Samoan Material Culture
Bonito Trolling Hook
Bonito Trolling Hook
The pa'atu (pa, hook; 'atu, bonito) is a composite two-piece hook with a shell shank and a turtle shell point. (See Plate XLVII, B, 2-5). It is still in page 498common use and is made and lashed with the old technique except for the implements used.
Shell. All shanks are now made of pearl shell, as the shell is readily obtained from other parts and even stocked for sale by traders. Occasionally in a remote village, a person not having pearl shell may fall back on other shell or even wood. As pearl shell does not belong to Samoan waters recourse was had in former times to other material. A tofe bivalve (Perna) and a silicaceous rod-like material (tio) formed in the borings of certain sea worms in coral rock were used and probably other shells as well.
The shell is selected in various shades of color to suit different conditions of water and weather. The pa tio forms a very white hook suitable in cloudy weather. So also is the pa usi. The pa laumilo is yellowish-brown (memea) and the pa ulia has a dark part towards the distal end. The pa lautofe (Perna) is shiny and iridescent. In Manua, the name pa sulu was given to a brownish color (enaena). Demandt (9, p. 77) also records the names pa lanulua and pa lupovai as other varieties of shade and material. The craftsmen were expert at producing shades of color by varying the amount of the dark outer surface removed in grinding.
As regards size, the large hooks were named pa no'ono. The smallest size was termed pa maunu as it was said to act as bait (maunu) to attract fish.
Figure 283.—Bonito hook shanks and points:
a, front view; length, 103 mm; greatest width, 15 mm.; tail width, 8 mm.; the inner surface (1) of the shell forms the front part and carries the point at the tail end. The front of the head end is ground at an equal slant inwards from the sides (2) to meet in a median longitudinal edge (3) making the head triangular in cross section. The two sides and back narrow to a point (4). The sides are grooved (5) near the tail end to take the end lashing (fausanga i'u). b, Side view; maximum thickness of head, 15 mm.; thickness of tail end, 5 mm.; hole (6) drilled transversely through head 20 mm. from the point (4) and about 4 mm. below the median edge. The raised part of the head with the median edge is called isu (nose) in Tutuila. The sides of the tail end are vertical or slightly convex. The back is convex longitudinally following the outer curve of the shell but owing to the narrow width is flat transversely. The tail portion is concave longitudinally in front. c, The point straight base, 20 mm. long; two holes for lashing; slant edge on right; depth of base part, 6 mm.; point diverges out being 26 mm. from front of shank. The point element carries the base (1), the bend (2) and the actual point (3). d, Point portion; straight base, 30 mm. long; curved right edge to base; depth above right hole, 7 mm.; sharp angle at bend (2); point diverges out being 26 mm., from front of shank; e, point portion; base 26 mm. long but curved on left; depth of base, 7 mm., with vertical right edge point parallel with base line and 20 mm., from front of shank.
Shank and point. The pearl shell was cut across the thick hinge part to include it for the head (ulu) while the thinner inner part of the shell formed the tail (i'u). Head and tail are the terms applied by the Samoans to the proximal and distal ends, and as the shank is made to represent a decoy fish, the terms are useful descriptively. Sizes, vary but a fair range in length is between 65 and 105 mm. (See figure 283.)
The point is made of turtle shell (una laumci) although some are made of pearl shell, generally of the darker part towards the edge of the shell (See Plate XLVII, B, 4.) It is, however, not usual and the points so made have probably been due to lack of turtle shell and not to election. The points tare devoid of barbs and are shaped as in figure 283, c, d, and e.
The hackle is composed of strips of fau songa fibre.
The lashing of the two parts together is termed fausanga. Considerable variation exists in the number of times the binding thread passes through the various holes, the circumferential turns round them, the twists round the cord, and the fixation by half hitches and stop knots. Each combination forms a fausanga which is no haphazard arrangement but one with a definite count. Different experts have their own combinations. Some fausanga which are supposed to be better and luckier than others are kept secret by their exponents. Hooks with the attached snood were sometimes stolen by fishermen in order to study the lucky combination and commit it to memory.
