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The Maori As He Was : A Brief Account of Maori Life as it was in Pre-European Days



Lack of animal food. The Maori an expert fisherman. Fish-nets. Huge seines used. Names of nets. Funnel-shaped nets. Manufacture of nets. New nets and tapu. Rites and superstitions connected with new nets, &c. Details of fishing-apparatus. Mauri of fish. Fish-hooks. Fresh-water fish. Eel-weirs. Eel-pots. Lamprey-weirs. Crayfish-pots. The koumu fish-trap. The taking of small fresh-water fish.

The Maori of New Zealand was but indifferently supplied by nature with animal food. He possessed the dog and the rat, both introduced from Polynesia. The former was certainly eaten, but such food was always in short supply, and can only be viewed as a luxury but occasionally enjoyed. The rat certainly furnished a more important food-supply, but yet was viewed as a choice dish—by no means an everyday article of diet. Thus it was that the Maori looked upon bird-snaring and fishing as highly important activities. Where folk of other lands became hunters of wild animals, the Maori became a bird-trapper. Fortunately he found the seas surrounding these isles teeming with fish, and so coast-dwelling tribes became expert fishermen. Inland tribes were less fortunate, but still these, in many places, found a considerable food-supply in the eels that are found in most of the rivers and lakes, which grow to a great size, and were sometimes taken in great quantities. They also took several species of smaller page 243 fish—the grayling, kokopu, whitebait, panoko, &c. Fresh-water crayfish formed quite an important food-supply in the Rotorua district. Shell-fish were much used by dwellers on the coast, and old shell middens are in evidence in many places. A fresh-water mussel was found in lake and stream, but was by no means an important food product in most parts.

Fishing-nets.—Early voyagers to New Zealand were much struck with the great size of some of the nets used by the Maori in sea fishing, and also of those that were set in tidal rivers. Dr. Thomson tells us that some of these nets were 1,000 yards long, and required five hundred people to draw them properly. The Rev. James Buller wrote: “They made nets which were even 1,000 yards in length.” Polack speaks of seines being “several thousand feet in length,” and states that such nets were owned by the community. Nicholas, the companion of Marsden in 1814–15, refers several times to the immense size of some of the nets, and remarks that they were much larger than any nets made use of in Europe. Captain Cook wrote of a net seen by him, “It was five fathoms deep, and by the room it took up could not be less than three or four hundred fathoms long.” Banks remarks that the natives laughed at the “King's seine” used by the ship's company. Captain Gilbert Mair described a huge net made in late times by the Ngati-Pikiao folk of the Bay of Plenty. This monstrous net was measured by Captain Turner and others, and found to be 95 chains (2,090 yards) in length. The hauling of that new net, and the catch of fish made, are said to have been sights for gods and men.

These huge seines or drag-nets were termed kaharoa. Other net names are as follows:—

  • Atata—a small circular net on framework; sunk in the sea.

  • Auparu—an oval-frame net for river use.

  • Kaka—a small drag-net.

  • Kape—a hand-net worked on a frame, for small fish.

  • Koko—a small hand-net.

  • Karapa—a landing-net, or scoop-net.

  • Kotutu—a hand-net.

  • Kupenga—generic term for nets.

  • Kupenga titoko—a small scoop-net.

  • Ngehingehi—a net for taking eels.

  • Ahuriri—a funnel net for river use; often of great size.

    page 244
  • Pahao—a hand-net.

  • Poha—a net used at eel-weirs.

  • Porohe—a small net.

  • Pouraka—(1) a net or trap for taking crayfish; (2) a trap for taking kokopu.

  • Pukoro—a net for taking eels.

  • Rangatahi—a drag-net about 10 fathoms in length.

  • Riritai—same as ahuriri.

  • Rohe—a hand-net; a leading-net.

  • Tarawa—a funnel-shaped net.

  • Tata—a small hand-net.

  • Tawiri (syn. purangi)—a funnel-shaped net.

  • Toemi; toere—a small hand-net.

  • Whakapuru—a shrimp-net.

“Our seine,” wrote Lieutenant Cruise (1820), “though of the same size with others served out to King's ships, was contemptible when compared with those of the New-Zealanders.” Crozet (1772) speaks of nets 500 ft. in length.

