other and then again back to back.) (Malo)
Hook and line fishing was generally practiced in deep water, kawakawa and aku (bonito) and ula (lobster) are the usual bait; for lack of these any kind of fish is used with varying results.
For deep sea fishing the hook and line are used without rods, and fishermen sometimes use lines over a hundred fathoms (600-feet) in length. (Maly)
Paeaea is fishing with rod, hook and line. The bait most liked is shrimp. Earth worms are sometimes used and any obtainable fry or fish.
The fisherman takes a handful of shrimps, baits his hooks, and then, bruising the remainder and wrapping it up in cocoanut fiber, ties it with a pebble on the line and close to the hooks; the bruised matter spreads through the water when the line is dropped, and serves to attract fishes to the vicinity of the hooks. This bruised matter is called palu. (Maly)
Fishhook construction changed over time. “Hawaiian fishhooks exhibited sufficient temporal variation to render them a useful tool for seriation and relative dating, just as ceramics were used in other parts of the world.” (Kirch)
Catching fish with hook and fishing line was just one of many methods that were practiced in Hawaii. Bare hands, spears, slip nooses, nets, and traps were also used.
The fish supply remained constant, because the catching of a certain kind of fish was always restricted to a certain time of the year. Outside of this time it was declared kapu (prohibited.) (National Museum Australia)
“The fish eaten during the summer months of Kau were different as to kind from those eaten during the winter, Hooilo. During Kau the opelu was taken and used for food, during Hooilo the aku – bonito or albicore.” (Malo)
Fishing was the domain of specialists in Hawaiʻi. They were called poʻe lawaiʻa (fishermen), and were generally descended from families of fishermen. Certain religious ceremonies were associated with fishing. (National Museum Australia)
The reefs, lagoons and offshore waters around the Hawaiian Islands vary from place to place; fishing strategies that were successful in one place may not work in another – certain kinds of fishhooks and other gear were needed for particular situations. (Kirch)
The persistent use of shell fishhooks after contact (1778) was driven by cultural, political and economic factors that initially constrained access to – and limited desire for – iron hooks. Hawaiians manufactured shell fishhooks as late as 1850. (Bayman)