In dealing with the shank, the tail end which carries the point is termed lalo (below) and the head end with the snood is lunga (above.) Lalo and lunga as meaning below and above are also applied to relationship with the snood (ta'a) when the point is in the horizontal position. The fausanga besides including the whole process of lashing also refers particularly to three local lashings that pass through the two holes of the point and the hole through the head of the shank. The first step is to lash the manga point to the distal end of the pa shank and the second to attach the ta'a snood. The lashing to be described was written down by Le Oso Ripley, senior talking chief of Leone in 1920, for his son Fepuleai, who demonstrated each stage from his father's manuscript. To give an idea of the formula and the details that had to be remembered, it is given in full with the technique of the first stage of lashing in figure 284, showing the various parts named.
The point (manga) has been firmly fixed to the shank (pa) by three lashings through the inner hole (fausanga loto) and the lower tail hole (fausanga i'u) while four running loops have been placed in position for the attachment of the hackle (senga). The next stage consists of attaching the snood (ta'a) to the point. (See figure 285.)
Figure 284.—Bonito hook, lashing formula and technique of lashing point to shank. Lashing formula:
2 fausanga loto, 2 langolango i tutui i lunga, 2 fausanga i'u, 2 lango-lango i tutui i lunga, 2 noatanga o le fausanga i'u, 1 lona fa'apona, 4 o le senga, 2 alaala loloa i lalo o le ta'a, 6 le alaalaloloa, 2 lave noa, 4 fausanga o le isu, 5 fausanga i lunga o le ta'a, 4 fa'amaunga, 4 senga sele manu pito alaala lua, 2 noatanga o le senga, 2 ona fa'apona. The numbers refer to the number of turns taken with each step mentioned. Lashing of inner hole (fausanga loto): a, The point (1) is placed in position on the front of the lower end of the shank (2) and lashing commences with the inner hole (3). A length of thread is passed through the hole to its middle. Each half of the thread is dealt with separately so the near half (5) is wound spirally around the shank to keep it out of the way. The formula says "2 fausanga loto" which means 2 complete turns through the inner hole with each half thread. The far thread (6) is brought around under the shank, through the hole from the near side and through the first turn under the shank. The thread is drawn taut with the crossing (7) kept in the middle line under the shank. b, A second similar turn is made and the thread (6) wound around the shank out of the way after the thread (5) has been loosed. The thread (5) makes two similar turns which really amount to 4 half hitches. c, The formula demands two langolango turns, which consist of half hitches made round the previous turns of the lashing and corresponds in principle to the circumferential turns (langolango) used in house and other lashings. The thread (5) which ended at the half hitch below (b), continues its course upwards and passes through the hole from the far side to make the two langolango half hitches round the near lashing (8). The question of which side to enter under is decided in the formula by the words tutui i lunga (thread towards the upper end). The thread (5) therefore passes under the lashing (8) from the lower end. d, The thread (5) completes the half hitch (9) by passing back over the lashing and through its own loop on the lower side of the lashing. The hitch is drawn taut. e, The thread (5) completes the second half hitch and the other thread (6) after passing through the hole from the near side, makes two half hitches around the lashing on the far side of the hole. The ends of the two threads are disposed of by making single overhand knots as close to the lashing as possible and then cutting them off. The knots act as stopper knots to prevent the ends slipping through the half hitches. The langolango hitches (10) complete the full technique of the fausanga loto. The tail lashing (fausanga i'u) is made through the outer or tail hole (4) but differs from the previous lashing in having to provide for the senga hackle. The hackle is provided for in the formula "4 senga sele manu pito alaala lua" (4 slip loop [sele manu] with page 501a long thread [alaala] with 2 ends [pito lua]). A long length of thread (11) is therefore formed into 4 ordinary loops in the middle part to allow of the two ends being free. The loops (11) are placed longitudinally against the under surface of the shank (2) below the hole (4), and held while another thread is passed through the hole to its middle. The formula says "2 fausanga i'u" so two half hitch turns are made with each half of the thread in exactly the same way as in the preceding lashing, but in passing around the shank, the turns pass through the open loop of the senga tail (11) and lash them securely to the shank. The longoclango half hitches (12) are made around the lashing (13) from below upwards as in (c) and the ends of the threads (5, 6) left long. f, Instead of finishing the threads with overhand knots (pona), the formula says "2 noatanga o le fausanga i'u" (2 knots of the tail lashing). The term noatanga means the single turn of a reef knot and 2 no tanga thus means a complete reef knot. The 2 threads (5, 6) are therefore brought down and tied in a reef knot under the shank. The reef knot (14) is shown loose in the figure to illustrate the technique but when drawn taut against the shank, the tie further assists in fixing the senga loop to the shank. The formula states "1 lona fa'apona" (their single overhand knot). The threads are therefore finished off with single overhand knots to prevent the ends slipping through the reef knot made. The formula merely states "4 o le senga" (4 of the senga tail) so the 4 loops of the senga already in position (11) are left for subsequent treatment.