The funnel-shaped net called a tarawa was lowered into the sea by means of a rope. A specimen in the Dominion Museum has an opening of about 12 ft., and it is about 14 ft. in length. The entrance of this specimen is not circular, but has one side straight, which gives one the impression that it was meant to be dragged along the bottom. The matarau was a funnel-shaped net, a hoop-net of considerable size. The upper and larger part of this net is said to have been made of twine, or small cord, of dressed Phormium fibre, while the lower part was made of strips of the green leaf of that plant. The variety of Phormium termed wharanui is said to have been used for the latter purpose. A form described by Parkinson, as seen at Queen Charlotte Sound, was remarkable for having several hoops at the bottom and being contracted at the top. Cook states that the bait was secured in the middle of the net, and that the net was hauled up very gently, by which means a large number was often caught. The Ngati-Porou people called this form a tarawa. Its great hoop was formed of stems of climbing-plants. Across its mouth extended stout cords to which the lowering-rope was attached, as also the bait. Stone sinkers were attached to the hoop and to the bottom part of the funnel-shaped net. These nets were page 245 made of cords of dressed Phormium fibre, and reinforced with strips of the green leaf. A net made from the latter might be broken by the ururoa shark, but not so one made from fibre cordage. This bag net, being baited, was lowered into the sea, and when fish congregated round the bait the net was hauled up quickly by several men. By this means the fish were forced downwards to the bottom of the net by the resistance of the water. When the hoop appeared above water it was turned round several times, which act twisted the net and so brought the bottom of it nearer to the surface. A rope secured to the bottom was now brought to the surface by means of a hooked stick, the bottom part of the net was hauled up into the canoe, a certain part of the lower end was unfastened, and the fish emptied into the vessel.

Banks describes a small form of the above net seen at Queen Charlotte Sound. He does not state that it was funnel-shaped, but it may be assumed that it was. He remarks that it was circular, 7 ft. or 8 ft. in diameter, and 2 ft. or 3 ft. deep—apparently a shallow form. It was extended by two or three hoops, and open at the top for nearly, but not quite, its whole extent. On the bottom was fastened the bait, a small basket containing the entrails of fish and sea-ears. In this case the top or opening of the net seems to have been partially covered, presumably to prevent fish escaping.

The small round hoop-net termed a toemi has a portion of the netted fabric projecting above the hoop, and a cord is attached to it. When fish enter the net the operator pulls the cord and so closes the mouth of the net.

The net called ahuriri and riritai was a very large funnel-shaped net set at the mouth of a tidal river. Early settlers speak of specimens 70 ft. in length, with an opening of 25 ft. Colonel McDonnell speaks of a huge basket-like fabric attached to the small end. All such set-nets, as also eel-pots and bird-snares, are alluded to as te kawau moe roa (the long-slumbering cormorant)—a bird that, though remaining motionless for a long period, is yet keenly alive to its peculiar business. Net, pot, and snare “sleep” calmly, but do their duty effectively: hence an old-time expression. “ou mahi, e te kawau mae roa!” (“Thy doings, O thou long-slumbering cormorant!”).

page 246

As may be imagined, the manufacture of nets was an important industry among coast-dwelling folk, though some coast-lines were much more suitable for net-hauling than others. With regard to net-making, the task of making one of the huge kaharoa seines alluded to was not only a serious business, it was also a peculiarly tapu one. These great nets were made in sections; each family of a page 247 community, of several villages in some cases, would make a certain length of net, then all these parts would be assembled and fastened together. The knot employed in net-making is the same as our own. In some cases a mesh-gauge (papa kupenga, kaupapa) was used, but in many cases the net-maker formed the meshes over his fingers without using a wooden gauge. The mesh (mata, raumata) is known as a mata haere if a wide one, and mata kutikuti if a small one, though other terms are employed in some districts, such as mata tatahi and mata puputu. The word ta means “to net.”

