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The Autobiography of a Maori

Maomao Fishing

Maomao Fishing

The chief, Houkamau, my father and myself, spent a very enjoyable time in my father's life-boat at Whanga-a-rumia, near Lottin Point. It was the maomao1 season and it was our purpose to take home smoked what we could not eat. We used a circular page 37net, called matarau, about five feet in diameter and seven feet in depth, and stretched out on a supple-jack frame. About half-a-mile off shore we let down the net and, as it was being lowered we threw into it pieces of crayfish shell. It was most exciting to watch scores of the dainty fish swarm into the net after the bits of crayfish. As the net was pulled up I craned over the gunwale to see the small sparkling fish struggling and tumbling helplessly in the large meshed bag. After letting down the matarau two or three times we had caught enough fish for the day.

An elderly couple had ridden overland specially to cure the fish for us. They also acted as our cooks. The evening meal was eagerly looked forward to, for it consisted chiefly of broiled maomao. A green pointed stick was thrust through the fish and with the other end stuck in the ground it was bent over the embers. After being out at sea for hours, to watch a maomao sizzling over the fire and the juice running down the stick and falling into the fire, is most appetizing, and only those who have tasted broiled maomao could appreciate the deliciousness of the fish. In addition to the fish we had potatoes and kumaras roasted in the hot ashes, and, to wash down the fish and vegetables we drank pure, icy-cold water from a nearby mountain torrent.

The bush grew to the water's edge while pohutukawas grew on rocks and rocky banks. A little bay ran for chains past our camp into the bush. Wild honey was plentiful.

A period of sixty years has intervened since I visited that lovely spot although, I am afraid, all the virgin bush has been destroyed. Even so, the coves and caves must still be there, and the sea, and the maomao in the sea must still await one's pleasure. What a pity it is, we are too busy to claim nature's goodly gifts strewn at our feet.

1 Ditremus aureus.