Figure 285.—Bonito hook lashing, tying the snood (ta'a) and the lashing thread (alaala loloa).
The lashing thread (5), about 6 feet long, is drawn through the inner hole (3) to within 6 inches of its end and tied with a reef knot (6). The snood (7), made of three-ply twisted fau songa, is also passed through the inner hole (3) and tied in the first part (9) of a reef knot (1 noatanga), leaving a short free end (8) that reaches to above the hole (10) through the head of the shank. The short piece of the snood is stretched beside the long part and fixed by pushing its end (11) through under one of the plies of the main snood (7) by raising the ply with a pointed stick.
With the hook stretched taut between his knees, the craftsman has both hands free to complete the lashing of the snood to the head of the shank as in figure 287.
The lashing is quite simple when worked to a formula. The number of turns and knots, and whether the langolango lashings came from below or above, can be varied to form different formulas. The one given was the favorite technique of a master fisherman. Some lashings instead of tying the ends of the threads of the fausanga i'u beneath the loops for the hackle tie them over the end of the hook between the shank and the point.
A bonito hook made entirely of coconut wood was seen by Mr. Judd (17, p. 61) on Tau. When turtle shell was not available for points, shell, bone, and even wood (olioli) were used as a substitute.page 502
Figure 286.—Bonito hook in position for lashing the snood and head.
The craftsman sits cross legged on the floor. If the snood is short, a long cord (1) is tied to its end. With the point of the hook to the craftsman's left, the long cord (1) is passed over the right thigh (2), brought back under the knee to pass across under to the left knee (3), and over the left thigh to the middle line where it is hooked around the curved point of the hook (4). The cord is returned over the left thigh under the left knee and across to the right big toe (5) around which it is twisted.
Figure 287.—Bonito hook, lashing completed by lashing snood to head:
a, the figure continues on with the numbering from fig. 285. The formula (fig. 284) states "2 alaala loloa i lalo o le ta'a" (2 turns of the lashing thread below the snood). The lashing thread from its attachment (6) to the point is passed through the head hole (10) and back through the inner hole (3) of the point for the required two turns (12) below the snood. The turns are drawn taut. The formula then directs that 6 turns of the lashing thread be taken around the snood. The 6 turns (13) are made with a wide spiral and by passing around both limbs of the snood and the lashing thread turns (12) through the head hole, the elements are lashed together and tightened up. The formula directs 2 ordinary turns (2 lave noa) which are made around the two limbs of the snood alone (14). This brings the lashing thread above the head hole (10) and the fausanga o le isu (lashing of the nose) is proceeded with. In Tutuila, the median raised ridge above the hole is termed isu (nose) but in Manua the lashing is termed fausanga ulu (head lashing). The nose lashing (15) is shown completed, with figure of eight turns (17) above it. b, The detail of the turns through the head hole (10) is shown. The lashing thread after its last turn (14) around the snood, passes through the hole from the far side and passing upwards on the near side makes a complete turn (16) around the snood (7). It passes down through the hole and in all, four turns (4 fausanga o le isu) are made through the hole with a full turn (16) around the snood in every case. c, Section through hole. The formula asks for 5 turns above the snood (5 fausanga i lung a a le ta'a). The turns are made diagonally passing through under the lashing (15) on either side of the snood (7) page 503and crossing in the middle line above it (17). d, View from above. The first crossing (17) above the snood is shown. Five turns are made so arranged as to form the simple lozenge motive. Continuing with a after the last figure of eight turn over the lashing, the lashing is fixed (fa'amaunga) with a series of half hitches (18) around the snood and the end cut off. The formula asks for 4 fa'a maunga but more are shown in the figure. The thread is cut off and the actual lashing is completed as shown. The hackle (19) consisting of a small bundle of strips of fau songa, is passed transversely to their middle, through the 4 open loops under the lower end of the shank (fig. 284, e, 11). The four loops are drawn taut in turn to firmly attach the hackle to the shank. The two ends of the thread are tied in a reef knot (2 noatanga o le senga) and each thread finished off with 2 overhand knots (2 ona fa'apona). The two ends of the hackle are drawn together and cut off level (19). A fair length of hackle is 42 mm.