Fig. 115.—Small hand-net

Fig. 115.—Small hand-net

Fig. 116.—Hoop-net, with handle, employed in Waiapu district

Fig. 116.—Hoop-net, with handle, employed in Waiapu district

In commencing netting operations, termed ta kupenga, a strong plaited cord, the ngakau, is doubled, and tied to a peg stuck in the ground, at a height convenient to the netters (kaita), who sit down to work. On this looped cord the first line of meshes is made, the ngakau running free through each mesh. As the work proceeds, the workman does not leave the formed meshes correctly spaced, but pushes them to the left along the ngakau. As each mesh is made, the operator (if he uses a mesh-gauge) passes the mesh-gauge through it, with its end projecting therefrom, then passes the loose strip with which he is forming the meshes over the gauge and hitches it to the mesh on the page 248 upper row; the size of the mesh is regulated by the width of the gauge. When the net, or section of a net, is finished, the ngakau is withdrawn. This ngakau cord is not stretched taut between two pegs. As the netter faces it the left-hand end only is secured to the peg; the rest trails free on the ground. When making a net of dressed-fibre twine, however, a cord is stretched taut and secured to a peg at each end to serve as a ngakau. The twine is wound into a ball, which is passed through the mesh and so manipulated as to form the hitch, which is afterwards drawn tight. In the first process described above the material used is composed of narrow strips of green Phormium leaf, succeeding strips being tied on when necessary.

When a new net was about to be made the expert would proceed to the place where the flax was to be provided, and there he would pull two of the young central leaves of a flax-plant until they broke off at the base. As he pulled out each leaf he repeated the words “Tangaroa whitia, Hui—e! Taiki—e!” The first blade so pulled represented the men of the community, and the second represented the women. If a screeching sound was heard as the leaves were torn out the omen was a good one—the net would be an efficient food-provider. If no such sound was heard, then the net would not be a lucky one. Should the butts of the plucked leaves be jagged it was said that the spirits of the fish yet to be caught in the net had nibbled them.

In some districts the first day's work in cutting and preparing material was done by the men, and the second day's work by the women. When the net was finished, two ropes were made for it; but these were not used: they were taken to the ahu, a tapu place whereat ceremonies were performed, by the tohunga, who deposited them there. Two more were then made and attached to the net. In some cases the extremely tough stringy bark of the houhere tree (Hoheria populnea) was used for the manufacture of these ropes, and also the strong, durable leaves of Cordyline australis, and of C. Banksii.

When watching Tauria Papanui, of Whanganui, as he was making a net without the use of a gauge, I noticed that he formed the mesh over one or more fingers, according to the size required. When making a small netted receptacle for fish to be placed in a fishing-canoe, he inserted one finger of his left hand in the last mesh formed, pressing it downward in order to render it taut. He then formed page 249 the next mesh over the next finger; and, as the mesh was much bigger than that finger, regularity was really preserved by the eye.

Early writers have described the rigid tapu that obtained at any place where a net was being made or a new net was being used for the first time. No person other than the makers or manipulators were allowed to approach the place. Travellers were compelled to turn back or make a detour to avoid the spot. Any canoe appearing on the adjacent waters was seized, and, in some cases, trespassers were slain. The gods cannot be flouted with impunity, and their assistance was highly necessary in these undertakings; their tapu lay heavy on the proceedings.

A considerable amount of ceremony pertained to the first hauling of a new net. Such observances differed in different districts, as will be noted in the following illustrations.

One of the first lot of fish taken in a new net was taken by the priestly expert to the tapu place of the village and there deposited. As he deposited the fish he repeated a charm to ensure good draughts of fish in the new net in the future.

When the first hauling of a new net was made, a ceremonial feast was held. Two sacred fires, termed ahi parapara, were kindled, at one of which were cooked fish for the more important tapu men, and at the other for the influential women. Food for the bulk of the people was cooked elsewhere. A ceremonial lifting or abolishing of the tapu was performed, and the food of the ahi parapara partaken of, after which the rest of the people might eat.

It needed two large canoes to take out a large seine for hauling; in many cases a taurua, or double canoe, was employed for the purpose; such vessels would be from 50 ft. to 70 ft. in length. The new net was inspected by the tohunga, who proceeded to cut off the loose, protruding ends of all splices where knots had been made in adding lengths of material, which loose ends the net-makers were not allowed to cut off.

These severed ends he conveyed to the ahu, or tapu place, and there deposited them, saying as he did so—

He ata whiwhia, he ata rawea, he ata kai taongo
Ka whiwhi ringa o aitu, ka rawe ringa o tangata.

