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Samoan Material Culture

Baited Hooks

Baited Hooks

Hook with wooden shank and fish bone point. A hook (matau) for catching the mumu fish is described in Samoan by Kramer (18, vol. 2, p. 194) from which the following is extracted:

A fish bone was lashed to a coconut leaflet midrib (tuaniu). The bait used was the unga crab and the fole shell fish. The fishing took place from a canoe outside the reef (tua'au) and opposite the channels in it (tuaava). The crab was chewed (mama) and dropped overboard as ground bait. When the fish were attracted they took the hook.

A hook for catching malauli is localized to the village of Satupaitea in Savaii but no sample was obtained. I had travelled past that village when the hook was mentioned. A fish bone was tied to a straight piece of stick at an angle and used on the end of a sennit braid line attached to a bamboo rod. It was used to catch malauli. The manufacture was the sole right of one family of which Nuu is the present matai or head. Anyone desiring to use such a hook had to give Nuu a present and obtain his permission.

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Though there are two definite accounts of this type of hook from different parts, the backward state of hook manufacture is illustrated by such a primitive type being patented and requiring a royalty to permit its use. Beasley (1, P. 24) quotes Bougainville as saying that the Samoans had "bad fish hooks, made of the bones of fish." Beasley thinking of the well made trolling hooks disagrees with the statement, but as Bougainville specifically mentions the bones of fish, he was evidently referring to the mumu or malauli type of hook, or to the fish bone gorges described by Williams.

Hook, with shank and point of wood. The eel hook (matau tuna) (Plate XLVII, A) is made from two pieces of the hard parts (mata paongo) of the tree fern (olioli) lashed together with fau bast. (See figure 281.)

Figure 281.—Eel hook (matau tuna):

Figure 281.—Eel hook (matau tuna):

a, A piece of hard wood about 2 inches long is rounded to a diameter of 0.15 inch to serve as the shank (1) and a shorter piece (2), 1 inch long, is similarly rounded and brought to a point at one end. The other end of the short piece and one end of the shank are then cut on a slant, each at an obtuse angle so that when fitted together, they form the acute angle desired (3). b, The two pieces are fitted together and bound with a thin strip of fau bast (4) that has been rolled into a single ply thread on the thigh. The commencing end of the thread is slanted up-ward on the shank and the turns commencing near the point of the junction are worked upwards towards the open angle. c, A few figure of eight turns (5) are then made around each element alternately. d, A longitudinal turn (6) is then taken from the open angle around the lower point, where the thread passes between the two wooden elements. This is the characteristic circumferential turn invariably used to prevent a lashing from slipping. A few turns are then taken around the shank and finished off with a half hitch. e, A strip of fau bast (7) wider than the shank is doubled around the lower end of the hook and brought upwards on each side of the shank; f, the lower end is again bound as before but over the added strip and the figure of eight turns around each wooden element and the longitudinal turn (6) over the lower point of junction are also made. The binding (8) is then continued up the shank alone so that the bast strip on either side come together and completely conceal the shank. At the upper end of the shank, the wrapping ceases and a half hitch is made through which the thread end passes twice to form the fixation knot. The two ends of the bast strip which is long are split up into narrower pieces, and divided into three equal lots, with one of which the end of the binding thread is incorporated. The three plies are plaited into a braid (9) for about 2 feet and finished with an overhand knot.

The bait consists of the large grub (afato) which are about 3 inches long and as thick as the finger. The head part is squeezed to push out the beak which is pinched off. The hook is pushed down into the grub through the opening made and the grub worked up until the hook is entirely covered. The page 492upper end of the grub is tied to the hook line by a couple of turns of sennit fibre.

The fisherman's equipment consisted of a small basket containing a dozen hooks, the grubs tied up in a piece of banana leaf and some coconut husk fibre. When we neared the edge of the lagoon, the hooks were all baited. To the end of the plaited bast carrying the hooks, ordinary strips of bast about 3 feet long had been tied.

The fishing ground was a marshy spot amongst tree roots and dead branches where the stream near Malaeloa, Tutuila, had flowed in over the flat ground to form a lagoon. The bottom was soft and muddy. In places one sank in up to the armpits in water. The fisherman and I waded through and when he saw a deep looking hole, he broke off a small branch of the felana or lelepa trees which grew thickly through the lagoon. The small branch with half a dozen leaves was tied to the end of the bast attached to the hook line. The baited hook was thrown into the water with the branch acting as a float (fa'autouto) to help in locating the hook next morning. As it may be towed a little way, it gives to the struggles of the fish, whereas, if tied to a tree the hook might break. The hooks were set in different places, the fisherman making a mental note of his line. As the last hook was set, he marked a tree with his bush knife to indicate the end of his line. The hooks were set in the evening and left overnight. In the early morning we picked up the hooks. Lauofo, the fisherman, could tell by the appearance of the branch floats whether an eel was caught or not. When the leaves were floating on the surface in the same position as when set, he said, "Leai se tuna" (There is no eel). He picked up his hooks as we went along. It was at the end of the line that he called, "Matamata, tuna" (Look, eel). The leaf float had been drawn to the side and the stalk instead of lying horizontal on the surface, was pulled down.