Rods. The hook was trolled from a length of line tied to a rod, Rods are of two kinds; the long and the short.
Figure 288.—Lashing bamboo rod to wooden handle:
a, wooden handle, upper view; handle length, 42 inches; upper grooved part (1), 27 inches long; proximal stock part (2) gradually narrowed, ends in rounded knob (3) about 2.75 inches long usually with constricted neck. b, Side view of handle showing curve of stock, triangular in cross section with flat upper surface and sides curved to meet in median longitudinal edge at the back. Stock near groove, 2.7 inches thick; sides as well as upper surface narrow off towards the terminal knob. c, The bamboo butt end (1) is fitted into the groove of the handle and the two lashed together with sennit braid. The end (2) of the braid is placed over the butt end of the bamboo with an upward slant. A transverse turn (3) is taken around both elements and crossed over the short end to fix it. d, A number of close transverse turns (4) are made and the braid end covered by them. The braid is then carried in spiral turns (5) to the upper end of the handle where a few transverse turns (6) are made. e, The braid is then carried back with spiral turns (7) which cross the previous turns on the bamboo rod in the middle line. f, To make the lashing extra secure, a second set of spiral turns both up (8) and down (9) may be applied close to the first set on the same side of the first set. g, In some elaborately lashed rods, a third set of spirals is applied. The third set ascends (10) and descends (11) on the other side of the first set.
A short rod (matila) is made in exactly the same way but with a shorter length of bamboo and a slightly smaller wooden handle. A matila examined had a bamboo rod 8 feet long and the tu'au handle was 39 inches long.
The lashing may differ in having transverse instead of crossing oblique turns. After fitting the rod to the handle, the lashing commenced around the top end of the handle. (See figure 289.)
Figure 289.—Bamboo rod lashing (different type):
a, the braid end (1) was placed obliquely upwards on the back of the handle and held in position with the left thumb. The working hank is passed to the left and around the rod from left to right in a transverse turn. Emerging on the right it makes the loose turn 2 over the thumb. Four more complete turns (3-6) are made loosely over the thumb which continues throughout to hold the braid end in position. After the fifth turn (6) the hank after passing around the rod and appearing on the right (7) is passed downwards under the loose transverse turns. b, The right hand now seizes the first loose turn (2) and draws it taut by pulling to the left, the left thumb being removed from under the loose turns in such a manner as to hold the part below the turn until the turn has passed over it. The left thumb is then placed over the crossing of the first turn (2) over the braid end and holds it in position against the rod. Each of the other turns is drawn taut in turn, the left thumb passing on to each turn as it is tightened. Each turn is drawn close to the preceding one. When the last turn (6) is drawn taut, the part turn (7) is drawn taut as far as the middle line and held by the left thumb while the right hand pulls the coil downwards and removes the slack. A single transverse turn may be made at intervals as in 8. c, Here and there a lashing of two or three turns is made by making two or three loose turns over the thumb commencing from below upwards (1-3). The last part turn (4) crosses to the middle line over the original descending braid (5) and the hank is passed down under the loose turns. d, The turns are drawn taut in the same way from below upwards and the hank pulled downwards to remove the slack. e, The braid has descended throughout in the middle line on the back of the handle and all the half hitch crossings are made in the middle line. When the braid reaches the lower level of the rod butt, the hank is carried to the right (1) and brought around from right to left, appearing on the left side of the rod. Seven loose turns (2-8) are now made over the left thumb in the same direction which is the reverse of the previous lashings. The turns are made in order from below upwards. After the last complete turn (8) the braid is brought around to the left at the back and appearing on the left side (9) crosses over the descending braid (10) in the middle line, and is passed downwards under the loose turns (11). Holding the bend of the commencing turn (1) near the middle line with the left thumb, each turn is drawn taut in turn from below upwards. After the last part turn (9) is drawn taut to the middle line, the hank is pulled downwards to remove the slack and the braid cut off close to the first turn (2). The first two turns (1, 2) on the other side of the handle pass behind the butt of the bamboo and the others over it. Before tightening the last lashing, the hook rest end was drawn up under the loose coils and lashed down to the handle as the coils were tightened.