This charm brought good luck to the fishermen.

page 250

In conveying the new net to the canoe it was not folded up, but, as it lay full length on the ground, the bearers took their places on the western side of the net, about two fathoms apart. When all were ready, the controller, or tohunga, called out “Hapainga!” (“Lift it!”), whereupon each man grasped the net, with the left hand first, and placed it on his left shoulder. The tohunga, who had been standing on the east side of the net, now preceded the line of men as they carried the net to the canoe. On reaching it, two men, one on each side of the vessel, proceeded to stow the net, the upper part of which was laid on the right-hand side of the vessel and the bottom on the left side. As each man was relieved of his part of the burden he turned to the right and preceeded to the east side of the vessel; any other procedure was deemed unlucky.

The next act was to push the canoe off until she floated freely, at a right angle to the shore. The tohunga then stepped aboard at the stern, putting his left foot in first. The vessel was then swung round until she lay parallel with the shore, right side on to the beach, whereupon the crew got in, each man stepping on board with his left foot first. They then proceeded to the fishing-ground, where the net was payed out, the officiating tohunga, or expert, repeating a charm as the work proceeded. When the net was drawn, the expert seized one of the fish in the net with his left hand, and, holding it with its head under water, he said “Haere mai, haere ki tai nui no Whiro ki te whakataka mai i to tini, i to mano.” He then liberated the fish outside the net. The words repeated called upon the fish to go out to the great ocean, assemble its kind, and conduct them hither.

When the catch of fish was taken from the net the expert selected two fish and carried them to the tuahu, or sacred place of rites, and there suspended them on two rods on the eastern side of the spot. As he thrust the rods into the earth and attached the fish he recited a certain formula. No fish of the catch might be cooked until these proceedings were over. A ceremonial feast followed, at which the food for important persons and participators in any ceremony was cooked in separate ovens.

In some districts, when the tohunga took the first fish from the net he plucked a hair from his head and placed it in the mouth of the fish. He then faced to the east, held page 251 the fish out at arm's length, waved it to and fro, and repeated his charm ere releasing it. In some cases the principal owner of a net would, on its being drawn for the first time, stand before his youngest son, and, waving his hands to and fro, he would say, “You are the tauira of my net.” He then did the same thing before the youngest daughter. If childless, he performed this curious act before a nephew and niece. Failing these, he fashioned two rude wooden images and went through the ceremony before them. The act of using a net for the first time was called whakainu. In some places all fish taken in the first hauling of a new net were liberated with the exception of the few required for ceremonial purposes. A rigid form of tapu prevailed over the beach where a new net was being hauled, as also over the adjacent part of the sea. Trespassers at such a time were somewhat severely dealt with.

The following form of haka, a song of rejoicing termed umere, was sung by women when fishermen returned with a good haul of fish:—

He koa kai! He koa kai!
He papa teretere! He papa teretere!
Ei … e … e … i.

Net-floats were made from the extremely light wood of the houama (syn. whau—Entelea arborescens); sometimes dry leaves of raupo (a bulrush—Typha augustifolia) were so used, also gourds. Floats were termed poito, pouto, and korewa. Sinkers (karihi) were simply smooth, water-worn stones, often of elongated from; they were often enclosed in a network sheath running along the bottom of the net, the kahararo, or lower rope. The following names pertain to the kaharoa, or seine:—

  • Kahararo—lower rope of seine (syn. paeraro).

  • Kaharunga—upper rope of seine (syn. paerunga).

  • Kahatu—upper edge of seine.

  • Kauangaroa—outer sections of seine.

  • Ngake or takapu—middle sections of seine.

  • Matakeke—sections on either side of ngake.

  • Pourakau—pole used as a spreader at ends.

  • Uru—part of net first placed in water.

Nets were apparently often smoke-dried in order render the material more durable. Watchmen stationed on a hill or cliff-head often served a useful purpose in signalling to net fishers the approach of a shoal of fish. page 252 Nets were dried on long racks, and, when not in use, folded up and stowed on stages roofed over for protection.