The process of making the hook (matau) is fafau matau. The shank part is the to'o and the short piece with the point, the manga.

On Tutuila, the matau tuna is used in the fresh-water lagoon at Malaeloa and in the fresh-water stream at Aoloau.

Dolphin hook. Fishing voyages out into deep water, where not specifically mentioned as alofanga or alafanga in which different unbaited spinners are used, were alluded to as tiunga. In tiunga malie (fishing for shark) the slip noose was used. The expression tiunga masimasi is contantly referred to even now as a form of fishing that was once indulged in. Pratt (23, p. 200) gives the masimasi as a dolphin and Demandt (9, p. 119) as a species of Caranx. The Hon. O. F. Nelson told me that fast sailing canoes, larger than bonito canoes, were used. Loose bait was thrown overboard during one sweep. The canoe after tacking came sweeping down over the same ground with baited trolling hooks out. He said that there are traditions of such canoes being lost page 493through venturing too far owing to fast sailing and not being able to beat back. The late Mr. Gosche of Savaii told me that he had seen such canoes trolling for dolphin without a rod. Kramer (18, vol. 2, p. 194) says that a canoe with five cross booms ('iato lima) was used in trolling (toso) a pa hook for masimasi. In Savaii, it was said that the hook was made of two pieces of wood tied together at an angle to form a large hook which was, baited with a whole fish. Exact detail of the hook is lacking but it is evident that a large baited hook probably made of wood was trolled for masimasi.

Other wooden hooks. Demandt (9, p. 31) figures a one-piece wooden hook with a wide angle and a barbed point as matau fa'ato'elau. He describes a method of fishing from a canoe drifting before the southeast trade wind (to'elau) with a rod for smaller fish such as the ngatala, as the fa'ato'elau method of fishing. Here to'elau is from the trade wind name. He then goes on to explain the matau fa'ato'elau as referring to a facsimile of the iron barbed hook made of wire, a pin, or also cut wood, where the name means, "according to the example of Tokelau Island." He ends by saying it was not used in Samoa. Gudger (13, p. 276) in his study of Ruvettus hooks reproduces Demandt's hook and accepts it as Samoan. Demandt's description of a method and a hook not used in the method because they both had the name to'elau is certainly confusing but the type of hook figured belongs to the Tokelau Islands. Gudger's idea that it resembled a Ruvettus hook with unusual features may be correct as the Ruvettus was purposely caught in the Tokelau group. In Samoa, the fishing off the reef with trolling hooks that caught Ruvettus according to Demandt was for other fish and happened on the Ruvettus by accident.

Kramer (18, vol. 2, p. 170) figures another one-piece wooden hook with a good bend and a barbed point. It appears to be a large hook and Kramer states that it was used for catching large fish. Gudger (15, p. 299) draws attention to its similarity to the Ruvettus hooks from Nauru but it is more likely to be a masimasi hook, if it is an old time. Samoan hook.

Beasley (1, p. 22) says that there is only one large wooden hook that he knows of and it is in the Dresden Museum. He gives no details but infers from its size that it is a shark hook. The outstanding feature of Samoan shark fishing is that a noose was in general use and the hook, as a consequence no doubt, never obtained a footing. Kramer (18, vol. 2, p. 198) in describing tiunga malie (shark fishing) after dealing with the noose method at length, quotes Pritchard in saying that a hook was used. Pritchard (24, p. 171) says that sharks came inside the reef. In the evening a hook was taken out in a small canoe and dropped overboard in two fathoms of water. When a shark took the bait it was hauled in from the shore until it got into shallow water where it floundered and exhausted itself. This is not a deep sea method but local to a particular district. It is probable that a metal hook was used. page 494Demandt (9, pp. 8o, 84) whose work is the most exhaustive on fishing, after describing the deep-sea method of shark noosing, states that many fishers in the high seas take along a rather large trailing fish hook on which occasionally the sea pike bites. The Samoans now only speak of three methods of deep sea fishing; the noose method for shark, the unbaited trolled hook with a shank of shell or bone for tangi, and the large wooden hook baited and trolled for masimasi. I would suggest that the Dresden hook is not for shark but for masimasi.

The very lack of hook material in museums is due probably to the poor development of baited hooks and their crude form not appealing to collectors when they were in actual use. The opportunity is now lost as the trade hooks have superceded the baited hooks but have made little difference to the unbaited hooks, which still survive. The active use of the gorge may be taken as an indication that invention in the direction of bait bearing appliances had not reached a stage of satisfactory progress in Samoa.