The hook rest (silinga). About 6.5 inches from the inner end of the groove, a transverse hole is bored through the stock close to the inferior median edge. Through the hole, a twisted cord is drawn to its middle and then the two ends are twisted over each other in the first movement of tying a reef knot to form a series of continuous loops each about an inch long. The loops are continued outward until they reach the commencement of the grooved part of the handle. The loops are really made before the lashing of the handle commences. The ends of the two cords are held against the under surface of the stock, and the transverse lashings round the butt end of the bamboo rod and the handle are also carried over the silinga cords so as to fix them. The hooks are hooked into the loops when the line is not being trolled.
Another type of silinga is formed by stretching one end of the cord taut after it has been passed through the hole. The loops are formed by making open half hitches round the taut cord with the other one. The ends are fixed in the same way.
Attachments. The end of the hook snood is tied to a piece of line which must be longer than the rod. Some were simply tied by placing the two ends together and tying a single overhand knot with the double cord. Another method is to tie an overhand knot around the line with the end of the snood. The end of the line is then tied in an overhand knot around the snood and the two knots drawn together.
The hook is first stuck through a loop in the hook rest and the line drawn taut to the outer end of the rod. At about two inches from the end, the line is tied around the rod with a clove hitch. It is usual to attach two or more hooks, each with its own length of line, to the rod. Another hook is stuck in another loop of the hook rest, the line drawn taut and tied with a clove hitch to the outer side of the first. Two other hooks may be treated similarly, the hooks being hooked into different loops and the taut line tied with a clove hitch just beyond the preceding one. The four slack ends of line are then brought down the rod together and fastened at short intervals with half hitches round the rod. When they come to the end, one which is purposely left longer than the others is tied in a half hitch over all four and fixed to itself with an overhand knot.
The number of hooks attached to a rod may range from one to eight as the fisherman desires. Different kinds of hooks as regards color and shade were attached and all being hooked to the hook rest were out of the way and the lines were all taut along the length of the rod. On the fishing ground, the fisherman unhitched the one he thought suited to the conditions prevailing. If he wished to change, he merely hooked the one that was being trolled into the hook rest and unhooked what he thought more suitable. Thus the "changing of flies" was quick and easy. Also if, while in the midst of a page 506school of bonito, a hook carried away as it sometimes did, another hook was immediately unhooked from the rest and dropped into the water without hauling in the rod or losing time in bending on a new hook. Only one hook was attached to the short matila rod. More than one was strictly prohibited (sa lava).
There can be little doubt that the long rod with many hooks is a development from the shorter rod with one hook. The name matila (Maori, matira) is a widely spread Polynesian word for a fishing rod while launiu (coconut leaf) is a later word used to denote the later development which probably was associated at first with different status in rank. Bonito fishing was a chiefly pastime and the launiu with many hooks was probably restricted to chiefs while others used the shorter matila with one hook. In the Samoan dialect, the older, widespread Polynesian words are the common language and the so called chief's language has coined new words that have a purely local significance. As time went by, the restriction in the use of the launiu disappeared but the restriction of one hook to the matila persisted.
Bonito fishing takes place only from a bonito canoe. The use of the special parts of the canoe can now be followed. When the canoe paddles out the rod with its equipment of lines and hooks, rests horizontally across the booms on the rod rests. When the fishing grounds beyond the reef are reached, the rod is lifted up by the steersman who is also the fisherman. The appropriate hook is unhooked from the hook rest and dropped into the water and the knob projection on the lower end of the wooden handle is inserted into the sennit loop at the back of the steering seat. The rod is then rested on the groove in the rod post (pou 'ofe). In Savaii, we have seen that the rod posts on the stern cover are wider than usual and have two rod grooves the one on the right being at a slightly lower level. In such canoes, there are also two sennit loops attached to the back of the steering seat. The canoe may then carry the two types of rod at the same time, the short matila being on the right and the longer launiu on the left. The lower groove on the rod post supports the short rod at a different angle. It is thus possible for the steersmen to reach round with the right hand and grasp either of the rods. Both rods have to be swung round on the right. The short rod with a shorter line and at a lower elevation can be swung in without interfering with the other. The longer rod at a higher elevation and a longer line can be swung in to the right above the shorter rod without any confusion. In Tutuila and Manua only one rod is use.