Line fishing was much practised by the Maori, and some stretches of coast-line were quite unsuited for net-hauling. When a man used a new fishing-line (aho, nape) for the first time in fishing (hi = to fish; usually as hi ika, the latter word meaning “fish”) he went through a strange performance. Amid the silence of his brother craftsmen he tied a sinker (mahe) on his new line, and then the hooks, beginning with the lower one. He then baited the hooks, not forgetting to expectorate on each bait as he tied it. He then coiled up the line and passed it under his left thigh, after which the line was passed over the left side of the canoe in its first wetting. When the line was out he lifted it a little if the sinker had touched the bottom, held it in his left hand, and with his right hand, dipped up a little water and threw it against the line. When he caught his first fish he deposited it in the stern of the canoe, after which his companions were allowed to commence fishing. When the party returned to land, the owner of the new line took his first-caught fish and the fern or bulrush leaves he had used as a seat, and returned home. There he generated a fire by friction and burned the fern, and at that fire he roasted a portion of the gills of the fish taken from the right side. He then took the gills in his left hand, lifted it up and waved it to and fro, at the same time calling to his dead male relatives that here was food for them: it was an offering to the spirits of those defunct relatives. He did the same with the portion of gills from the left side of the fish: this was an offering to the spirits of his deceased female relatives. The fish he deposited at the tuahu.

All line fishermen were acquainted with at least one charm for recital when fishing. When fishing from the shore, a curious custom obtained with regard to procedure when a fish was caught. Instead of hauling the line in as we do, the fisherman remaining stationary, the Maori turned and walked up the beach, towing the fish after him. Quite possibly this was a mere local custom. What that fisherman would do if cramped for room, as when fishing from a rock, or at the base of a cliff, has not been explained. When going out to sea on a fishing trip no food was allowed to be taken, and when hauling a fish in care was taken to prevent it touching the gunwale of the canoe. The fish page 253 must be deposited lengthwise in the vessel. If laid crosswise and any person stepped over it, then some misfortune would assail him.

Cook remarked of Maori fishing-gear, “Their cordage of fishing-lines is equal, in strength and evenness, to that made by us, and their nets not at all inferior.” He marvelled as to how fish could be caught with the odd native hooks, but admits that the Maori was a much more successful fisherman than the seamen. Of the natives of Queen Charlotte Sound he remarked, “We were by no means such expert fishers as they are; nor were any of our methods of fishing equal to theirs.” Among the Atiawa Tribe the first fish caught was liberated, but with a piece of Phormium leaf threaded through its nose. It was styled the ika whakataki, and its mission was to attract other fish to the place. There would assuredly be some form of charm connected with the above act.

Each clan had its own fishing-grounds, and any trespass thereon led to trouble. They were assigned special names, and when folk went out afishing they located the taunga ika, or fishing-ground, by lining objects on land, hill-peaks, promontories, trees, &c. Two of such lines were utilized, the intersection of which marked the location of the ground. People living inland, if they possessed fishing rights, would periodically move out to the coast and devote some time to fishing and drying the product for future use. Natives had great faith in the fish mauri, a talisman that was believed to attract fish to its vicinity, such objects being a kind of symbol or shrine in which certain spirit-gods were located by means of charms and ceremonial performances.

A cord on which fish were strung is termed kaui and takiaho. The bodkin-like implement of wood or bone attached to it to facilitate the threading of fish is an autui, auika, and auwai. In fishing-canoes a netted receptacle supported by four vertical rods was often employed, each man having one in which to deposit his catch. These fish-baskets were fixtures in the canoe. Fish-baskets carried on the person were called puwai and tauremu. Fishing-rods, termed matira, manana, &c., were not used to any great extent, save in bobbing for eels and small fresh-water species. A curious form was the tautara, a rod attached to a canoe, to which a fisherman would attach an extra line; the tugging of a hooked fish caused certain suspended shells to rattle, and so the fisherman was warned of his catch. Bligh and Ellis describe a somewhat similar apparatus used by the natives of Tahiti. In some cases a man held one page 254 page 255 fishing-line in his hand, while he placed another under his foot; this latter line was known as an aho tararo. The word mangoingoi describes fishing at night from the shore.

Fig. 117.—Kaui cord and bodkin (auika) for stringing fish

Fig. 117.—Kaui cord and bodkin (auika) for stringing fish

Fish-hooks were of many different sizes and shapes. Some were formed in one piece, of bone or wood; some were formed of a shank of bone, wood, stone, or shell, to which a bone barb was attached. Rarely a greenstone (nephrite) shank or barb was used. Bones of many kinds were used in the manufacture of hooks, including those of the moa and of human beings. Fish-hooks are called matau, and matika, matikara, noni, &c. Those formed from a piece of paua (Haliotis) shell, usually with a wooden back, page 256 page 257 were known as pa; they were used without bait, as in trolling for kahawai (Arripis salar). The hook employed in taking barracouta is called okooko and pohau. The barb of a hook is the niwha, or kaniwha. The pekapeka is a spreader for hooks. Bait is termed mounu; ground-bait is taruru; a pu toke is a small bait-pot used in connection with eel-pots, &c. The string used to tie bait on is pakaikai and takerekere; that employed in securing a hook is taka and taukaea. The whakamira of a fishing-line is its lower end near the hook, where it is seized with fine twine. The upper part of a hook-shank is its koreke; its lower end, the curved part, is the kotore. The shank of a shell-lined hook to which a point is lashed is called the kauawhi. Fishing-lines of excellent quality were made from dressed Phormium fibre. Mr. R. H. Matthews tells us that a gum that exudes from a small tree called pukapuka was smeared over the seizing of shark-lines; this gum is termed kouaha in the north. A large, much-curved shark-hook in the Buller collection measures 20½ in. in length round the circumference. page 258 Feathers were attached to the baitless hooks used in trolling, those of the kiwi (Apteryx) being preferred for kahawai hooks. Those of the king-fisher were also used. A tough-natured marine plant termed totara moana was formerly used for making fish-hooks. Branches of the tauhinu (Pomaderris) were also used for the purpose.

Fig. 118.—Pohau manga, barracouta hook

Fig. 118.—Pohau manga, barracouta hook

Fig. 119.—Fish-hook with wooden shank

Fig. 119.—Fish-hook with wooden shank

Fig. 120.—Pa kahawai: shell-lined hooks used without bait in trolling for kahawai

Fig. 120.—Pa kahawai: shell-lined hooks used without bait in trolling for kahawai

Fig. 121.—Large wooden fish-hook

Fig. 121.—Large wooden fish-hook

Our Maori folk used the spear in taking fish to but a limited extent as compared with his brethren of Polynesia. It was mostly used in taking such fish as flounders, the spear being furnished with a barbed bone point after the style of a bird-spear. The matarau, a many-tined, short-hafted spear, was employed in taking eels. The tara waharua was a two-pointed fish-spear. Torches were used when spearing fish at night.

In the taking of fresh-water fish the Maori was assuredly an expert, and of such fish the eel furnished by far the most important food-supply. They were taken in eel-pots set at a weir or, in some cases, in lake and river, without any form of guide, but bait would be placed inside the pot, sometimes enclosed in a bait-pot. Earthworms were usually sought as bait, but spiders are said to be even better for the purpose. Eels were also taken with a bob, net, and spear; also they were often taken by hand.

Eel-weirs, termed pa tuna, pa tauremu, pa rauwiri, &c., were constructed across rivers—in zigzag form, as a rule; in a smaller stream but two wing fences were erected, converging towards each other down-stream. In the broad and rapid Whanganui River the pa auroa style was employed. In this the weir consisted of one or more detached fences, erected not across the river, but at a slight angle to the current. The eel-pots were set at the lower end of the fence or weir. In the V-shaped weirs they are, of course, set in the narrow space left where the two fences converge. These eel-pots (hinaki) are set with the entrance up-stream, as eels are caught when coming down-stream to the sea at these weirs. The weirs are formed by driving a line of stakes into the bed of the stream with a heavy wooden maul (ta), and pliant brush, such as manuka, interwoven with these stakes formed a wattled fence that caused the descending fish to turn and follow the fence, whereby they entered the net attached to the mouth of the eel-pot. Passing down the funnel-shaped net, they entered the funnel-shaped entrance of the pot, from the interior of which no eel might return. The wing fences of a weir are called paihau and page 259 page 260 pakipaki; the narrow exit between the converging fences is the tuki; while the whakareinga, or whakatakapau, is the layer of brush or bracken pegged down on the bed of the stream between the wing fences to prevent scouring. The act of taking eels in a net at a weir without the use of an eel-pot is described by the term whakaheke. When a number of eels are taken many are often kept alive by placing them in a corf—wicker-work vessels called korotete, hinaki whakatiko and punga whakatikotiko.

Fig. 122.—Hooks used in taking the albatross

Fig. 122.—Hooks used in taking the albatross

Fig. 123.—Spreaders and sinker

Fig. 123.—Spreaders and sinker

Eel-pots are termed hinaki, pohea, panga, punga, and pongenge. The recurved entrance to the pot is called the akura, tohe, toine, puarero, pamarangai, and parakai, as in different districts; kuao seems to be a Whanganui form. In some cases a small net, termed the rohe, or naha, is fixed to the page 261 page 262 inner end of the funnel entrance in order to prevent the eels escaping. The same object is sometimes attained by allowing the slight rods of the fabric to project at the inner end. A small trap at the other end, or at the side, of a pot is used in taking out the catch; the loop handles are taupopoia; the small end of the pot is the tou.