Two rods were formerly used but they have been abandoned in favor of one. The advantage of two rods is, of course, that there are two hooks out and at different distances from the canoe. The diagonal rod (pu'enga or manu) between the rear boom and the left gunwale of the canoe forms a hold for the left hand as the steersman swings in the rod with the right.page 507
Diversity of opinion exists between eastern and western Samoa as to the names of the sennit loop and the handle knob which it supports. Both agree that the loop attached to the seat is the futia. The handle knob is termed umele in eastern Samoa and muli tuitui in western Samoa. In muli tuitui, muli means the end or bottom of the handle and tuitui is from tui, to thread or pass a point into a hole. The term umele is used in western Samoa to denote a piece of sennit braid which is passed through the futia loop and tied in a loop around the rod post. The umele loop is adjusted so that the futia loop cannot be pushed down by the weight of the rod. Much argument was provoked by asking for the meaning of the well known saying, "Ua o fa'atasi le umele ma le futia" (The umele and the futia have fitted together as one).
The easterners naturally held that it meant that the projection on the lower end of the handle had fitted into the sennit loop and all was ready. The westerners held it to mean that the rod post loop and the rear seat loop had been fitted together and everything was in the right position for the rod. The easterners do not use the rod post loop and therefore the term umele is definitely restricted to the handle knob. The westerners maintain that without the rod post loop or umele the futia loop is pushed down and the rod end jammed under the seat. It is, therefore, less sensitive in transmitting impulses or pulls from the top of the rod to the lower end. The significance of this is that the steersman as he sits on the seat also rests against the lower end of the rod behind him. He does not hold the rod when endeavoring to keep pace with a school of bonito. Both hands are fully occupied in vigorously plying the paddle for he has to steer the canoe as well as paddle. He, therefore, pays no attention to the rod while the hook is merely trailing in the water. When, however, a bonito takes the hook the backward pull comes on the end of the rod.
The rod post acts as a fulcrum and the lower end of the rod is levered forward. The forward thrust is conveyed to the part of the steersman resting against the rod. He immediately drops his paddle in the canoe, reaches around with his right hand, grasps the rod, pulls it towards him and lifts the self-hooked bonito out of the water. With a circular sweep to the right he pivots the rod in the futia loop and swings the fish in from the right into the canoe. To brace himself, he holds the diagonal hand rest with his left hand. The bonito drops off readily as the hook has no barb, or a forward member of the crew removes it. The steersman drops the rod back on the rod post, picks up his paddle and while keeping up the strenuous race with the school, he awaits the next forward impulse of the rod. The rod post loop by keeping the futia loop up makes a more sensitive trigger and is evidently a western improvement. The term umele is more likely to be originally associated with page 508the older usage. Regardless, the above saying refers to unity having been secured for action.
Methods of fishing. The method of bonito fishing from a canoe with a trolled hook is termed alonga'atu or alofanga. To go out bonito fishing is alo and hence the bonito canoe is va'a alo. In eastern Samoa, the crew consists of three, but in Savaii, usually two. The fisherman in the stern seat is the steersman and has to paddle as strenuously if not more than his companions. With three, the bowman is the lookout and the middle man uses the bailer every now and again. The tali tata ridges to protect the bottom lashings from the bailers are just in front of the middle seat. The bonito go in schools (ingafo) in search of food. The lookout watches the sea for signs of the school in the ripple of the surface and heads showing up. Detecting signs he calls back, "Up with the rod." The steersman puts up (langa) the rod and drops (lafo) a hook in the sea. According to Kramer (18, vol. 2, p. 197) he calls at the same time, "Uu." Then he calls, "'Ai se 'atu" (Bite, O bonito), and the bonito bites. As the fisherman swings in the bonito, he calls, "'Atu lea" (There's a bonito). Then the exultant cry of "Tue" is raised which, in full, according to Pratt (23, p. 334) is "Tu! tu! tue! Ua sisi ma tue sisi ma tue le va'a." The skilled fisherman always swings the fish in on the right side and lands it in the middle of the canoe where it either drops off the barbiess hook or is removed by the middle man. It is said that some fishermen are skillful enough to flip the rod so that the hook jerks free in mid air while the fish lands in the canoe. Time spent in unhooking a fish is time lost. Where every second is of importance while on a school, a barbed hook would be a drawback and not an advantage. There was thus no incentive to invent barbs for bonito hooks. Sometimes, however, through the angle of canoe and fish being wrong, the fish had to be landed on the outrigger side. Hence the saying to excuse mistakes: "E poto se tautai, 'ae se le 'atu i ama" (Though the fisherman be skilled, yet will a bonito be landed on the outrigger side).