Fig. 124.—Eel-weir (pa tuna), Whanganui River

Fig. 124.—Eel-weir (pa tuna), Whanganui River

Fig. 125.—A korotete, or corf, above; an eel-pot (hinaki) below

Fig. 125.—A korotete, or corf, above; an eel-pot (hinaki) below

Elvers are taken by placing bundles of fern in the river, in which they assemble in large numbers. These primitive traps are known as taruke and koere. As may be imagined, great numbers of eels pass down-stream, no matter how carefully weirs are constructed, especially where the pa auroa form is used. Freshets often interfere with such operations. I have seen a man working at a weir on a dry shingle-bed, over which the next day 7 ft. of flood-waters were rolling. The old saying, “Ko Tangaroa ara rau,” is an allusion to the wily and slippery eel and his “many ways” of escape. The papanoko, a small fish, is often taken in eel-pots, as also a few other species.

In many districts eel-pots are made by lacing together small longitudinal rods or wands of manuka with the tough, pliable stems of climbing-plants. Those of the mangemange (Lygodium) were the most highly prized, so pliable, resilient, and durable are they. Other materials were also used, and, for temporary purposes, eel-pots were sometimes made from green Phormium leaves. The guiding-net of a weir that conducts the guileful eel into the eel-pot is termed a purangi, poha, or rohe. Eels were taken in many thousands at such weirs; and these fish are not a small species—a 10 lb. eel is by no means a very large one. The bob used in fishing for eels was generally made by tying a number of earthworms together with the fibres of the Phormium leaf; it was called tui toke, tari, and herehere tuna.

A form of weir used in taking lampreys (piharau) in the Whanganui River is called utu piharau. These are short, straight fences running out from the river-bank into the water at right angles. The lamprey is taken as it ascends the river, when it keeps near the bank; but the eel is taken as it descends the river in the autumn, when it appears to keep out in the middle of the river. The lamprey-weir is built much as the large weir is to actual construction, save that the spaces for the passage of the water are merely rectangular openings in the wattlework fence. These openings are called ngutu. A lamprey-weir page 263 examined at Hiruharama, on the Whanganui River, was 35 ft. in length, and had five ngutu. The fence was 5 ft. in height, the stakes lashed to two stout rails. It was braced by means of two rows of noko—strong poles placed in a slanting position on the down-stream side, and lashed to the two rails. The layer of manuka brush pegged down to the river-bed to prevent scouring was here styled the whariki, and the poles laid across it on top are the karapi. These were secured by means of crossed stakes driven well down, and lashed together with split cane (pirita, karewao). To these pegs, also, on the up-river side were lashed the lower ends of the kumekume, or holding-braces, the upper ends of which were lashed to the fence at about 3 ft. from the ground. The whariki extended 25 ft. up-stream from the fence, and 6 ft. or 7 ft. on its down-stream side. The two rails (huahua) of the weir were stout manuka saplings fully 4 in. in thickness. The manuka brush wattled in between the stakes is called the pawai; the outermost post of the fence is the kaiau.

Fig. 126.—Erecting a lamprey-weir, Whanganui River

Fig. 126.—Erecting a lamprey-weir, Whanganui River

A small form of hinaki is used at a lamprey-weir. Those seen were about 30 in. in length. The whiti, or hoops, that formed the frames thereof were of aka tea—stems page 264 of a climbing-plant (Metrosideros scandens). In some the longitudinal wands were manuka and the binding-material the aerial roots termed aka kiekie (Freycinetia Banksii); in others all parts except the hoops were of the latter material. These small rootlets were first denuded of bark by being drawn through the cleft of a split supplejack cane; then split down the middle with remarkable exactitude. A few pots were seen in which the hoops and longitudinals were of aka tororaro. The making of a hinaki is commenced at the inner or small end of the entrance funnel.