A watch is also kept for flocks of sea birds which pursue schools of small fish to whirl and swoop down on them. The direction of flight is noted and the canoes race to intercept them. If once the canoes can get above the fleeing school of small fish and keep pace with them, the trailing hooks will be amongst the pursuing bonito school. They then take the hook as fast as it is dropped back into the water. It is here that the lightness and speed of the bonito canoes is required. The fishermen make the most of their time while in position for there may be weary miles of paddling before such an opportunity occurs again. Once the school gets past the canoe, the hooks trail in untenanted water.
When the first bonito was landed in a new canoe, the phrase used was, "to'ia le liu" (the hold has been struck). Many sayings are associated with bonito fishing. One is drawn from the fact that bonito chased by a sa'ula page 509(sawfish) will often take cover close under a bonito canoe. The sawfish remains a little distance off watching for a movement of its prey while the bonito, fearful of moving, in turn watch their enemy. The Samoans will never attempt to catch the bonito, not from any sporting instinct, but for fear that the sawfish may charge if it sees the bonito being taken out of the water. Hence the saying of a hard-pressed man to a more powerful chief: "O lo'o tuli mata'i nei le 'atu i le sa'ula" (The bonito is now carefully watching the sawfish). In other words, "It is your move."
In season, the bonito canoes go out in a fleet during the dark so as to be out on the ground at daybreak. This early departure is termed fa'aao.
On days when the fleet does not set out from villages close to the reef, the bonito canoes are nevertheless kept ready under the trees above high water mark with the rods on the boom rests and the paddles in the canoes. Someone or other is constantly scanning the sea and on the appearance of any flock of sea birds, the cry is raised. The crews dash from their huts, launch their canoes, and are off at full speed to get in the line of the flight.
The work, however, is strenuous and canoes are often out all clay without any luck. They often paddle long distances far from land. It was seeing a fleet of bonito canoes far out at sea that caused Bougainville to call the Samoan Group the Navigator Islands. The people seen were not navigators but simply fishermen pursuing the deep sea bonito. Manua claims to have the most skilled fisherman as regards getting large numbers. It is said that on occasion, the canoe becomes so full of fish that the crew get overboard to make room and guide the canoe in through the reef by swimming. Such an event was considered a great honor to the crew of the loaded canoe.
Bonito seasons. The seasons for catching bonito correspond to the breadfruit seasons, of which there are three during the year.
|1.||Beginning of the year—January and February.|
|2.||Middle of the year—May, June, July.|
|3.||End of the year—October, November, December (part).|
During the month itself, certain days are particular fishing days, and the bonito caught or sought after are named:
|'Atu pulapula.||Bonito of the new moon.|
|'Atu fa'afitu.||Bonito of the 7th day.|
|'Atu oa toa.||Bonito of the full moon.|
|'Atu o ngafoa.||Bonito of the half moon waning.|
The bonito sought at the end of the month when they are scarce are named 'Atu o le sela ma le miti loa. The term sela is to be tired and miti loa, the perspiration which drips down from the nose while the crew keeps on doggedly paddling. Thus, it is the "bonito of weariness and profuse perspiration."page 510
Lucky hooks. The hook that figures prominently in old traditions and and is used figuratively to denote good fortune is the auamanu while that which brings misfortune is the auamala. There is a myth about a rock in a river in Savaii to which the bonito come and leave a portion of their flesh, as an offering. If a bonito is caught off Savaii with a portion of its flesh missing, it is held to have been to the rock. Such a fish caught on a new hook is a lucky omen for the owner. His hook has stood the test and will henceforth be lucky. The subject of lucky lashings has been mentioned. An unlucky hook is looked upon as being wrongly lashed (fausala).
Mistakes. When a hole is drilled in a hook and is not used in the lashing it is obvious that it has been the result of a mistake or an unsuccessful experiment. A bonito hook in Bishop Museum has two transverse holes through the head. One is 20 mm. from the head point and one is 26 mm. Dr. C. M. Cooke, Jr., of Bishop Museum, as a result of much practical experience in making artificial baits for trolling, states that if the snood is lashed too far from the head end of the shank, the hook will dart laterally too much when trolled. It resembles the pull of a fish. The only way to correct it is to shift the head lashing nearer to the end. This is exactly what has been done in the Samoan hook. The hook was lashed to a hole drilled 26 mm. from the end. Another hole was subsequently drilled 6 mm. nearer the end and evidently gave satisfaction for the snood remains lashed to it.