Although lampreys are taken when proceeding upstream, yet the pots set at the utu, or weir, are set with the entrance up-stream. Two stout stakes are driven in just below each ngutu, or entrance of the weir, through which the water rushes; these stakes are set a little distance below the fence, so as to leave space for the fish to pass between them and the fence. To these stakes is secured a funnel-shaped net called a poha, and the lower and smaller end of this is inserted in the mouth of the hinaki, or pot. Now, the lampreys, coming up-stream, pass between the two stakes and the fence in order to get through the ngutu and so continue their passage up-stream. As they encounter the strong rush of water through the ngutu they are swept back down-stream into the poha net, and so into the hinaki. Their career as free fish is then over, and doubtless they recognize the truth of the old aphorism, Ko te Po to hokia a Taiao (The realm of death, from which none return to the world of life).

On inquiring as to the takings of lampreys at the weir at Hiruharama in after-days I was informed that they were very poor owing to the fact that no mouri (syn. mauri) was located thereat. This talisman has already been explained. The mauri of a weir is sometimes termed the iho, and it was often concealed near a waterfall or cascade lest it should hear the charms of any ill-disposed person who, by magic arts, sought to destroy its powers.

The term whakaparu piharau was applied to a form of weir constructed of stones and lined with fern or other material for the purpose of taking lampreys. They were also taken by means of a crude form of trap called a whakapua, or taruke, which was nothing more than a bundle of bracken-fronds.

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Lobster-pots for taking crayfish are known as taruke and tukutuku. The pouraka was a form of hoop-net used for same purpose, while a bundle of fern used as a crayfish-trap is called a tau, and also whakaweku, occasionally taruke. The tauhuroa was a piece of wood with side arms (pekapeka) to which bundles of fern were attached. It was employed in the Rotorua district for taking the small fresh-water crayfish, as the single bunches of fern also were. These small koura are excellent eating. Bait for crayfish is termed kaweru.The paepae was a form of dredge for taking them. A dredge used for taking fresh-water mussels (kakahi) is known as a manga, mangakino, heki, and heki-kapu. The terms karau, marau, and hao were also applied to dredges used in taking shell-fish. The kawhiu was a form of basket for containing shell-fish.

Fig. 127.—A taruke koura, or lobster-pot

Fig. 127.—A taruke koura, or lobster-pot

The upokororo, or gralying, was taken by means of a hoop-net. The mouth of this net was of oval form, the hoop being formed of a forest vine; a cross-piece was lashed on as a brace. It was set with its mouth up-stream in a free space between two converging walls of stone. The fishers entered the stream some distance above the weir and drove the fish down-stream, beating the water, as they advanced, with green branchlets or bundles of fern-fronds, which implement was known as a raupoto. This method page 266 of taking this fish is termed tuki upokororo. In some cases an umu, or koumu, was made. This was a channel or ditch excavated in a sand-bank or low-lying land at the stream-side. One native says that it was made on the lower side of a sand-bank, or gravel-bank, or low point extending out into a stream. Persons advancing up-stream drove the fish before them; others, stationed just above the umu, prevented the fish going up-stream and herded them into the umu, the entrance to which was then blocked and the fish taken. This was from a Bay of Plenty native. Manihera Waititi, of Raukokore, gives another description in which the umu seems to have been made in a slanting manner, inclining down-stream. A wall of stones, termed a pakau, probably also diagonal, caused the water to rise somewhat and flood the umu. Meanwhile persons up-stream, by holding nets across the river, prevented fish breaking away; they now came down-stream, beating the water with raupoto, and so driving the fish into the umu, the mouth of which was blocked with loose stones. The pakau was then opened and the released waters flowed freely again, thus causing the water in the umu to flow out, when the stranded fish were secured.

Fig. 128.—A form of dredge-rake (with net attached) for taking fresh-water mussels

Fig. 128.—A form of dredge-rake (with net attached) for taking fresh-water mussels

The inanga, or whitebait, was taken in nets, both hooped scoop-nets and another form held by two persons, and into which the fish were driven. There were certain ceremonial performances pertaining to the taking of the first inanga of the season. The kokopu, a small fresh-water fish, was taken in two forms of hand-nets called kupenga titoko and kape.

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Fig. 129.—Eel-spears, matarau

Fig. 129.—Eel-spears, matarau

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Fig. 130.—Gourd vessel to contain potted birds, &c., mounted on carved supports

Fig. 130.—Gourd vessel to contain potted birds, &c., mounted on carved supports